Including Loved Ones with Dementia in Holiday Festivities


For those of you with an aging loved one, the holidays are an important time for connection and inclusion. However, it can be challenging to find ways to fold family members with dementia into festive activities that are appropriate for their mental or physical abilities. Tailoring activities, presenting choices, and creating opportunities for them to contribute are important aspects of making your loved one feel welcome and included. Here are 4 categories of activity ideas to get your creative juices flowing.


CONTRIBUTION THROUGH CHOICES | Even having a say in the environment and activity in the home can help to include elderly family members. Rather than asking large open-ended questions, give a list of options for them to choose from among.  

  • Music | Whether it is for a formal party or game night, select a couple different music options for your loved one to pick from. Compliment them on their choice.
  • Family Activities | Select a handful of holiday films, favorite games or other activities and let your loved one choose which they would like to do with the family. 
  • Gift Wrapping | If you’re assisting with wrapping gifts for your loved one, let them choose which wrapping paper, colors, cards, ribbons or accents  are used so they contribute to the final look of each gift.
  • Dressing | Present a couple options when dressing for a holiday party. Would you like to wear your red dress that goes with your scarf or that blue sweater everyone compliments you on?


 DECORATING | Having a visual impact on a space is a great way to contribute to a gathering. Have your loved one: 

  • Arrange flowers
  • Fold napkins
  • Arrange decorations on the dinner table or a specific area in the house
  • Make garlands



  • Asking for advice on menu options is a great way to include those loved ones who may be accustom to preparing and hosting family holiday meals.
  • Set up a chair and safe work station for your loved one to be part of the food preparation
  • Break up preparations into small tasks like greasing a pan or washing and peeling veggies
  • Decorating Christmas Cookies/ Baked Goods



  • Let them light candles or participate in family traditions
  • Create new family traditions where your loved one plays an important role
  • Sing holiday carols/ favorite songs together. Print handouts with the words.
  • Have your loved one tell or read a story to the family
  • Create a craft/project area for your loved one to create or work with their hands
  • Let your loved one teach the family their favorite hobby
  • Print out old holiday family photos and let your loved one arrange them throughout the house.

Above all, remember patience. The goal of these activities is not to have perfect decorations or veggies prepared in a timely fashion, but to make your loved one feel included and honor what they are able to contribute. Sound Options offers eldercare coaching for family members that would like guidance, professional advice and education in how to interact and adapt to the changing needs of their loved one. Our RN or MSW Geriatric Care Managers are experts in eldercare and bring fresh ideas and rich experiences and resources to each unique family situation.  


Published on December 5, 2012.