Dementia and Holiday Decorations

Updated: Dec 13, 2019

The holidays are upon us and it is time to pull out the boxes of decorations and hang up our bright and festive items. While this is a fun time and sometimes bringing familiar pieces out that will aid the person with dementia to recognize the holidays it can also be a time of fear. This is because the changes are sudden and distracting.

christmas ornament

The sensory assault can be overwhelming and even painful. Signs of this distress can be behavioral changes such as withdrawing or refusing to eat. It is important to follow some steps to help ease the person suffering from dementia. These are provided by

  • Replace twinkling or blinking lights. Lights that twinkle on and off are popular decorations, but for someone with dementia, the constant blinking can be disorienting. Consider using holiday lights that stay continuously lit instead.

  • Avoid real flames. Candles are also popular during the holidays, but an open flame can be dangerous for someone with a memory impairment who may not have the ability to exercise good judgment. Plastic candles with electric lights are much safer, and shouldn’t make as much of a mess either.

  • Cut down on clutter. You may have noticed it in your own home, but generally things tend to pile up more around the holidays. Between decorations and gifts, the risk for a fall can increase. Make sure extension cords are taped down or placed under rugs, and the traffic areas your loved one uses are kept clear.

  • No moving decorations. These can be frightening for someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Life-sized characters that have voice animation, or motion detecting decorations can be especially problematic. Try to avoid using them this year.

  • Avoid choking hazards. For someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, decorations that look like food might be perceived as real food. Limit the use of anything that looks like it could be mistaken for real food, like fake fruits or cookies.

  • Use non-breakable decorations. Shiny, breakable objects that easily catch the eye may be a safety hazard for your loved one. It is best to avoid using them, but if you must, try to keep them well above your loved one’s eye level so they aren’t tempted to grab them.


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