Holiday Decorating with Dementia

Christmas ornaments

When a central Ohio loved one who lives with you has Alzheimer’s disease, the holiday season can present more than a few unique challenges. One of those challenges is decorating. Decking the halls for Christmas or Hanukkah is a tradition many families enjoy doing together every year. The tinsel and twinkle add to the festive nature of the season. But for someone who has dementia, holiday décor can be disorienting and oftentimes even frightening. Added to that is the risk of injury.

Before you pull your holiday boxes from the attic this year, here are a few safety precautions to consider.

Home Decorating Safety When a Loved One has Alzheimer’s Disease

1. Clear the Path. Many seniors who live with dementia experience problems with balance. That change in gait can put them at greater risk for a debilitating fall. As your decorations go up, be sure to keep pathways clear, especially if your senior loved one is prone to agitation and pacing.

2. Avoid Animations. Families with small children often enjoy decorating with animated holiday characters ranging from life-sized Santas to elves and reindeer. In addition to flashing lights, some even talk, move, and sing. For a person with Alzheimer’s, these types of decorations can be frightening. It is probably best to avoid them or to limit them to rooms your senior loved one doesn’t go in.

3. Watch the Lights. Holiday decorations with blinking or twinkling lights can be disorienting for a person with dementia. Lights that stay on are less distracting and a better option for someone living with dementia.

4. Avoid Faux Food Decorations. Ornaments that look like gingerbread men or sugared faux fruit found in centerpieces can be confusing for someone with Alzheimer’s. A rule of thumb when decorating for the holidays is if an object looks good enough to eat, it just might be. That can increase your senior loved one’s risk for choking or poisoning.

Our final tip is to remember that too much noise and over-stimulation can increase agitation, pacing, and wandering in those living with Alzheimer’s disease. If your decorating party is likely to be a boisterous one, remember to set up a quiet room for your loved one to retreat to until the house is calm again.