Finding Peace and Joy

A care partner’s guide to navigating the holiday season.

When it comes to celebrating the holiday season as a care partner to a person living with dementia, you may wonder whether you can — or should — follow your long-held holiday traditions. This time of year can be challenging even in the best of circumstances, but if you’re someone who is dealing with the stresses that can come with care-partnership, the holidays can feel especially daunting.

Perhaps the most common and vital tip from the experts is to take time out for yourself, while recognizing that you can’t do it all. “We tend to make the holidays a really busy period of the year,” says Dean Henderson, Director of Client Experience, Education and Innovation at The Dementia Society of Ottawa and Renfrew County. “To give a food pun, our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. We encourage people to try and keep things simple — too many people, too much noise and too much activity can be overwhelming.”

“Don’t underestimate the value of your presence and love. It is the very best gift of all.”

– Dorothy A. Colby

Thankfully, it may be easier than you think to find comfort and joy during the holiday season. Persons living with dementia usually just want the same things you want – respect, love, peace and joy – so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Dorothy A. Colby, the Director of Community Engagement at Hale Kūʻike memory care home in Hawaii, says it perfectly:

“People living with dementia want human connection — meaningful, one-on-one, in-the-moment connection with loved ones. Don’t underestimate the value of your presence and love. It is the very best gift of all.”

To ensure your presence, self care is essential. To encourage peace and joy during the holidays you may want to consider these care partner self-care tips inspired by advice from Colby:

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Set limits

  • It’s okay to say “no” to avoid overextending yourself
  • If you feel overwhelmed, try delegating holiday tasks to others or simplifying gatherings

Take care of your body and mind

  • Stay hydrated and drink fluids
  • Eat regular nutritious and balanced meals daily
  • Exercise on a consistent basis
  • Establish a routine sleep time
  • Use mindful meditation to relax
  • Avoid self-medicating with alcohol and illicit drugs

Be aware of your emotions

  • Talk to your doctor if depression or anxiety interferes with your daily activities
  • Speak with a trusted friend/family member to avoid social isolation
  • Go for a brisk walk to blow off steam and take time to gather your thoughts

Do activities for your own enjoyment

  • Learn and/or resume a hobby
  • Keep a sense of humour and watch a comedy
  • Relax with music and poetry, or play an instrument
  • Try journaling or colouring
  • Practice spiritual or faith-based activities
  • Get a massage, manicure or pedicure

Be kind to yourself

  • Recognize there are things you can and cannot control
  • Remember, you’re only human

Additionally, you could consider these three essential holiday-specific tips to make the season more enjoyable:

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Be adaptable

  • Holiday traditions are often deeply cherished, but as life changes, it’s okay to let some traditions change with it
  • Plans don’t always turn out the way we’d hoped. Accepting the unexpected is a step forward
  • That said, do try your best to plan in case you or the person living with dementia gets overwhelmed. Dedicate a peaceful space to step away from others for a moment and take a breath

Keep it simple

  • There’s no need to complicate things — it’ll only increase stress. Too much extravagance can also take the meaning out of the season
  • Consider hosting a smaller gathering, toning down decorations and choosing favourite traditions, rather than trying to do it all
  • Remember, being together is what matters most

Live in the present

  • Part of not being too hard on yourself is letting yourself enjoy the time you have with your loved ones
  • Appreciate the moment for what it is
  • And finally, let yourself have some fun – that’s what celebrating is all about

As you navigate the season, we wish you an abundance of peace, laughter and love.

Until next year, take good care.


View more tips at the following links:

Watch Dorothy Colby's Holiday Workshop for Dementia Care Partners.

*Colby's tips are based on Teepa Snow's Positive Approach to Care philosophy*

Access more care resources by browsing Hale Ku'ike's sponsored webinars on dementia care!