Holiday Decorating: Safety Tips When a Loved One has Alzheimer’s

Holiday decorating tips for loved ones with Alzheimer's or dementia 11/24/2014

Decking the halls in one fashion or another is a tradition most families look forward to all year long.  Whether it is for Christmas or for Hanukkah, holiday décor can present challenges if a loved one who lives with you or visits often has Alzheimer’s disease.  It can cause a variety of problems ranging from agitation and choking hazards to being downright frightening for someone with a memory impairment.  Before you unpack the holiday boxes this year, there are a few things to take in to consideration.

Keeping a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Safe This Holiday Season

Here are a few recommendations from the memory care experts at Elmcroft Senior Living:

• Replace twinkle lights.  Little lights that twinkle on and off are a popular way to decorate the tree or the banister.  For someone with dementia, however, the constant blinking can be disorienting.  Instead of twinkle lights, use holiday lights that stay continuously lit.

• Avoid open flames. Candles are another staple in homes during the holidays.  An open flame can be dangerous for someone with Alzheimer’s who may not have the ability to exercise good judgment any longer. Consider using battery-operated candles instead of real ones this year.

• Clutter patrol. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, it can cause the person living with it to shift their gaze downward while walking.  It can also lead to problems with balance.  The holidays are a time of year when clutter in the house seems to increase.  Between decorations and gifts piled up, 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.

• Animated characters.  These can be frightening for someone living with dementia.  Life-sized characters that have voice animation can be especially problematic.  Try to avoid using them this year.

• Choking hazards. Holiday décor that looks good enough to eat just might be by someone who lives with Alzheimer’s disease.  Limit the use of faux fruit and foods, artificial gingerbread cookies and anything else that looks like it could be mistaken for real food.

• Watch the breakables.  Shiny, breakable objects that easily catch the eye can present another safety hazard.  It is best to avoid using them this year or to keep them well above your senior loved one’s eye level so they aren’t tempted to grab them.  More Holiday Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

If you would like more tips on how to enjoy the holidays when you care for a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, our friends at the Alzheimer’s Association have a resource we think will help.  Alzheimer’s Holidays is a free guide you can download. It covers everything from party planning to gift ideas appropriate for someone with dementia.