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The Do’s and Don’ts of Visiting Relatives with Dementia During the Holidays

The holiday season is a cherished time for family gatherings, but when a loved one has advanced dementia, these gatherings can bring unique challenges. Understanding how to navigate these interactions with sensitivity and compassion is crucial to ensuring a positive experience for everyone involved.


Working in geriatric care management, our team knows just how nerve-racking it can be to anticipate spending time with a dear loved one who now behaves as a different person. Dementia, in its intermediate and later stages, can present some real challenges outside of just memory loss, including mood swings, behavioral changes, confusion, etc., making it difficult for those afflicted with it to connect with loved ones as they once had.


Sometimes, knowing the “etiquette” around the diagnosis can be helpful in easing some of the anxiety associated with interacting with a family member or loved one with dementia. Here are some examples of Do’s and Don’ts, below:


Let’s start with the Don'ts:


  1. Correcting or Contradicting: Redirect rather than correcting if they say something that isn't accurate. Insisting on getting to the right facts during a conversation with a person with dementia is usually unproductive and not conducive to nurturing a connection.

  2. Talking about the person to others in front of them without involving them in the conversation: This can be highly frustrating to a person with dementia, especially in moments of lucidity, but overall on both a conscious and subconscious level.

  3. Overwhelming with Too Many People: Limit the number of visitors to prevent overwhelming your loved one.

  4. Using baby talk or infantilizing language: Similar to talking to other people about them, this can feel demeaning and close the door to genuine, authentic connection and conversation.

  5. Rushing or pressuring: Allow them time to process information and avoid rushing conversations or activities.  A common phenomenon with dementia is a wandering mind. Do not become frustrated if there is a pause or halt in the conversation after you ask a question or finish your sentence. It is best to wait a bit longer for a response and eventually, either rephrase and try again or move on to a different topic.

  6. Agitating topics: Steer clear of topics that may cause confusion or distress.


The Do's:


  1. Create a Calm Environment: Minimize noise and distractions to create a peaceful setting for your relative.

  2. Use Familiarity as a Tool: Engage in familiar activities or conversations to evoke positive memories.

  3. Practice Empathy and Patience: Approach interactions with understanding and be patient with communication.

  4. Respect Their Dignity: Treat them with the same respect and dignity as always, honoring their individuality.

  5. Include Them in Conversations: Involve them in discussions, making them feel valued and included.


Visiting a relative with dementia during the holidays can be immensely rewarding when approached with understanding and patience. By focusing on creating a supportive and comfortable environment, these visits can foster meaningful connections and cherished moments for both you and your loved one.


Senior Steps is a geriatric care management company that works with seniors and their families to provide guidance and assistance with medical, legal, and financial advocacy and planning, and help with activities of daily living. If you would like to speak with us about the services we offer to seniors and caregivers, please visit or message us through any of our social media platforms to book a FREE consultation call or a 2-hour virtual assessment.


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