This year has been a very difficult time. My mom with dementia is in a nursing home. We can’t see her and now Christmas time is here. How can we acknowledge the holiday when we can’t do any of the things we normally would have done together? -Sherri J.

I think all families are going through some version of this dilemma this year, but it’s especially difficult for those who have elder family members in a nursing home or assisted living community.  Dementia magnifies the uncertainty even more.  We’re all flying by the seat of our pants this year, and doing the best we can. Depending on your particular family member and circumstances, all you can try to find the best possible solution to an unsolvable problem. Some suggestions:

  • Send cards and letters, and pictures in albums. Label them with names.  Cards that pop-up or play music add an extra surprise. Some cards let you record a message. Maybe send favorite Christmas movies or music, or seasonal plants and flowers.
  • Food from home is always appreciated, especially holiday favorites and family specialties.
  • Other possibilities for gifts: scented lotions, fuzzy blankets, stuffed animals, mechanical pets,  music (Christmas or year-round favorites), calendars, nightlights, or books with pictures.
  • Phone calls and video chats with family members: These can have mixed responses, so keep expectations low on your end. But often elders seem to “catch on” eventually, and enjoy them even if they can’t reciprocate well. Try singing songs, reading stories, share family pictures. Recall family memories of yours (“I remember when you made hundreds of Christmas cookies!” not “Do you remember when you made hundreds of cookies?”)