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News release
Dec. 21, 2023

Compassionate care during the holidays: tips for supporting people living with dementia

TORONTO, Dec. 21, 2023—This holiday season, the Ontario Medical Association is highlighting the importance of providing inclusive and compassionate care for people with dementia. Festivities and family gatherings can be both joyous and challenging for them and their caregivers.

About seven per cent of seniors live with dementia, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The holiday season can be overwhelming for them due to changes in routine, increased social interactions and overstimulation, according to Dr. Barbara Clive, a geriatric medicine specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga.

Dr. Clive has some practical tips to support caregivers and families in navigating the holidays with sensitivity and care:

  • Include your loved one: Do not exclude people with cognitive impairment but include them in a way that is comfortable for them.
  • Be mindful of routines: Routines are important for people with dementia. Consider working your celebration around their existing morning or evening activities.
  • Earlier is better: Plan your event for early in the day. People living with dementia often do better in the first half of the day and become more restless or confused in the evening.
  • Avoid large gatherings: Festive occasions are frequently challenging because of the number of people, multiple conversations going on at once and high emotions. This can be exacerbated by alcohol use, which should be limited or avoided. Be sure to have a quiet spot where someone can sit and relax away from all the commotion.
  • Lean into activity-based festivities: Many people with cognitive impairment enjoy participating in festive events. Their limitations are cognitive and not physical so they can be included in making cookies, decorating, lighting candles, wrapping gifts, setting the table and more. Working alongside them during these activities will help them to be successful.
  • Reminisce: Open conversations about holiday traditions in their youth. Long-term memory is often better than recent memory.
  • Get vaccinated: Be sure that everyone had their COVID, influenza and RSV (if eligible) vaccinations and ask family members to stay away if they are sick.

About the OMA

The Ontario Medical Association represents Ontario’s 43,000-plus physicians, medical students and retired physicians, advocating for and supporting doctors while strengthening the leadership role of doctors in caring for patients. Our vision is to be the trusted voice in transforming Ontario’s health-care system.

For more information, please contact:
Leslie Shepherd, OMA director of earned and social media

Dr. Clive describes her tips for caring for people with dementia during the holidays.