Angels Come In Disguise to Keep Holidays Manageable

December 9th, 2012 → 11:14 pm @ // No Comments

The holidays can cause a problem of overstimulation. Especially persons with dementia need help to be able to respond positively to the flood of activities; otherwise under or over stimulation can cause them to withdraw, decreasing their responsiveness – or to panic, increasing their unwanted agitated behaviors.

While living in a healthcare facility, Angelina had a mysterious visitor who came by like an angel every holiday. She always brought a bouquet of fresh red and white carnations. First, the guest would hold the flowers to Angelina’s nose so she could enjoy smelling them; then the guest would give the bouquet to Angelina placing it in her lap. Angelina sat in her wheelchair like a queen beaming smiles as the guest pushed her around the room. They stopped to give other residents, or staff members, a flower of their own, to smell and hold. This tradition brightened and soothed the long days at holiday time inside a care facility.

You can communicate your own holiday mood with less stress, and more managed care, and also feel more celestial like an angel. Here are some suggestions that will help you focus on one sense at a time, in order to stimulate the senses that are connected with a holiday activity:

Draw the person’s attention to the smell of fresh flowers. This can stimulate the person to put the flowers in water.

Draw the person’s attention to the smell of an orange by opening the skin. This can stimulate the person to hold the orange, peel the orange, and eat the orange with relish and remember the orange in his or her Christmas stocking.

Draw the person’s attention to the sight of a green tinsel string with a red jingle bell attached. Help them remember a holiday story, such as “Twas the Night Before Christmas” with the sound of reindeer on the roof.

Get the person’s attention by focusing on his/her needs and sitting beside him/her at the holiday dinner. Pick up their favorite food and invite the person to smell it. Have a small table top tree nearby. This can stimulate the person to hang a tree ornament on the tree.

Draw the attention to the movement of dancing bubbles as you blow them. This can stimulate the person to blow a bubble, laugh as they pop, reach out to catch a bubble, and clap together as they pop.

A holiday sing-along can over stimulate the person you care for. So start by getting their attention with a one-on-one heart-to-heart lullaby conversation. Echo the voice you hear singing to you. Act as a compass point – orient – redirect. Find something in common to point out like – we both are wearing red today. 

This article is inspired by Carol Bowlby Sifton’s Navigating the Alzheimer’s Journey: A Compass for Caregiving (Baltimore,MD: Health Professions Press, Inc., 2004), 293-358.

More helpful activities can be found in As Long as You Sing, I’ll Dance: The bond not the burden – the blessing of reciprocal caregiving by Julia Soto Lebentritt. Available at



Leave a Reply