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New Year’s Traditions and Dementia Care

Posted on: Dec 06, 2020

New Year’s Eve and Day are meaningful for many of us in that it is a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the year ahead.

If you are caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, this holiday is a perfect time to explore old memories that are often still intact and to engage in conversation about the meaning, and traditions of the New Year.

Many people with dementia can forget what happened a few hours ago but remember their childhood or younger years. Engage your family member in a discussion about the past. Can your family member share any memories or his or her hometown? School days? Did the family have a pet? What were some traditions around the holidays? Were any special foods served? Does your family member recall any special holiday gifts he or she received (a pet or first bicycle)? Enjoy this conversation – you may learn something new!

Now take some time and enjoy discussing some New Year’s traditions. Does your family member enjoy New Year’s football? The famed Pasadena, California Rose Parade? Watching the ball drop at Time’s Square? Did your mom or dad ever dress up and go dancing on New Year’s Eve? Does your family member think it’s a good idea to make New Year’s resolutions?

In the south, people often eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day to bring a year of good luck. If you Google “New Year’s food traditions,” you can learn about many foods from around the world that may bring “good luck.” Enjoy talking to your family member about these traditions. 

New Year’s is also a time to look ahead. For 2021, we will all be hoping for a much better, post-pandemic world. Share your hopes and dreams you have with your family member for the year 2021 (a return to normalcy, good health, travel, visits to your favorite coffee shop) and ask your family member for his or her vision for the New Year. People living with dementia can often still engage in conversation and share emotions, ideas, hopes and dreams. You might learn that your mother’s 2021 hopes include more chocolate (easily done) or a trip to Paris, France (less likely but something you can do virtually with YouTube and the Web). 

Write down or record on your camera phone, any wishes your family member expresses for 2021 and share the list with friends and family. This makes for a life-affirming and incredibly special New Year’s greeting.

Christian Horizons is a Dementia Friendly Ministry™ and has as its goals for 2021 expanded educational offerings related to dementia and enhanced programming and services with our new Pathway Memory support program. In addition to the roll out of vaccines for COVID, we hope and pray that 2021 is a year where we will see breakthroughs in dementia care research, care and treatment. 

Please have a Happy and Healthy New Year.

David Troxel, MPH, co-author of The Best Friends Approach to Dementia Care and Consultant to Christian Horizons Pathway Memory Support Program

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