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Countdown to Christmas for Loved One with Memory Impariments

A happy senior father and adult son decorating a Christmas tree at home.

Counting down to Christmas is a time-honored tradition that began when were children anxiously awaiting the appearance of Santa, presents, food and family.

Anticipating the holidays is not just fun for children but for all ages who believe in the magic of the season.

As we age, holding onto that magic becomes difficult, especially for those with memory impairments. There are many ways to bring back the magic such as an Advent calendar, watching old holiday movies, listening to music or making treasured family recipes that only come out once a year.

Like a countdown calendar, the following 24 Days of Christmas-themed activities can help seniors living with Alzheimer’s, and dementia enjoy the season. This fun list is appropriate for the whole family and is easy enough for loved ones suffering from a cognitive disease to participate in as well as little children. Who doesn’t love multi-generational activities everyone can do?

Don’t forget to snap a few photos along the way as new memories are made.

Day 1: Send Christmas Cards

You can go all out here or simply turn it into a holiday craft project of homemade cards! If you have a loved one with delicate motor issues, stuffing the envelope and adding a themed sticker can be a great holiday card activity.

Day 2: Decorate a Holiday Wreath

Go out and buy a wreath! Real or artificial will both be beautiful. Next, grab some simple decorating supplies, think berries, ribbon, and pinecones. Get to making your masterpiece to display on the front door.

Day 3: Hang Mistletoe

Hanging some mistletoe in the house is a festive way to spread the love. This tradition has been around for a while, and your loved one living with dementia may find it to be a comforting reminder of holidays past.

Day 4: String Popcorn and Cranberries

Some fine motor skills are required for this one, but large plastic needles help! They can be found at most craft stores. Sitting and stringing homemade decorations gives a beautiful opportunity to enjoy holiday music, singing, or reminiscing.

Day 5: Decorate the Tree

Just because a senior may not be able actually to hang any ornaments doesn’t mean they can’t participate in the tree decorating. Instead of hanging the ornaments, your loved one may enjoy sitting next to the tree and handing out the ornaments. This activity may also spark beautiful memories of Christmases’ past.

Day 6: Make Gourmet Hot Chocolate

With hot chocolate bars becoming more popular, why not make one at home! Use chocolate-dipped spoons or candy canes to stir, and top with fun toppings like marshmallows, peppermint crumbs, chocolate chips, and whipped cream!

Day 7: An Easy, Yet Adult, Holiday Puzzle

Find something holiday-themed with larger pieces and fewer pieces. There is nothing cozier than sitting around a fire putting together a holiday scene.

Day 8: Solve a Christmas Crossword Puzzle

You can find a dementia-friendly holiday crossword all over the internet. You can even create your own.

Day 9: Go See the Lights

Driving around to see the Christmas lights is an activity every one of all ages can enjoy! Most areas even have a drive-through display at places like fairgrounds where you can drive through and few many displays. Many towns have listings of great neighborhood displays on social media.

Day 10: Watch a Christmas Movie

With today’s streaming subscriptions, finding classic favorites is easier than ever. It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Meet Me in St. Louis, White Christmas, and A Christmas Carol are some titles our beloved seniors all love.

Day 11: Wear Fun Christmas Socks

Nothing screams Christmas Comfort like a good pair of holiday socks! You can even get matching ones for the whole family.

Day 12: Bake Holiday Goodies

Pull out the family recipes and the stories that go with them. Baking with family is always so comforting and makes the best memories. And tis the season of giving; maybe share some baked goods with your neighbors.

Day 13: Take a Family Photo

Pull out those matching outfits and document the moment. Down the road, pictures turn into all we may have left.

Day 14: Do a Random Act of Kindness

This can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. Even paying for someone behind you in the drive-through line can brighten a bad day.

Day 15: Make a Handmade Gift

Sharpie mugs or magnets are a great dementia-friendly activity. The internet has tons of ideas like this.

Day 16: Color an Easy Adult Christmas Coloring Page

Simple holiday designs with thick stroke lines make it easy for our seniors.

Day 17: Wrap the Presents

If paper and tape are too much for your loved one, a fun holiday bag and colorful tissue paper will do the trick!

Day 18: Reminisce about Past Christmases

Pull out all those old albums or put a slide show together to some holiday music that you can watch with the whole family.

Day 19: Make Christmas Ornaments

Salt dough ornaments are easy and fun to make for all ages. Dough recipes can be found all over the internet.

Day 20: Bake Cookies

If cookie cutters and icing are too tough for your senior, peanut butter cookies with a Hershey Kiss or sugar cookies with a Peppermint Kiss on top are a much simpler and super tasty alternative.

Day 21: Work a Christmas Word Search

These can be found online for all difficulty levels, but you can always make your own!

Day 22: Listen to Christmas Music

Light the Christmas Tree and grab some snacks and have an evening of holiday music.

Day 23: Fill the Stockings

Even if your kids are grown, filling the stockings can bring back beautiful memories of when our seniors filled them for us. Let them feel a part of the Christmas magic.

Day 24: Read the Night Before Christmas

What better way to end the night…and the countdown. Gather the family and crack open the classic.

Completing all 24 days may be a lot, so pick just a few if it works better for you and your family. Bringing the joy of Christmas to our loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia will surely brighten up the holiday season and give everyone new memories to treasure

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