Planning for social activities if you have a family member diagnosed with dementia

Planning for social activities if you have a family member diagnosed with dementia

CK Updated
Old man and young woman standing together

Christmas and holiday times can be stressful for people who are caring for a person with dementia. It is important not to wear yourself out. The team at Dementia Waikato have provided some suggestions to assist you and your family to plan for social activities.

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Have realistic expectations of what you have the time and energy to do, and what the person with dementia has the ability to do. Be ready for changing expectations.

Don’t worry if the occasion isn’t perfect - just enjoy the day and being with other people. 

Jill Edmunds (NZROT), Dementia Advisor Dementia Waikato

Top tips to help you plan social occasions

Speak with family/Whanau and friends about how things may need to be different this year. Consider what parts of Christmas/family gatherings are important for the person who has dementia.

Do things need to be different?

  • When may be the best time of day to have a family meal?
  • Where would be the least stressful place for the family/Whanau to get together?
  • Consider seating the person with dementia at the end of the table when eating, rather than in the middle.

Different size gatherings

Consider the person with dementia participating in smaller family ‘get togethers’ over a few days. The person with dementia may be more comfortable having a small family gathering at their own home.

What to give

Let others know that the person who has dementia may value gifts of company/outings rather than material items.


  • Encourage the person with dementia to help with preparations –  such as folding paper serviettes, polishing silver cutlery, peeling vegetables or sweeping outdoor paths etc.
  • To assist the person with dementia to recall family/Whanau names at the social activity - say the names of family members in your conversation.
  • Encourage reminiscing. Endeavour to include the person with dementia in conversations.
  • Give family/friends some ideas of activities which they may like to do with the person who has dementia

Have quiet space

During the social activities plan somewhere quiet for the person with dementia to have some ‘time out’ from the family celebration. Schedule rest/quiet times.

Try and avoid excessive noise. If young children are getting too loud around the person with dementia encourage them to use ‘inside voices’, direct them to an area further away from the person with dementia, etc.

Assist with meals

Some people who have dementia have difficulty regulating how much food they eat and being aware of when they are full. Offer smaller portions, second helpings, etc. 

Avoid offering the person with dementia too much alcohol: reduce risk of falls. Consider drinks with low alcohol content.

Looking after the carer

Ask for help if you need it.
During social gatherings find opportunities when the primary carer can ask family/Whanau and friends to spend some time with the person who has dementia. This gives the carer the opportunity to have a break. It could be as simple as a family member sitting with the person with dementia or taking them for a short walk.

More information about Dementia Waikato

Dementia Waikato is a charitable trust providing free services to support individuals with a dementia diagnosis, their families and care partners.

To contact Coromandel Peninsula Dementia Advisor Jill Edmunds or for more information about Dementia Waikato see the related link below.

Related Links

Dementia Waikato

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