A Simple Tip for Holiday Gatherings

A Simple Tip for Holiday Gatherings

At a recent care partner Dementia Together SPECAL® workshop, we discussed how loved ones with dementia sometimes withdraw or become agitated during family gatherings.  The assumption is often made, “it’s just part of the disease.”

At Dementia Together, we agree: Withdrawal or expressions of agitation are part of dis-ease.   The dis-ease of trying to navigate life surrounded by people using common sense. The dis-ease of having no ONE person in a ‘We-relationship’ with them using what we call “SPECAL-sense” to ensure a feeling of security without the demand of having to “know” what has happened or been said just moments before.

We suggest one simple SPECAL strategy during family gatherings:
Assign 10-30 minute time slots in which ONE person is in a
‘We-relationship’ with your loved one.  For that time, the assigned family member is available to:

  • engage together in conversation about your loved person’s favorite topics
  • watch a show together
  • laugh together 
  • sing together
  • figure out together why Uncle Joe is dancing on the table
  • rest together
  • walk together or
  • look at old books or photos together–without quizzing!

The assigned family member is the ONE person ready and available without questions or contradictions, with eye contact, and a “we’re in this together” feeling.

“I’d love to hear about…” and “I wonder if…” are often helpful ways to promote conversation without putting your loved person on the spot to try to find answers to direct questions.

When the time slot ends, a new family member can glide into position in the ‘we-relationship’ wh

ile the other evaporates out.

This simple strategy not only helps your loved one feel like a LOVED one, but also offers everyone in the family time to savor moments of joy with someone for whom being forgotten is a far greater risk than forgetting.  

Blessings on your Thanksgiving together,


Cyndy Hunt Luzinski, MS, RN, SPECAL Practitioner

The SPECAL® Method, (pronounced “speckle”) developed by the Contented Dementia Trust in England,  is a special way to provide lifelong well-being for a person with dementia. Dementia Together’s “Contented Dementia” courses and support groups reinforce the ‘why, what, and how’ to use this simple, person-directed, family-driven model to positively manage the disability of dementia.

Dementia Together is local nonprofit organization sustained by donations and grants with the mission: No one has to walk the dementia journey alone.   All education, support, and life enrichment opportunities are offered at no charge so that cost is not a barrier to participation. For more information, visit Dementiatogether.org or call 970-305-5271.

Dementia Together