November-December 2023

Volume 14, Issue 6


A newsletter for caregivers of loved ones with dementia

Upcoming Education

Winter Caregiver College

January 4 to February 16

Thursdays; 2-5:00 pm


to learn more and to register.

The winter session begins soon! 

A series of six lectures will be provided for caregivers of persons with memory disorders. Sessions are designed to improve caregiver understanding of different aspects of dementia care.

See the Events and Programs section towards the end of this newsletter for more details as well as all the 2024 dates.

Making Visits Count

It’s the time of year for gatherings, cookie swaps, and large celebrations with family and friends. For a person living with dementia, all this activity can be confusing, even upsetting – which in turn can result in a holiday season punctuated by disappointment. But a little thoughtful preparation can help create meaningful moments – and joyful memories - for everyone.

As you prepare for upcoming celebrations, take an assessment through the eyes of your loved one. How are they doing in large groups and social settings? Are restaurants and unfamiliar places becoming difficult for them? Do they appear to be more comfortable in their own routine at home? Then start by getting in touch with folks who haven’t been around lately and who could be a bit surprised or put off by the changes they’ll see in the person who has dementia. Let them know ahead of time if the person is no longer able to follow conversations, if they have mobility issues or are in a wheelchair, if they might not recognize the visitor, or if they need to remain in their home setting. Send along a current photo so they’ll know what the person looks like now. Give them the Visiting Tips list below to help them be better prepared. 


A few days (not weeks!) prior to a visit, start talking a little every day with your loved one about who will be dropping by. Keep it very brief, i.e., “Here’s a picture of Amy. She looks so much like you!” Don’t mention travel arrangements or other details of her visit unless the person asks (and keep your answer simple if they do), but do share one or two familiar stories about the visitor.  Talking about an expected visitor may help your loved one recognize them a little better…but be patient if it doesn’t happen right away (click here to read Who Are You? from the last issue of CNN). 


Make reasonable choices about how much merrymaking is doable for you as well as for the person in your care. As much as you may be tempted to pull out all the stops and do it all, think about conserving your energy as well as your loved one’s. Even if you’re able to push through when you’re tired or stressed, they can’t…so be observant for signs of agitation or anxiety which may signal that it’s time for a rest.  Be sure to create a quiet, familiar space for them to get a break from all the festivities. Also, take advantage of having extra family members around and ask them to spend some one-on-one time with the person so that you can attend a holiday event on your own.  

Remember that you are around your loved one with dementia all the time and are accustomed to their routine. Helping others know what to expect and how they can connect with a person who’s different from what they used to be will make the visit go better for everyone. And be sure your visitors understand that a failing brain may keep the person from remembering the visit the next day, so don’t take it personally. It happens with dementia. The important part is that they enjoyed it in the moment.

Visiting Tips

Cut back on talking. 

·      Conversing becomes difficult for a person with dementia. Less is more, so use fewer words and shorter sentences. Pause and give the person time to process and respond. Allow for some quiet moments when you just sit together and watch the world for a bit. Silence doesn’t need to be awkward – it can be companionable.  


·      Don’t interrogate: “What have you been doing?” “How do you like living here?” “Have you seen Suzy?” Instead of asking so many questions, reminisce about the past. Come prepared with some old stories that might spark the person’s memory.


·      To give yourself something to do other than chattering, show up with something to look at – a few old photographs, a treasured holiday ornament, something familiar from back in their earlier years. Try a book with colorful, easy-to-see photos, or find some on your tablet (puppies and babies are favorites) that you can look at together. Remember not to quiz (“Who is that?”) but instead offer hints (“That’s you and Edith at the farm!”).


·      Arrange a simple activity that the person can participate in: decorating cookies, stringing popcorn, wrapping gifts. Natural conversations can often flow through a shared activity.


·      Another alternative to conversation: watching a movie. “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas,” “Miracle on 34th Street” can all be familiar and easy for an older person who may have difficulty with more modern fast-paced shows. Don’t ask, just set it up and start watching. If Mom or Dad don’t appear to be interested in the moment, it’s OK. Just move onto something else.


·      To encourage more quiet time, try a hand massage or shoulder rub. 


·      Laughter is good for everybody, and people with dementia are no exception. Get them smiling with Knock-Knock jokes, old one-liners, or your Elvis imitation. It’s fun, and it’s easier than conversation. 


·      If there are children about, see if the person could read aloud to them, or vice-versa. It’s more likely to be successful if it’s simple and familiar – think “Mother Goose,” “Winnie the Pooh,” or “The Night Before Christmas” etc. 


·      For more tips about communicating with a person with dementia, click here


·      Music nearly always remains when language and conversation are fading. Many a person living with dementia who can no longer speak in complete sentences can often sing right through all verses of a familiar song. Never underestimate the power of using song to connect with your loved one.


·      You’re already singing holiday carols this time of year anyway, so just break into a familiar one and see if the person doesn’t join in. If you feel your singing voice needs a little support, sing along with a version from your phone or tablet. 


·      Other familiar songs (“I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “You Are My Sunshine”), hymns of faith, or a Beatles tune can create wonderful moments of connection for everyone. Try a few until you find what works.


·      Try earphones (the big kind, not earbuds) so your loved one can hear the songs more clearly.


·      Kids aren’t shy about singing carols, so get them to step up to lead the singalong.


·      Songs with words are good to get them singing, but instrumentals might get them moving! Find something that’s fun to move to – try American Bandstand, old TV themes like Andy Griffith or Bonanza, or anything from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

Give a gift.

• Gifts are part of the season, but as with other traditions, you’ll want to scale back to a simpler version.

• Browse the toy stores for something fun, easy, and familiar, like a Slinky. Introducing simple toys is also a good way to get the kids involved with the visit.

• People in moderate stages of dementia often respond well to robotic pets or even to less expensive non-robotic plush versions. Be patient if the person doesn’t respond right away – it often takes a day or two for a bond to form.

• Edible treats are always appreciated. What’s more festive than a box of holiday cookies? (Always be sure to check in with any dietary restrictions)

• No technology!  The newest device may be cool to you but not to a person whose brain is struggling to learn new things.

Visiting in a Care Facility.

• Try to schedule your visit earlier in the day when the person is more rested.

• See if you can arrange for a private or semi-private room where there won’t be other people or activities going on.

• Limit the number of visitors to 2 or 3 at a time.

• Shorter, more frequent visits are typically better than one long one. In most cases, you’ll want to limit your visit to 30-45 minutes so as not to overtire the person. Remember, that’s a lot of stimulation for them.

• Although you may be tempted to bring your loved one home for the day, consider how taxing that is likely to be for someone who is used to a slower and quieter environment. Create a smaller version of a family gathering, and have it in the person’s familiar setting.  It’ll be plenty.

Click Here and Here for previous CNN articles on visiting a person who is living with dementia.

Programs and Events
MemoryCaregivers Network
Peer Support & Education Groups

All MemoryCaregivers Network Support Groups are currently being held online via Zoom on Tuesdays from 1:00-3:00pm

Network meetings are open to the public. Participants will receive a Zoom link via email the day before each meeting.

If you are not currently attending a MemoryCaregivers Network support group, please email to join the mailing list. If you do not use email but would like to talk with a support facilitator, please call Mary Donnelly at 828.230.4143.

For more information about the MemoryCaregivers Network, contact:

Mary Donnelly
The Network relies on charitable support to keep its program going.
Donate Now
Caregiver College
A series of six free lectures will be provided for caregivers of persons with memory disorders. Sessions are designed to improve caregiver understanding of different aspects of dementia care. The course is led by MemoryCare staff members with guest lecture by attorney
Caroline Knox, Esq.

2024 Course Schedule

Thursdays from 2:00-5:00 pm


January 4 to February 8

Register for Winter


March 21 to April 25

Register for Spring


July 18 to August 22

Register for Summer


October 10 to November 14

Register for Fall
Until further notice, Caregiver College will be provided as a live-broadcast for online attendance. The ability to access Zoom through a computer, tablet or smartphone with a reliable internet connection is necessary to attend. If you are unable to attend virtually and would need to join in-person, please reach out to us at 828-771-2219 or Related course materials will be provided via email.

We gratefully acknowledge
for their support of our program.

Call 828-771-2219 or email with questions.

Move for Memory
Join us for MemoryCare's Adult Exercise Program, led by Rebecca Carter, PTA. Classes are free and open to the public and will be provided weekly through Zoom for online attendance.
This class is intended for people with memory impairment to participate with their caregiver in fun and simple exercises. The exercises incorporate movements that can improve daily activities and general mobility. Group exercise will be approximately 40 minutes, followed by a time to answer questions. Exercises can be performed standing or seated.
Please note you will be required to read and acknowledge a disclaimer when registering to join. The ability to access Zoom through a computer, tablet or smartphone with a reliable internet connection is necessary to attend. Email or call 828-771-2219 with questions.


10:00 - 11:00 am

 Do you need a program for a group event?  
The MemoryCaregivers Network staff presents on a variety of subjects, including Recognizing Early Warning Signs of Memory Loss, Facts and Fiction about Dementia, Better Communication Techniques, and more. 

We are happy to speak at your event to raise awareness and knowledge about Dementia. Contact Mary Donnelly at
To see a list of 
A special thanks to the sponsors of this newsletter:
Caregiver Network News and The MemoryCaregivers Network are auxiliary programs of MemoryCare. Caregiver Network News is written and compiled by Mary Donnelly.
Contact for more information. 
Subscribe to Caregiver Network News
is a charitable non-profit organization whose mission is three-fold:

To provide specialized medical care to older adults with cognitive impairment;
to support caregivers with education, counseling, and improved access to services; and to provide community education.

We rely on charitable donations to continue these programs!

Please consider donating...
perhaps in honor of a loved one's birthday...
or a memorial...
or a sustaining gift to support families like yours 
who depend on the services that MemoryCare provides!

Make a difference. Make a donation.
Thank you for your interest and support!
Donate Now
Visit Our Website
MemoryCare is a 501(c)3 public charity as determined by the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Tax ID: 56-2178294.  
Financial information about this organization and a copy of its license are available from the Charitable Solicitation Licensing Section at 919-814-5400. The license is not an endorsement by the State.