Kelly J. Murphy, Ph.D., C.Psych.

Kelly J. Murphy Ph.D., C.Psych.

Living With Mild Cognitive Impairment

Holiday Party Survival Guide for People With MCI

Tips for enjoying holiday gatherings for those experiencing cognitive decline.

Posted Dec 18, 2016

Based on our own research and that of others we know people with MCI (mild cognitive impairment) tend to withdraw somewhat in social situations. Here are some examples of what I hear from my clients with MCI: “I don’t talk much, I just listen”; “I used to like telling jokes, but I don’t now because others have told me I’m repeating myself”; “Sometimes I can’t keep up with group conversation and feel left out, it’s just not as much fun as it used to be." These comments demonstrate the impacts of the lived experience of cognitive decline on the ability of some of those affected by MCI to enjoy social situations. 

Now the holiday season is fully upon us, many find themselves in in social situations. Below are some tips to improve your ability to enjoy yourself, irrespective of whether you are experiencing MCI, but especially if you are. 

1. TRACK and REVIEW your social engagements by recording them on a calendar, in a daily agenda, or in your smartphone.  Make sure to elaborate on this record with some notes about time, place, and who is hosting. To stay on top of things check this record…a lot.

2. PREPARE by thinking about who you can expect to see at the party or family gathering. Spend time thinking about the names of the people, what they look like, who they are connected to, what you know about them, and what was happening last time you saw them. If you have photos of some of these people then dig them out and look at them. Talk about the social engagement with someone close to you, like your spouse or a close friend. Get their input on what they remember about the people they expect will be there and share stories about what you know about these people.

3. SINGLE OUT PEOPLE during the party to individually speak with. This allows you to focus on one person at time to talk with which may increase your ability to have an enjoyable conversation. Set yourself a goal of doing this with a least one person at the gathering (more than one person if comfortable doing so).

4. THANK THE HOST anytime during the event. This will give you a chance to make a meaningful connection with the host that will make both of you feel good. It will also be more memorable if you do this sometime during the party as waiting until the moment of departure makes things seem more hurried and your words may be lost among the chorus of those leaving at the same time as you are.

5. TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF yourself by recognizing that conversations naturally run their course: They end, and folks move on to other topics or people. This reality is no reflection on you.

6. BE MINDFUL at some points during the event by taking a moment to quietly observe everything that is going on around you. Take special notice of the people, the décor, and the music or other sounds. Pay attention to some of the holiday delights you feast on; for example, the smell, taste, texture, and temperature.