Christmas can be an exciting time for many but it can also be extremely difficult for those living with dementia. The hustle and bustle, change in routine and the pressure of family visits can often be overwhelming.
It can also be the loneliest time for people living with dementia and for the 670,000 carers who will be spending this festive season looking after their loved ones.
The Alzheimer’s Society has shared its top tips to help you support your loved one (and yourself) this Christmas:
1. Put decorations up gradually
Introduce the Christmas environment slowly. Think about putting decorations up gradually over a few days so it doesn’t come as a big change to the person’s usual setting.
2. Keep it simple and familiar
Someone with dementia may feel overwhelmed over the Christmas period, so it’s best not to overdo it. Keeping the day’s activities low key will help your loved one to relax.
Sticking to a familiar routine is also a good idea where possible. Having meals at regular times and in familiar surroundings will help to limit any potential confusion.
3. Get everyone involved
There are many ways to involve people living with dementia at Christmas time – from something as simple as hanging a bauble on the tree to doing a spot of Christmas shopping. The important thing is that they feel included.
4. Create a quiet room
A large number of guests can be overwhelming, so ask family and friends to spread out their visits over the festive period. If things do get busy, designate one room in your house as a ‘quiet room’ where your loved one can relax without loud noise.
Christmas days can be noisy – try to reduce unnecessary noise such as party poppers, loud music or blaring television when people are also chatting.
5. Bring back old memories
Whether it’s an old song they used to enjoy or a classic Christmas film, find something fun you can take part in. Making a family photo album or memory box could be a nice way to spend time together.
6. Be mindful of food
Although many people eat a lot at Christmas, a full plate can be daunting for someone who has difficulties eating. If you’re doing the serving, try not to overload your loved one’s plate.
7. Be flexible
It’s easy to get caught up in Christmas traditions, but your festive season might begin to look different as dementia progresses. It’s always worth having a ‘Plan B’ and be prepared to change your plans if a particular element isn’t working.
8. Consider their needs
Focus on the abilities of the individual not the dementia. If they don’t remember it’s Christmas, avoid reminding them as it can cause anxiety.
A busy day can also be tiring and confusing for a person with dementia, so keep it manageable. If they are going back to their home, don’t leave it too late; try to take them home in daylight rather than wait until it gets dark so that they can see where they are.
9. Have a practice run
If you are inviting a person with dementia to come to you or want to bring a loved one out of a care home, have a few practice runs along the way. This way you will be able to gauge if it’s achievable.
10. Have no expectations
Don’t worry if things aren’t perfect – just try and enjoy the day!
Visit Alzheimer’s Society for more information or advice.