The Holiday Season, when routines change, can be very distressing and confusing for a person with dementia. Christmas dementia care can be the most challenging time of year.
People with dementia often sense that something is going on, possibly making them feel insecure, frightened and more confused. If you are caring for someone with dementia it’s worth thinking ahead to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Helen, our lead dementia care trainer, has shared some tips to help Christmas run as smoothly as possible. By tailoring this basic outline of ideas to your situation you can give them a happy and healthy holiday.
It is important that you do your best to maintain a routine, such as getting up and going to bed at the same time and keeping meal-times regular.
When there are a lot of people in the house it can be overwhelming. Keeping visits to small family groups over the two week period rather than a big family gathering can help.
If visiting family members, make sure the visit is dementia friendly and planned well in advance.
It can become quite noisy during the celebrations so trying to keep noise levels to a minimum may be a good idea. It is also important that there is the opportunity for some quiet time, perhaps with just one person, and that there is someone available to explain gently what is going on.
Keeping to normal meals can help avoid a catastrophic reaction, though some treats are always appreciated. Remember a busy table with crackers coloured napkins/serviettes can become very confusing.
Alcohol is best avoided. Alcohol-free wines are an option so that everyone feels included.
Your loved one could be invited to join in some of the preparations for Christmas, if possible. They may not be able to make a Christmas cake, but could stir the mixture. Are they able to help make decorations or help decorate the Christmas tree?
Family members can also find it emotionally difficult to visit their relative at this time of the year, but creating a calm and happy atmosphere is a good start.
Decorations and Christmas crackers can be enjoyed by people with dementia. It is best to remove the ‘snap’ from the cracker, though, as this could frighten them.
If it all gets a bit too much then perhaps the tree can go back into storage for this year, and decorations be kept minimal.
Singing is normally appreciated, and everyone can join in. It relies on a different part of the memory so may cause less distress.
Don’t Worry… Be Happy
Your family member will almost always sense when people are happy, and so for everyone’s sake it is important that happiness is in abundance.