If you are the carer of, or have a family member with dementia it can pay to make a few adjustments and follow some of these tips from Helen, our lead dementia trainer, to help Christmas run as smoothly as possible.
It can be very distressing and confusing for a person with dementia when routine changes, such as it does over the Christmas/New Year period, so it is worth thinking ahead to ensure everything runs smoothly during the festive season.
People with dementia often sense that something is going on, which may make them feel insecure, frightened and add to everyday confusion. But by taking this basic outline if ideas and tailoring it to your loved one you can give them a happy, 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 mealtimes 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.
4. Christmas Dinner
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.
6. Christmas Preparations
Your loved one could be invited to join in some of the preparations for Christmas if possible. She/he 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 calm and happy atmosphere is a good start.
Decorations and Christmas crackers may be enjoyed by people with dementia. It is probably best though to remove the snap, 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.
10. 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.
A final handy hint – Make sure the list of emergency numbers are up to date.
WE WISH YOU A HAPPY FESTIVE TIME