Christmas can be a magical time of year, but for many, it is fraught with worry about how to make it dementia-friendly for those who are living with dementia and complex care needs. This is often because their likes, wants and needs may have changed. The pressure to have the perfect Christmas, family visits and the change to routines can be overwhelming.
The Alzheimer’s Society estimate that there are around 670,000 carers spending this Christmas looking after their loved ones without any support. Here are their top tips for a dementia-friendly Christmas:
Dementia-Friendly Christmas = 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. A dementia-friendly Christmas does not mean not having any fun but if you keep things simple it will help your loved one feel secure and happy.
Get everyone involved in a Dementia-Friendly Christmas
There are many ways to involve people in a dementia-friendly Christmas – 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.
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.
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.
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.
Be flexible for a Happy Dementia-Friendly Christmas
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.
Consider their needs
Focus on the abilities of the individual, not dementia or complex care needs. 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.
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.
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 here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/