Christmas is a special time of year however, the festive season can be overwhelming for those living with dementia. This joyful time of year brings with it lots of bright lights and noise which can be disorientating or upsetting. If you have a relative with dementia or you are a Nurse, Healthcare Assistant or Support Worker caring for a person with dementia, there are several things you can do to create a more peaceful environment for all. We’ve put together some tips to help someone with dementia enjoy the festivities this year.
Take it easy on the decorating:
For those with dementia, the sudden change to their surroundings can be confusing so try to introduce Christmas decorations gradually. Make small changes such as putting up the tree one day, then add the lights and ornaments the next but don’t forget to include your loved one – even if it’s hanging a single bauble – be sure to include them in preparations. This gives the person living with dementia time to adjust but it’s a good idea to make sure there is at least one calm and quiet space without flashing lights or bright colours for your loved one or client to rest.
Don’t overload their plate:
Too much food can be overwhelming for those with dementia and smaller snacks, more often, is better than a full meal. Dementia patients can find that their tastes, their likes and dislikes, change over time and so don’t stress or take offence if your turkey or Christmas cake is suddenly unappetising to them.
Family and friends:
Crowded rooms with lots of people, different conversations and excitable children can cause agitation. If you are visiting a family member in a residential home, go in small groups to try and reduce the risk of being overbearing. If you have a family member with dementia staying with you over the festive period, consider whether a large family celebration might be too much for them.
Bring back old memories:
Christmas is all about being together, enjoying each other’s company and making memories. Listening to classic Christmas songs, making a family photo album or asking them about their childhood Christmases can cheer dementia patients up and get them in the festive spirit.
It’s important not to have too many expectations and to be flexible with plans. The most important thing is that the person feels safe, secure and happy at that moment. Don’t be disheartened if they don’t remember what they did, they may well remember that they felt happy!
Members of the Ashford Dementia Support Group got together to talk about the very real difficulties they can face at Christmas, from the noise and confusion to feelings of exclusion during preparations. They have created a short animation using their words to portray a vital message.