For many, Christmas is one of the most exciting times of the year with plenty to look forward to. However, for those living with dementia, the Christmas period can be a time of stress, worry and confusion. Christmas is busy and full of hustle and bustle for all of us, but for those living with dementia changes in environment, food and schedules along with an increase in visitors may be overwhelming.
In order to ensure your loved one living with dementia experiences an enjoyable Christmas day, you may need to plan ahead. By making some small changes, such as the ones listed below, you can ensure everyone has a safe and fun Christmas day.
1. Create a ‘Quiet Room’
One of the most overwhelming things about Christmas can be the number of visitors and family members around at once. It is best to inform guests to spread out their visits throughout the day, but if not possible, it is a good idea to have a designated quiet room. This can be any room in the house away from the mayhem where a family member with dementia can relax and calm down if it all gets too much.
2. Decorate Slowly
Putting the Christmas decorations up gradually in the lead up to Christmas is better than all at once as this change in environment can be confusing. It is better to ease your loved one into the festive period than to overwhelm them all at once.
3. Have a Practice Run
If you are hosting Christmas it is advisable to have a practice run including the person with dementia. If they live in a care home, make sure to involve the staff and get their help in organising the day. Having a practice run will help you with organisation and help them feel more comfortable on the day.
4. Encourage Reminiscence
Christmas is a great time for reminiscing and talking about memories from the past. Playing traditional Christmas music and watching classic Christmas films with your loved one is a great way to initiate conversations about Christmas’ from their past. This can help to lift their spirits and help encourage socialisation and inclusion in the day.
5. Be Considerate with Food
Whilst you may be looking forward to a large Christmas dinner, a plate full of food can be intimidating for someone living with dementia. Instead give them small portions and they can always have more if they want. It’s important to also consider that as someone progresses along their dementia journey their appetite can change, so it may be helpful to stick to eating at normal hours so as not to disrupt their schedule.
6. Be Flexible
Christmas traditions are important to many however in order to make your Christmas day a happy time for a family member with dementia you may have to forgo some of these; things such as crackers which may be distressing due to the loud noise may have to be skipped whilst they are around. It is a good idea to have other options in place as suitable dementia friendly alternatives.
7. Keep it Simple
Similarly, it is always a good idea to keep things simple and stick to routine wherever possible. Eat at the usual times if possible to avoid confusion, and be careful not to overdo it with the festive activities; it could also be beneficial to consider some dementia friendly Christmas activities for the day which will be suitable and relaxing for the whole family