Christmas can be a stressful time if you are caring for a person with dementia. You’ll want to do your best to care for them and make sure they enjoy the festive break, but it’s important not to wear yourself out in the process. The change in routine and influx of noise and people can be overwhelming, but there are ways you can minimise the disruption and ensure they still feel safe and secure.
As lovely as it is to bring your loved one to your home to share in the festivities, being taken out of their usual surroundings can upset and disorientate an individual living with dementia. If you find this is often the case with your loved one it may be an idea to migrate Christmas to their home, or visit their home before taking them and the rest of the family out for lunch – and then dropping them back to their own home and familiar surroundings. They will enjoy being in their own environment and will feel much more at ease, which will make for a happier Christmas all round.
Every individual is different, it’s important you consider how your loved one in particular may react to the change in routine – in days gone by has this unsettled them dramatically or not?
It also helps to consider their wishes and how they used to spend their festive periods. Are they religious? Is a church visit therefore a good idea? It is important to respect how they would usually spend Christmas and factor this in to your plans – they will associate these activities with happy memories and this in turn will sooth them and evoke those happy feelings.
If it’s possible for the person to assist you with domestic tasks or meal preparation then encourage them to help you. It will be good for their self-esteem and it means you can spend quality time together, working as a team.
Make sure that family and loved ones know they need to do their bit and ensure that everyone has their own responsibilities so that you aren’t carrying all of the pressure on your own. If they also know the best ways to pacify and communicate with a loved one who has dementia it will not be left solely down to you, and the loved one in question will feel respected and included.
Dementia can affect a person’s appetite and they may not want to eat a huge Christmas dinner. Give them a smaller portion and offer second helpings later if they are hungry.
Remind them of the names of family and friends visiting and make sure you introduce and re-introduce everyone clearly (with reference to the relationship) to avoid embarrassment of not remembering names of grandchildren or relatives.
People with dementia often find it difficult to listen to one person in a room where lots of people are talking. They are not able to distinguish one train of conversation when lots are going on within earshot, so don’t position them in the middle of a noisy room or in the middle of the table. Lots of excessive noise can disorientate and possible frighten them too, so keep this in mind when playing music, the television etc
Remember that you need a break from time to time as well. If you feel tired, ask another family member to sit with the person or accompany them on a walk. If you’re not taking care of your own physical and mental well-being it will become all the more difficult to do so for a loved one.
If you would like any further advice about how to care and support a loved one with dementia please contact our friendly team who will be more than happy to have an impartial, confidential conversation with you.