7 tips for a dementia-friendly Christmas
Christmas means many things to many people, it’s typically a time for food, family, and festivities, but for many of the 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, it can potentially be a difficult time.
There can be a lot of pressure to have a wonderful time, which can cause guilt and sadness for carers. The changing of routines during the festive period can also be confusing or distressing for people with dementia.
Alzheimer’s Society is the nation’s leading dementia charity, offering people with dementia, and their loved ones, advice and support to ensure that everyone can live well with dementia. Their Dementia Connect support line and Dementia Talking Point online community are there to help if you need them.
If you’re preparing for Christmas with loved ones who have dementia, here are some tips from Alzheimer’s Society and from people who have used these services to help you create cherished Christmas memories for years to come.
1. Avoid building up a mental image of what you want Christmas to look like
Many of us have treasured traditions that we associate with Christmas, from Bucks Fizz to carol concerts to a timeless game of charades. But dementia can be unpredictable, and it is important to try and be flexible and adaptable to how the person with dementia is feeling.
Be ready to reassure and support your loved one, as they may become disoriented by the flurry of events around them, especially if plans change at the last minute as they did last year.
2. Eating at Christmas
The feast that usually comes with Christmas, from chocolates to the Christmas dinner, will no doubt be enjoyed by many, as people gather around and tuck in.
But the eating habits of people with dementia can change. People with dementia may not eat as much as they used to. This can be for lots of reasons – being in pain, having difficulties with communication or damage to the brain caused by their dementia. Make sure you don’t overload the plate - small and regular portions often work best.
3. Plan activities that include everyone
Having dementia doesn’t mean that your loved one won’t want to be involved in the festivities. Think about what your loved one enjoys doing and make adaptations. For instance, if they really loved choosing presents for people in the past or going to Christmas services, but are not as mobile as they used to be, you could shop with them online or watch Christmas services over the internet too. Their annual carol concert on December 15th will be both online and in person – find out more here. There is often lots going on at Christmas. When it comes to activities, choose ones you know the person enjoys and think about how to adapt them if necessary. For example, if the person enjoys playing cards but find groups too much, they could play with one person instead. Make sure you ask the person what they’d like to do as well.
4. Create a space for down time
Christmas can be overwhelming for everyone, especially if there is lots of noise and activity in the house. For some people with dementia, it can all become too much. It is really helpful to have a quiet, safe space or room, where the person can take some time out if they need to.
5.Take the time to remember past Christmases
Treasured photos, songs or activities can be a great way to engage with people with dementia. Take the time to sit down with your loved ones and reminisce. It can be enjoyable for everyone and is a great way to stimulate conversations.
6. Stay connected
Whether because of the pandemic or for other reasons, it might not be possible to be with loved ones at Christmas. It is important to stay connected, and there is a lot of technology available to do this. Smartphones, tablets and computers all allow you to stay in touch using text and picture messages, as well as phone and video calls. These can all be a great way to share the day with each other if you aren’t able to do this in person.
7. Seek out support
Whoever you are and whatever you are going through, you can turn to Alzheimer’s Society for confidential support and advice this Christmas and all year round. Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Connect support line and online community, Talking Point, are there to help at what can often be a difficult and lonely time for people affected by dementia.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, our services have been used more than 6 million times. Being able to answer every call to our Dementia Connect support line is so important. Help Alzheimer’s Society by making a donation to Together for Families here or find out how to become a Dementia Friend here