For some, this year may be their first Christmas with dementia, or their first Christmas with someone else living with dementia, or maybe just the first time dementia may affect how they celebrate the season. This can be a challenging time for those affected and having people around who understand some of the issues that arise at Christmas is helpful.
Below is a list of things you may like to think about ahead of time, gathered from people who have been there.
See the links below to some websites which offer Christmas advice and tips from people affected by dementia. And a lovely animated video released last year by Ashford's dementia support group.
Christmas doesn’t have to look the same every year. This may be the year when you need to dial back expectations and try for a simpler approach. Talk to family and friends and come up with a plan.
Help needs to be requested and given. It may be hard for an individual with dementia or a carer to know what they need and how to ask. It may be hard for a helper to know what is needed and how to offer. Be patient, stress and emotions can make communication harder for both parties.
Realistic expectations need to be set. What does the person with dementia have the ability to do, and energy to appreciate? Much will fall on the carer's plate, what do they have the time and energy to do?
Include your loved one in the day as much as you can. Where possible ask them what they would like the day to look like. Keep them involved where feasible, this may be setting the table, putting out snacks, or they may be able to help with the washing up.
Spend one-on-one time with the person with dementia. A lot of guests at once may be overwhelming. This can be managed throughout the day, or even over several days or weeks if need be. As a visitor, be prepared to offer to come on another day if this looks likely to suit better.
Try to slow everything down a little. You might think about putting decorations up gradually over a few days so it doesn’t come as a big change to the person’s environment. Plan to do fewer things on the day itself and aim to keep to the person's regular daily schedule as much as possible.
Many people with dementia, and their carers, may feel a bit lonely at Christmas. Although they may not want to join in with a big get together, keep in mind they may still appreciate your friendly call or drop in.
Avoid having too many things going on at once. A lot of noise and even blinking lights can be overwhelming for people with dementia. Several gifts given at one time may feel too much for some. Resist having decorations on the table at mealtime as this can also cause confusion.
Set up a quiet space where your loved one can retreat to. Even on a good day a person with dementia may tire quickly if there is a lot going on.
Video: The members of Ashford Dementia Support Group got together to talk about the very real difficulties that they can face at Christmastime: from the noise and confusion of parties, to feelings of exclusion during the festive preparations.
Using their words, they created a short animated poem to get that vital message across.
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