With Christmas just around the corner, you might be starting to think about how best to support someone with dementia during what can be a very busy and stressful time.
This time of year should be a wonderful and joyful time, full of family and celebration. But for caregivers and the millions of people living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia, the festive period can be very overwhelming.
Christmas can stimulate the senses and memories
In a lot of ways, this can be an ideal time of year to help someone with dementia as it is by its very nature, a very nostalgic period. For example, the smell is a very powerful sense and this time of year is simply brimming full of smells such as cinnamon, mixed spice, mulled wine and even turkey! This can be a great opportunity to talk about happy memories from past Christmases. Here are a few more handy tips for carers of people living with dementia.
Maintain a normal routine as much as possible
The holidays bring various additional commitments and parties. However, keeping your routine and schedule can help bring your loved one peace and security during a hectic time.
Have realistic expectations
Be kind to yourself and really prioritise what you have the time and energy to do, and what the person with dementia can do. It’s also probably a good idea to tweak and adapt some of your existing family traditions to try and relieve some of the pressure to do things as you have always done them.
Create a safe environment in your home
Keep decorations simple and avoid using candles. Make sure there is plenty of space in your home for someone to assist your loved one, if needed. Keep aisles and walking spaces clear and plan where your loved one will sit at dinner to best engage in conversation and make an easy exit.
Plan somewhere quiet or have a quiet room
Make one place in your home a quiet room specifically for your loved one to escape to for some ‘time out’ if things get too loud. This can give them a place of security in chaos and provide them with confidence, knowing they have a quiet room waiting, if needed.
Include your loved one in holiday preparations and celebrations
It’s the holidays for your loved one too, so include them by inviting them to decorate cookies, wrap gifts or sing a Christmas carol they remember. In later stages of the disease, a gentle touch or kind word is a great way to let them know they are acknowledged and involved. Remember to take lots of photographs to preserve everyone’s memories of happy family times!
The best gift doesn’t need to cost money
It can be very difficult to know what to buy a person with dementia, although there are some fantastic gifts on the market such as a Day Clock, Talking Photo Album and Reminiscence Picture Books. But sometimes the greatest give you can give is your time. Why not ask family and friends to spend some one-to-one time with the person with dementia?
It’s difficult to give specific advice about how to get through the holiday season with as little fuss as possible because everyone is unique, and the various types and stages of dementia affect behaviour in different ways. You need to consider what’s right for you and your family and what steps you can take to make the most of this special time together.
Posted 18th December 2017