Since every family’s experiences with dementia are different, there are no structured guidelines to follow in order to include a loved one who has dementia this Christmas. We can, however, offer some general advice on how to reduce the stress of the Christmas holidays for carers and people living with dementia.
#1 Communicate with all of the family
If you are planning a large family get together, ensure all of the family are aware that Christmas may be slightly different to previous years, in regard to the layout of dinner, levels of noise or even activities.
Adding signs on doors or rooms in the house, is a good way of supporting a loved one if your Christmas is being hosted in a less familiar place. Walk your loved one around the house to show them where all of the rooms are. It can also be beneficial to lay down rugs, as they can be easier to maneuverer around compared to wooden or tiled floors. Just make sure these are secure and aren’t going to be a trip hazard.
When it is time to indulge in Christmas dinner, remind the family not to make a big fuss out of your loved one. Somebody who has dementia may feel self-conscious about eating, especially in front of lots of people, so let your loved one enjoy their Christmas dinner at their own pace without making it more daunting with fuss, or a mountain of food!
#2 Give the gift of company
A loved one with dementia may value company over materialistic gifts, so take the time to sit and catch up with them, talk about previous Christmas’ you have spent together, or funny stories that you’ve collected throughout the years.
But be patient with your loved ones, try not to put any pressure on them. If you are having a large family Christmas, your loved one may at some points feel overwhelmed, anxious, confused or agitated.
It is amazing to spend time with all of the family together, but sometimes somebody with dementia may need some time to rest. Designate a quiet place, in a room that is away from the madness, that they can go to take a rest if they need.
#3 Plan activities that your loved one can be involved in
Plan early morning activities for all the family to enjoy, as people with dementia can experience higher levels of confusion and anxiety in the afternoons or evenings. An early morning Christmas walk, is a wonderful way to encourage your loved one to freshen up and enjoy the crisp winter air.
Playing board games at Christmas is a stable activity in many households during the holiday season, and they shouldn’t go a miss if it is a tradition in your family either! Dementia-friendly board games, such as “I Got It!” card game, and Jumbo Slide-Slot Bingo cards are great alternatives for all the family to enjoy.
Looking through old photo albums is also another great activity that your loved one may enjoy getting involved in. Old photo albums, hold incredible treasures in every family, and they are a great way to reminiscence. So go on, take a trip down memory lane!
#4 Consider an appropriate music playlist
Music is an amazing stimulus for the mind and the body for some people who have Dementia. Consider playing different music throughout the day so that your loved one can reminisce too, such as Christmas Carols, Church Carols or their favourite music artists from when they were younger. This Classic Christmas Favourites playlist by Spotify is a great way to kick off the musical festivities!
Christmas is an amazing time of year for all of the family to come together, catch-up and really enjoy each other’s company. Incorporating some of these tips into your Christmas get together will ensure your loved one feels this way too!