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20 Dec 2023

Top tips to support people with dementia this Christmas

Home Care Insight

The festive season, typically a time of joy and social interactions, can also inadvertently lead to stress – particularly for those who are vulnerable. For 1 in 11 aged over 65 living with dementia, the challenges associated with Christmas, such as disruptions to routine and overly noisy environments, can take the joy out of the day.

Abbots Care, a home and live-in care provider, has provided its top tips for those caring for people with dementia during the Christmas season. From maintaining familiar routines to involving them in enjoyable festive activities, there are various approaches that can help mitigate the impact of dementia during Christmas. These strategies aim to ensure that those being cared for can experience a pleasant day in the company of friends and family.

Preparation for the big day

It’s important to note that living with dementia at Christmas isn’t limited to the day itself, and several key steps can be taken before the big day that can help the person you care for feel happy, safe, and, perhaps most importantly, included in the festivities.

Involve your loved one in planning

Involving the person you care for in the planning stages can greatly reduce the impact of dementia at Christmas; lessening potential confusion caused by disruption to the normal routine.

Maintain a routine

This will, of course, be imperative on Christmas day itself, but it’s equally important to ensure that your friend or relative keeps to their regular schedule – whatever that means for them – as the main thrust of the season approaches. It isn’t possible to completely avoid disruptions to an everyday routine at Christmas, so maintaining a recognisable routine in the weeks leading up to the big day can be crucial to a person living with dementia’s comfort and stability.

Christmas Day

Often chaotic and unpredictable, Christmas can be challenging for people living with dementia as houses fill with (possibly unfamiliar) people, and with the festive spirit comes increased noise and disruption. However, it needn’t be too disruptive, and with a few small considerations – from monitoring noise to engaging in dementia-friendly activities – you can ensure your friend or relative has a truly wonderful Christmas.

Manage noise levels

Christmas is inherently noisy. Homes are filled with music, chatter, and even sounds from children’s toys, all of which can be overwhelming for a person living with dementia. It’s important to monitor noise levels and encourage your guests to consider the needs of the person you care for. As festivities unfold, this may become difficult, so you might also consider creating a quiet space – perhaps in another room – that your loved one can use to snatch a few moments of quiet, should the noise become too much.

Involve the person in Christmas tasks

Aside from more specific Christmas activities for people with dementia – such as making Christmas cards or watching classic films – it can be beneficial for a person living with dementia to be involved in domestic tasks on Christmas day itself.

For example, if it’s possible for them to do so, getting your friend or relative involved with meal preparation – from making gravy to whisking eggs – can provide a huge boost to their self-esteem, as well as potentially serving as a means by which to stimulate memory. Indeed, our olfactory sense (the sense of smell) has strong links to memory, and cooking smells rank highly on the list of memory-triggering odours.

Be mindful of food and drink

It can be tempting to overindulge at Christmas, and while it’s important not to be too restrictive, it can be wise to monitor the food and drink intake of the person you care for, considering meal times as much as the quantity of food.

People living with dementia mustn’t eat too late in the day, as this can greatly affect the quality of sleep they get, which, in turn, can worsen dementia symptoms. It’s wise to consider setting meal times that accommodate the needs of your loved one, allowing them to be part of the festivities without any negative consequences.

Also, as harmless as it may seem, it’s vital to limit the amount of alcohol that your friend or relative drinks; ideally abstaining altogether as alcohol, like caffeine, can enormously affect the quality of restful sleep a person gets.

Juggling dementia and Christmas can be challenging, but with a few simple considerations the festive season can be magical for you and your loved one.

View full article on Home Care Insight's website here.

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