How best to celebrate Christmas with a person with dementia

Written by Active Minds on Tuesday the 6th of December 2016.

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Christmas can be a very difficult time for someone living with dementia. A sudden influx of friends and family all wanting to celebrate Christmas can cause your loved one living with dementia to feel stressed, agitated and confused. We’ve compiled a list of tips to help you celebrate a magical Christmas with your loved one:

Planning

The best way to ensure that your Christmas is as stress-free as possible is to plan. This will help the day run as smoothly as possible, ensuring that both you and your loved one enjoy the festivities.

  • Ensure you have a schedule in place for your loved one, with any celebrations or big meals occurring earlier in the day to avoid tiredness and agitation.
  • Speak to friends and family in advance about the plans for the day, and familiarise them with any behavioural changes that may occur when a person has dementia.
  • Plan the exact amount of guests who will be in attendance, a person with dementia can find large groups of people intimidating so keep invitations to a minimum.
  • Have a quiet room set up where your loved one can go if things become a bit too hectic, with some activities that can help them relax, like a jigsaw puzzle.
  • It’s also extremely important to prepare your loved one for the up-coming celebrations by familiarising them with the friends and family that will be in attendance, talk about the guests and show pictures of everyone who will be coming.

Eating and Drinking

Food and drink is an integral part of any Christmas celebration and following a few simple tips can help your loved one enjoy the meal that’s been prepared to the fullest.

  • Many people who are living with dementia struggle with eating for a variety of reasons, for example, lack of appetite. So when Christmas dinner is served don’t overload their plate, as this can be quite daunting.
  • Keep alcohol to a minimum to avoid arguments or accidents that may agitate a person with dementia.
  • Try and serve food that is familiar to your loved one as this will help them feel comfortable and relaxed, and may even help spark memories and conversation as they reminisce.

Safety

If the house is unfamiliar to your loved one, it’s a good idea to spend some time prior to their arrival ensuring that the house is a safe as possible.

  • Sometimes people with dementia experience problems with vision. To avoid any confusion, place colour-contrasting rugs in front of doors or steps to make sure they are visible (dark coloured rugs may be mistaken for holes).
  • If the house is unfamiliar to your loved one with dementia, then placing labels on doors could help them move around the house more easily.
  • If possible, limit access to places where injury could occur, like kitchens or staircases.
  • Keep a list of emergency contacts nearby.
  • Leave lights on at night in case your loved one gets confused if they get up during the night.

Take time for yourself

As the carer of a person with dementia, Christmas can be an incredibly stressful time of year, so you must make sure you take some time for yourself.

  • Pace yourself and set realistic goals so you don’t overstretch.
  • You may want to have in place some respite care for after the festivities have ended to give yourself a well-deserved break.
  • Assign another member of the family to also be on hand to ensure that your loved one is ok and comfortable, so the job doesn’t just land on you.
  • Be proud of yourself – Christmas can be a tough time for both a person with dementia and their carer.