Written by Active Minds on Tuesday the 10th of December 2019.
Christmas can sometimes be a challenging time for someone living with dementia; with changes in the environment, an increase in visitors, along with different foods and schedules, it can be quite overwhelming.
For those spending time in hospital over Christmas it may seem even more confusing; especially as it may be a new environment. It is therefore important to ensure that they don’t feel alone over the festive period, and regular visits are made to see them. Whilst it may be difficult for them, this can also be a difficult time for those visiting someone in hospital. We’ve put together some tips for visiting a friend or loved one in hospital, so you feel prepared.
When visiting a person living with dementia in the hospital it is important to be as flexible as possible and ready to adjust to their needs. This includes perhaps coming back at a time which is more suited for them should their schedule change. When you get there, they may want to go for a walk, or just sit quietly. You should be prepared to change your plans based on their needs and wants at the time.
Communication is Key
As your loved one progresses along their dementia journey, communication may become more difficult; specifically, verbal communication. It is important, therefore, to consider new ways of communicating.
Body language and facial expressions are vital communication tools and can really help you understand how a person living with dementia is feeling. This also works in reverse and as such you should always be mindful of the nonverbal signals your body language is giving off. Other methods of communication which can sometimes be beneficial for those with limited verbal communication could be flash cards; experiment with different methods until you find the one most comfortable for you and them.
Getting visitors can sometimes be overwhelming for those living with dementia. It is a lot of faces and people who they may struggle to place all at once. Therefore, it is better to have just one or two visitors at any one time; this is less stressful and gives the person with dementia chance to adjust to company.
Stay Positive and Calm
It is important to stay positive, even if the visit is difficult emotionally. Remaining positive and using positive language can help to keep your friend or loved one in high spirits. Remember that rather than disagreeing with them, you instead reassure them. This is true in terms of things such as telling them who you are or what is happening. It is also important you remain calm to ensure they stay relaxed.
Bring Photo Albums
Christmas is a great time for heralding back to fond memories of the past, and taking part in reminiscence based activities can hold many benefits for someone living with dementia. Reminiscing can help to lift their spirit and put them in a better mood as well as relieving stress.
Bringing photo albums, from previous Christmas’ can help to spark memories from the past which you can then talk about together. This is also a great way to help them feel involved in the festivities.
Bring the Festivities with You
It is important to make an effort to help your friend or loved one feel included this Christmas, even if they can’t be at home. If they are happy to do so, you could bring a few decorations to put up, some small gifts and even some Christmas food for them. This can all help them to feel included in the day, and not forgotten about.