Dementia-Friendly Christmas

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Dementia-Friendly Christmas

Christmas is an exciting time of year, a chance to get together with family and friends, for good food and quality time. However, Christmas can be difficult when you are considering how best to include a relative or friend with Dementia, especially if they are in residential care, such as here at Meadowcare and Glenview.

Here I have summarised a few of the many ideas about to best to include them in your Christmas plan. Even if they are not aware of the special time of year, including them in your festive celebrations can create memories for you to treasure.

Plan Ahead: Changes to routine around Christmas can cause additional confusion, with the Alzheimer’s Society recommending that routines are maintained as close to normal as possible. In the care home setting, changes to the staff rota or normal activities in the home may have an impact over Christmas. Talk to staff to be aware of any potential disruption and perhaps to see what special Christmas activities are being organised that you may be able to get involved with; sharing Christmas memories, singing carols together or playing Christmas games can all make your visits a little more special. The short winter days may be disorientating and cause changes in sleeping patterns, so it is good to take this into consideration when visiting as it may mean they get up later so visiting first thing in the morning may be difficult.

Memories and Traditions: Christmas traditions are common and whilst some may continue as close to normal as possible, others may not be possible any longer. There are a range of tactile methods to help evoke Christmas memories, including Christmas scents (from candles or specific foods and drinks) and themed materials such as tinsel or Christmas stockings. Christmas music or favourite films may also help bring back the sense of Christmas magic and excitement. Reminiscing memories from previous years can be a nice way to share over the holidays, using conversations, perhaps with videos or photos as prompts. If you discuss previous memories it is good to remind yourself that they may not remember everything you do, so try to stay calm and let them lead you. Don’t push to continue conversations or memories if they seem to cause upset or frustration; just enjoy the opportunity to share with your loved one and perhaps take it as an opportunity to gain a better understanding of what they still recall.

Food and Drink: Sharing traditional festive food may change when considering how best to include a loved one with dementia at Christmas. You could keep traditions alive when visiting, such as sharing crackers, wearing the hats and sharing jokes. Be sure to check with staff before pulling crackers in communal areas though as the noise may cause upset or scare some people with dementia. You could also bring some of their favourite foods, whether festive or not, to make the visit extra special.

Family Involvement: Christmas could be a good time to plan some extra visits, or to encourage the involvement of family who may not be able to visit as often. Children can bring great joy and are often accepting of the habits which we may see as odd in our family with dementia, so planning a visit which involves Grandchildren is one way to very simply make the season extra special.

The Alzheimer’s Society provides some fantastic advice online regarding this special time of year and suggest that you focus on doing what is best for you and for the person with dementia. If you struggle to feel jolly when they do not understand the special time of year, you could visit as normal, as spending time with them matters most.  The simplest way to ensure they are involved in your celebrations could be to visit on Christmas day, to include them in your memories of the day and to share your festive excitement.

Meadowcare and Glenview homes will be open for visitors as usual through Christmas and we wish you all Merry Christmas!

Jennifer Pinnell