10 tips for spending Christmas with somebody with Dementia

As magical and exciting as Christmas is, it can also be a stressful time for hosts and guests alike, and even more so for carers of people living with Dementia.

Age Concern Southend have put together some tips on how to make the day run smoother, to support you and your loved ones during the festive season.

  1. Put decorations up gradually. Introduce changes to their environment gradually to avoid unsettling them.
  2. Opt for simple and familiar decorations.
  3. Keep the day’s activities low key to avoid overwhelming them. Consider giving one or two joint presents to avoid confusion, minimise wrapping or putting the gifts away for another time.
  4. Be mindful of their routines. Having meals at regular times and in familiar surroundings will help to limit any potential confusion.
  5. Make them feel involved. There are many ways to involve people living with Dementia at Christmas time – from something as simple as hanging a bauble on the tree to doing a spot of Christmas shopping together. The important thing is that they feel included.
  6. Create a quiet space or room they can settle in if they are overwhelmed.
  7. Plan ahead. If your loved one is in a care facility, then ask them about their routines and likes.
  8. Communicate your plans with your guests and ask for respite care if you need it. This is a time to enjoy with your loved ones.
  9. Be prepared to change your plans and have realistic expectations. We know it’s a time for traditions, but things don’t always go to plan, keep in mind you may need to be flexible to make your loved one more comfortable.
  10. Stimulate old memories and create new ones. It the perfect time to listen to an old song, cook a family recipe, look at photo albums and enjoy each other’s company.

At Age Concern Southend, we run a Dementia Day Centre on Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff. Day Centre Supervisor, Sarah Wilson said, “It’s difficult to give general advice about how to get through the holiday season with as little fuss as possible because everyone is unique, and the various types and stages of Dementia affect behaviour in different ways. At our ‘Days at the Haven’ Dementia Day Centre, we have clients who love the Christmas buzz, the pretty decorations, and festivities we host but then we have others who are timid and need to be eased into a new situation or routine.”

Sarah continues, “At our Day Centre, we like to mark the occasion whilst being mindful of our clients. We start putting decorations up early and gradually. We often use bunting to decorate the room for most holidays and celebrations, so our clients are more familiar with this arrangement and it’s easily interchangeable. We do also relish an opportunity to craft and make our own together too. Clients are also invited to bring in decorations from home. We’ve found they love looking at old baubles and talking about them as they hang them on the tree. We all enjoy a Christmas meal together within their usual setting and we’ll have a sing-song after, which is a regular part of their day too. For us, it’s all about focussing on our clients’ needs and the best way to celebrate together in our setting.”

“Christmas can be a stressful time even without the added pressure of caring for a loved one. We are more than happy to talk with carers and families to make celebrations special and help create amazing memories for everyone.”

If you would like to know more about the work Age Concern Southend are doing to support our elderly community, including our Dementia Day Centre, please email days@acsos.co.uk or call us on 01702 345373 


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