Top Tips for supporting someone with dementia at Christmas
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Christmas should be joyful, but sadly for more than 39,000 people living with dementia in the North East, the festive period can be a really challenging time.
One in three people born in the UK today will go onto develop dementia in their lifetime and currently 900,000 people in the UK are living with the condition.
Angelo Makri, Alzheimer’s Society’s Senior Knowledge Officer for Wellbeing, gives his top tips to supporting a loved one living with dementia during the festive period.
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Put up decorations gradually
We all love Christmas decorations but a sudden change in environment can be confusing and distressing for someone living with dementia. Introduce decorations gradually so it doesn’t come as a shock to the person living with dementia.
Keep it simple and familiar
For someone living with dementia, Christmas can be an overwhelming time, but keeping activities low-key may help your loved one stay relaxed.
If they have dinner at the same time every day, stick to the same timings at Christmas and in a familiar setting.
Get everyone involved
There are plenty of ways to get your loved one involved in Christmas, such asking them to hang a bauble on a tree, choosing a favourite song for a festive playlist or doing a spot of Christmas shopping.
Create a quiet area
Lots of guests over the festive season can be overwhelming for people with dementia. If things do get busy, designate one room a ‘quiet space’, where the person living with dementia can retreat to and relax in.
Bring back old memories
Treasured photos, songs or activities can be a great way to engage with people with dementia. Take time out of the busy day to sit down with your loved ones and reminisce.
Be mindful of food
A plateful of food can be daunting for someone who has difficulties eating. Try to keep to the same size portions and types of food the person normally likes.
Don’t hurry the person, give them enough time to eat and enjoy themselves.
It’s easy to get caught up in Christmas traditions and how things have always been done in the family, but your festive season might begin to look different as dementia progresses. It's always worth having a ‘plan B’ and be prepared to change your plans if a particular element isn't working.
If the person with dementia is living in a care home, it can be helpful to ask the home in advance what their plans are for Christmas Day, particularly if there are restrictions in place.
Planning can also allow for staggered visits during the day so the person is not overwhelmed with lots of visitors at once.
Alzheimer’s Society provides help and hope to everyone living with dementia, supporting people living with dementia through the toughest and most frightening times. For more information or support this Christmas, visit alzheimers.org.uk/Christmas or call 0333 150 3456.