Caring for a person with dementia at Christmas can be a challenging time for everyone. The change in routine, new environments, noise, increased stimulation and things generally becoming a bit more hectic can combine to cause confusion and affect behaviour for those with dementia.
Re:Cognition Health is passionate about raising awareness of dementia and pioneering new treatments and techniques to support those afflicted by the disease. The team of cognitive experts have compiled a guide for managing Christmas to help happiness and good cheer resound throughout the festive period:
Consider their wishes – Consider what Christmas means to the person with dementia. If they are religious, going to church could be a good idea if this is something they would normally do. Think about how they would choose to spend their Christmas beforehand and if you can, do it with them.
Don’t sweat the small stuff – Don’t be consumed by detail or get caught up in minor tasks that don’t need doing. ‘Festive’ tasks like baking mince pies don’t need to be top of the agenda when you’re busy caring for someone. Don’t put yourself under pressure to conform to traditions that are just going to make your life even more frantic. Your company is more important.
Get the person involved in tasks – If it’s possible for the person with dementia to help you with domestic tasks like folding tea towels or helping with meal preparation then do it. It will be good for their self-esteem and it means you can spend quality time together, working as a team.
Enlist support – make sure that family and loved ones know that they need to do their bit and ensure that everyone has their own responsibilities and tasks so that you aren’t carrying all of the pressure on your own. For instance, if you are picking the person up from their home, designate a driver to do this while you prepare the Christmas dinner and someone else in the family does the housework.
Consider location carefully – If the person with dementia already lives with you, it’s going to be easier for them to stick to their normal routine. If they normally live alone or in a care home and you want to be with them, they may prefer to be in their own environment with you visiting them, rather than coming to you and being in a strange place that they may not recognise.
Plan ahead if they do stay with you – If you choose to have the person stay with you, put signs on doors so that they can identify their room and where the bathroom is, but accept that you may still need to show them where the bathroom is. They may be able to read perfectly well but be unable to process the information. Signage may work but don’t rely on it solely and keep an eye on their movements to avoid distress.
Use a nightlight – A person with dementia may become restless at night and may wake up several times throughout the night. Having a small night-light plugged in so that they can find their way to the bathroom without getting lost or bumping into things could help.
Stay sober – If the person with dementia comes to stay with you, they may change their mind about staying overnight and may want to go back home. Make sure someone in the family can be designated driver if need be and hasn’t had anything to drink. They may become distressed or anxious at short notice and may insist on returning home.
Monitor the liquid – Watch very carefully the liquid intake, particularly alcohol and caffeine as they may not remember how much they have drunk already. Too much caffeine will interfere with sleep. Also they will very likely be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than in the past, so watch the consumption very carefully, especially if people are topping up glasses (they will have no idea how much they have drunk already!)
Watch those food portions – Dementia can affect a person’s appetite and they may not want to eat a huge Christmas dinner. Give them a smaller portion and offer second helpings later if they are hungry. Avoid letting them drink too much to reduce the risk of arguments or falls later on.
Don’t overdo the present-wrapping – Make them easy for the person with dementia to unwrap so that they aren’t struggling to complete this task in front of others.
Look after you – Remember that you need a break from time to time as well. If you feel tired, ask another family member to sit with the person or accompany them on a walk.
Manage the noise – People with dementia often find it difficult to listen to one person in a room where lots of people are talking. They are not able to distinguish one train of conversation when lots are going on with in ear shot so don’t position them in the middle of a noisy room or seated in the middle of the table.
Rest is best – People with dementia tend to tire more easily, so build rests into their schedule, which will also give you the opportunity to rest too/
Maintain the routine – Try not to change their routine and keep them orientated regarding the day, the time and what is happening next. Also ensure they take their tablets!!!
Keep introducing – Remind them of the names of family and friends visiting and make sure you introduce everyone clearly (with reference to the relationship) to avoid embarrassment of not remembering names of grandchildren etc.
Take it slow – Make sure they have more time to do everything than you would normally allocate, don’t rush tasks and be prepared to be patient.
Reminisce – People with dementia will be able to remember the past in detail and engage in conversation about events in their past so ensure reminiscent topics are built into conversation or old TV programmes are watched
Music for the mind – The brain remembers music much better than other things so they will enjoy listening to familiar music and family favourites – Christmas carols make the perfect festive accompaniment.
Dementia is the leading cause of death in England and Wales, affecting 850,000 people. It is thought that there will be 6.5 million people affected worldwide by 2050 if the current trend continues.
For information on Re:Cognition Health’s groundbreaking clinical trials, for comment and interviews with Dr Emer MacSweeney and additional information on Alzheimer’s disease, please contact Healthy Content:
Alina Wallace / 07946 189672 / E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christina Macdonald / 07957 360242 / E: email@example.com
Katherine Selby / 07787 533143 / E: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Re:Cognition Health
Re:Cognition Health www.re-cognitionhealth.com was established in 2011 to provide a specialist service in the neurological assessment and imaging of cognitive impairment, neurovascular diseases and traumatic brain injury, including the provision medico-legal expert opinion. The Re:Cognition Clinics in London, Essex, Surrey and Plymouth are also major centres for international trials of disease-modifying and new symptomatic drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions.