We all hope to enjoy a relaxing Christmas with people close to us. However, the hustle and bustle of getting the whole family together can be challenging and many carers feel anxious in the run up to Christmas Day.
Senior Admiral Nurse, Ian Weatherhead, offers five key tips to help you have a peaceful time during the holidays.
1. Get everyone on board
It might be that some family and friends who are joining you haven’t seen the person with dementia for quite a while – maybe since last Christmas – and aren’t fully aware of their situation. If you are the carer, you might be feeling nervous about how friends and family will react to the person with dementia on the day.
Talk to guests in advance. When speaking to people, be honest – explain what is happening; you could simply say that they are experiencing difficulties with memory and conversation with them might not be as it was.
Where appropriate, ask the person you care for how they are feeling about Christmas and who they might want informing beforehand of changes in circumstances. In other words, include them in as many decisions as possible.
2. Help friends and family with ways to communicate
Share some of our tips from our communication help guide so that friends and family feel equipped and ready to enjoy your time together.
3. Have a practice run
If you are inviting a person with dementia to come to you, or want to bring a loved one out of a care home, have a few practice runs along the way. This way you will be able to gauge if it’s achievable. Include the care home staff and ask how they might be able to support you. It might be that you’re anxious that they won’t want to leave you at the end of the day. When its time to go home, say ‘we have to go home now’ rather than ‘you have to go home’; if you are doing things together it can make it less confusing or frightening.
4. Involve the person with activities on the day
Make sure your loved one feels included in the day. Think of ways they may be able to take part, such as laying the table or helping to prepare the meal. Watching one of their favourite films or listening to a piece of music that they love may be calming and bring back special memories. We also have some information on Christmas gift ideas to help with games and activities to inspire conversation and connect the person with dementia with every generation.
5. Consider their needs
Christmas days can be noisy – try to reduce unnecessary noise such as party poppers, loud music or blaring television when people are also chatting. Too much noise competition can be difficult to process.
A busy day can be tiring and confusing for a person with dementia, so keep it manageable. If they are going back to their home, don’t leave it too late; try to take them home in daylight rather than wait until it gets dark so that they can see where they are.
Above all focus on the abilities of the individual not the dementia. If they don’t remember it’s Christmas don’t keep reminding them all the time, as it can cause anxiety.
Don’t worry if things aren’t perfect – just try and enjoy the day!