For many families throughout the UK, this Easter holiday will be the first time they are able to get together this year, even if outside.
If you have a relative with dementia there may be difficulties in communication and changes may be more apparent after the long time apart. There also may be added strain to make sure that the coronavirus guidance is followed, whilst also making sure that the person with dementia is as safe and as comfortable as possible.
We know that there are family members who live apart from each other and are unable to visit this weekend, either due to travel restrictions between and within countries, or understandable concerns about transmitting coronavirus and putting other people’s health at risk. Please do check the governmental guidance for each of the four nations:
Similarly, some family members are having to face being unable to see their relative with dementia in a care home due to visiting restrictions (please see our FAQ on how rules have changed around care homes here.)
Despite these times, there are still ways that families with dementia can adapt and feel connected this Easter.
For people who are living at home with someone with dementia:
Attending church celebrations can be an important part of celebrating the Easter weekend for some families. Hymns, prayers and other religious events can help to keep a person with dementia stimulated and provide the route to deeper memories, particularly If they have a strong connection to religion. Churches are open for worship, whilst still following the guidance around Covid-19. If you are uncomfortable attending a church service in person, then a virtual congregation may be possible
Embrace this time together and see it as an opportunity to reminisce across generations with your relative who has dementia. Photo albums can be a great source of stimulation for people with dementia, and can help grandchildren to feel connected to their grandparents too as well as strengthen family bonds more widely
Even when spending time with family, we can feel isolated. This is why it’s so important to include the person with dementia or family carers who are feeling particularly strained as much as possible. For the person with dementia, tailor what they do to their abilities, hobbies, likes and dislikes. Talk to them about favourite memories, watch a favourite family film together or listen to a favourite song to stimulate conversation, make them feel included by getting them to help out with the preparation of hot cross buns. Equally, if someone needs to take some time for themselves, respect that
If you need supplies or need to pick up medication, try to limit the times you go out, as well as the number of people in the family who go outside to pick up supplies. It should really be no more than one person. You can ask a trusted neighbour or a friend if they can pick up some items for you; this is particularly important to do if your relative is living with other conditions alongside dementia, which make them especially vulnerable. No one in the family should feel as though they’re taking too much on. If you feel you need extra support, don’t be afraid to ask
For people who are living apart from their relative with dementia
As above, virtual congregations can allow families to enjoy time together. There may be specific hymns, prayers or readings which have a particular affinity to the person with dementia, and which they are able to access from their long-term memory. All of these can be done online, on the phone or in a garden
If you live nearby to your relative with dementia, you could spend some time together in a local park or one another’s garden (weather permitting). If you are meeting up with them after a long time, you may like to bring with you items which foster reminiscence, such as a photo of a trip you had spent with each other. You can also do an activity which the person with dementia is still able to do; this could include painting flowers in the garden. Activities like this can give your loved one with dementia a sense of purpose and belonging
You could try having a virtual film night and streaming a film that is suitable for your loved one with dementia. For a list of film suggestions for someone living with the condition, please see here
If a family member with dementia is struggling to use technology, you may prefer to give them a call. It may be preferable to do this at regular times of the day which can enable routine for the person as well as give them something to look forward to
However, some people with dementia may not have easy access to technology, and may be living on their own or in a care home which is not able to offer video calls. These scenarios can increase feelings of isolation. In these instances, you may like to send something through the post to give the person with dementia something tangible to hold on to. This can be anything from a simple letter to a personalised book including messages and items from other members of the family
If you have any challenges over the Easter Weekend, our Helpline Admiral Nurses are here to support you. You can contact them on 0800 888 6678 and email@example.com. The Helpline is open from 9am to 5pm each day.
It’s important to follow the government’s guidance around coronavirus. You can review all the updates through this link here.
You can also see Dementia UK’s online coronavirus hub for further advice and support here.
Coronavirus: questions and answers
We have put together a list of commonly asked questions to our Helpline, which we will update as and when the situation develops
Dr Sarah Russell and Suzanne Wightman from our Professional and Practice Development Team have put together some common questions and answers for people living in care homes, their families and the care home staff