Advice from carers about supporting someone with dementia at Christmas
Members of our online community, Talking Point, share advice on how to support a person with dementia over the festive period.
'After a good many "dementia Christmases" at various stages of the disease, I would say keep it quiet, not too many people, not too much noise or fuss.
'Be prepared for the person to fail to realise that it's Christmas, even with crackers etc on the table, and/or show little or no interest in presents. And try not to let it disappoint you!
'Realise that the person may no longer be able to enjoy the sort of family Christmas they enjoyed in the past. Again, as above, keep it calm and quiet.
'If the person is now in a care home, do not assume that the most enjoyable thing for them will be to bring them to your home for the usual family Christmas. They may enjoy it, or they may not.'
'We had to abandon church on the third Christmas because it was simply too challenging. We did manage a small nativity play where her grandson was the camel – that provided some amusement and some very loud comments!
'Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we managed each year, she was a fully integrated part of the day, surrounded by family and friends. She could sit quietly in the corner or join in the board games (heavily supported and we played the simplest ones we could find) and she loved every minute. By 4pm she was snoozing quietly in the corner.
'I don't think we made many concessions at all and she still laid the table, with support until the fourth year. We have some of our best memory photos from these festive days as she became far less inhibited and much happier to look like a reindeer than she would have been before her memory loss. Her grandchildren remember her as "a lot of fun".'
Pear trees says,
'My mum stopped wanting visitors, family and friends alike, or going to family for Christmas, for over 30 years before dementia. She never sent cards, or presents to any children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, and only accepted visits if we brought food but we had to leave straight away.
'My sister-in-law will take her a dinner at lunchtime, and try to spend some time with her. She will also have her usual carer visits. I visited her the last few years but she insisted I left straight after she snatched my food hamper out of my hands, and was not happy and kept shouting at me until I left. I have to work over Christmas again but will try to visit other days, if she will let me.'
'We always keep it very simple. Even before my mother's illness, she never liked Christmas. Now it's considered just another day, we tend not to overload with too many visitors – all of us talking at once would be too much. Just take it easy, one person visits at a time, so much easier for her.'
'Always be prepared that your loved one won't realise it's Christmas, is in a bad mood or having a bad day – just because it's Christmas doesn't mean that everything will be perfect, no matter how much we wish it to be. We always prepared for the worst and then if it was anything better we were happy.
'Prepare yourself so that you can cope and adapt as things change over the years – everyone is different, but it's OK not to have a great Christmas, just do what your loved one can cope with – even if it's not the Christmas you want.'