How to support somebody with dementia at Christmas

Christmas means many things to many people—typically a time for food, family and festivities. But for people affected by dementia it can be more difficult.

dementia carers tips christmas

There is always so much to consider at Christmas, and that’s especially true for carers.

So, with help from our online community Talking Point, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you make the most out of the festive season. Here are some tips to help you support your loved one (and yourself) this Christmas.

7 top tips for carers at Christmas

1. Put decorations up gradually

Introduce the Christmas environment slowly. Think about putting decorations up gradually over a few days so it doesn’t come as a big change to the person’s usual setting. Nae Sporran said:

This year I put the tree up on the first of December to brighten the place up and it made ‘C’ so happy, she especially likes the old wreath she has had for years even if she doesn't recognise it.”

2. Keep it simple and familiar

Someone with dementia may feel overwhelmed over the Christmas period, so it's best not to overdo it. Keeping the day's activities low key will help your loved one to relax. Sticking to a familiar routine is also a good idea where possible. Having meals at regular times and in familiar surroundings will help to limit any potential confusion.

3. Get everyone involved

There are many ways to involve people living with dementia at Christmas time – from something as simple as hanging a bauble on the tree to doing a spot of Christmas shopping. The important thing is that they feel included. Soobee said:

With Christmas cards, my mum still wanted to send them out, so I got her to write her name on a piece of paper. I then scanned, resized and copied them and printed them out onto computer labels. Mum helped me to stick in a few of the labels so she felt involved, and I wrote the recipients name in at the top and did the envelopes. We did about 25 cards for her that year and she would never have been able to write her name more than once.”

4. Create a quiet room

A large number of guests can be overwhelming, so ask family and friends to spread out their visits over the festive period. If things do get busy, designate one room in your house a ‘quiet room’ where your loved one can relax without loud noise.

5. Bring back old memories

Whether it’s an old song they used to enjoy or a classic Christmas film, find something fun you can take part in. Making a family photo album or memory box could be a nice way to spend time together. Agzy said:

I have created a memory iPad which has nothing but hundreds of photographs of friends, family and places. Using my computer I have added names, year dates and place names. It has been a long labour of love but has paid off dividends as I update it regularly with new photos of interest to her."

6. Be mindful of food

Although many people eat a lot at Christmas, a full plate can be daunting for someone who has difficulties eating. If you're doing the serving, try not to overload your loved one’s plate. We've also got lots more general tips to help with eating and drinking on our website.

7. Be flexible

It’s easy to get caught up in Christmas traditions, 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. Pinkys said:

main advice is to have no expectations. See what happens! The last Christmas my mother in law spent with us, she came down to breakfast on Boxing day all ready packed and dressed in her coat ready to go home! We were also took some serious efforts to persuade her to stay at least one more day.”
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Our online community Talking Point is free and available over the entire Christmas period. Join or visit anytime to get more advice, share experiences and connect with others in similar situations.

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Plenty of whisky in. 😬

The ideas around the life story work are great, however there are a couple of points that I think are worth noting. Firstly the need for carers not to ask questions such as "Do you know who this is?" Instead say something like "Oh look, here's your daughter Sue at the beach" You can then have a rich conversation about beach holidays, sand castles, swimming in the sea, fish and chips etc. Further along a person's journey with dementia life story work will need to be adapted from the personal to themes, and from there to the more sensory elements.

Above all enjoy the time you spend with your loved ones and go with what they want to do. You never know if you will get another one together but the memories you create will stay with you long after they are gone and trust me those memories are so precious.

when a loved one is lost few weeks before xmas, its never the same
afterwards, make the most of your time together its more precious than any money can buy.

When it comes to the decorations of Christmas it always make us so energetic and motivated to decorate Christmas along with Christmas tree lots of different things of arrangement of Christmas.

Modern decorations can bet confusing for someone with dementia. Pay particular attention to lighting. Changing Flashing lights can be confusing for some people even if they don't suffer from dementia.

All of these comments are so accurate. We do not know if they hear or understand you so just showing love and gentle feelings are everything. I did this for my dearest friend yesterday and the hurt is hard to take. We will not have another chance💕💕💕

Thank You because mum died on the 4th and was buried on the 8th last year we all sat around the table with dad shocked traumatised and stunned. I hope this year is different. I will try my best.

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