Carers share advice on including a person with dementia over the festive period.
‘Over the past five years we have had my brother around for Christmas. It has gone well but I have found that, with each year that passes, my husband has become increasingly overwhelmed by chatter and laughter over the course of the day, even with our best efforts to keep things low-key. I take care of the presents from both of us, and our son or daughter helps him wrap up a present for me. This works well and takes any pressure off him.’
'Try not to be disappointed if they show little or no interest in decorations, cards or presents,' says Witzend.
‘Keep it quiet and simple, not too many people, noise or fuss. If at all possible, keep the person in their familiar surroundings, and stick as far as possible to their routine, usual timings of meals etc. Try not to be disappointed if they show little or no interest in decorations, cards or presents. Ditto if, despite all the evidence around them, they don’t even seem aware that it’s Christmas. Even before she was bad enough to need 24/7 care, this was the case with my mother.’
Jo Sutton says,
‘I’m dreading Christmas, as Mum refuses to believe her parents are dead and gets very upset when she doesn’t see them or even get a present or card from them on her birthday and at Christmas. We now spend Christmas on our own – Mum, my husband and I. It’s pretty dismal. In a way, it’s more upsetting for me, listening to everyone else discussing their various party plans and knowing that, for us, it will just be a day like every other. I really miss the Christmases full of people and laughter.’
‘Try not to be driven by the “guilt monster”,' says DMac.
‘Take a long look at the person with dementia, and try to make a frank assessment of their ability to enjoy Christmas celebrations, based on their current abilities and needs. Then make plans accordingly, and have a plan B. If, like my mother-in-law, the person is in a care home and you plan to bring them to your home, be prepared to take them back at a moment’s notice should the need arise.
‘Try not to be driven by the “guilt monster”. If other well-meaning, but uninformed or inexperienced, family members are applying pressure, I suggest giving them some caring responsibilities for the day. For example, if they insist on putting on a big Christmas dinner for Grandma, tell them that’s OK, but only as long as they take responsibility for picking Grandma up and driving her back to the care home at the end of the day.’
‘We have scaled it right down as it became extremely stressful. Mum used to send out around 100 cards, many to people she hasn’t seen for decades. Now we just send them to close friends and family. She last cooked dinner in 2013 and struggled with that, doing the food shopping twice.
‘The only thing that does worry me is that I am off work for the whole Christmas week and, while I love the break from work, it means I am around more to get stressed about the situation. And I always worry about where we will be in another 12 months.’
‘I’m still winging it and adapting as circumstances change,' says NorthBankDave.
‘I’m still winging it and adapting as circumstances change but last year I tried to keep it simple, make sure Mum felt safe and made sure that there was lots of comforting, nostalgic, light hearted television that she would enjoy. I have no expectations of relaxing or enjoying Christmas myself and I just try to take it like another day.’
‘It will be my first year of being on my own at Christmas as my husband is now in a home. I asked when visiting the other day if it was OK to visit on Christmas Day and they said would I like to have my lunch there, so that’s what I’m planning to do. But I’m not mentioning it to him as he wouldn’t remember anyway, so it will be a nice surprise for him hopefully!’