Talking Point members share advice about helping everyone, including a person with dementia, feel involved in Christmas and other festivities.
‘We take Christmas to Dad and keep it simple. Not too many choices for dinner and a film that Dad would like. Last year we watched the new Dunkirk. Dad said it was boring and he would have preferred a cowboy film. We can't win, so we don't worry too much.’
nae sporran says,
‘We always have a quiet lunch on Christmas Eve with my other half's daughter. Last year I persuaded her to give me presents separately to be opened later, as too much excitement and a meal lead to problems.
‘Television is a non-starter, as C won't watch it much during the rest of the year. So the day itself has more music and less TV, as normal. I always make one wee special meal for the two of us with a German flavour, just to make her feel at home.’
‘For her last two Christmas lunches, my Mum was asleep. I set up her tablet in front of her, set up a Skype call from my phone and joined the family at the table to eat. I could keep an eye on her, go into her if she woke, and if she woke quietly she could see and hear us.’
‘This year two of my daughters and their families have decided they are coming to me on Christmas Day. I don’t have a big enough table for us all, but the two grandsons are going to have dinner in the sitting room with Grandpa. That will suit John nicely, as he likes his dinner on a tray nowadays.’
‘My wife liked to do all the holiday cooking but couldn’t manage it now. We both like pasta so keep to simple pasta dishes, and make them different to the rest of the year by including smoked turkey and cheese in the ingredients.
‘Of course, I indulge the famous dementia- related sweet tooth by joining my wife in eating as much as she likes in the way of chocolates, cake and biscuits instead of my usual form of trying to steer her towards a healthy diet.’
‘Perhaps the question is, “Does the person want to be included in the celebrations?” I think some people want to include a loved one in festivities as a way of comforting themselves, trying to make life as it was.’
‘This will be my husband’s first Christmas in a care home. I bought a tiny Christmas tree so that he can hang a few of his own special ornaments on it. It doesn’t work for us for Martin to stay overnight with me, so he will come to my house and stay until the evening.
‘This might be our last Christmas when I cook for us both, as he might need the security of being in the care home next year. It will all be very low key and quiet, he can’t take big family gatherings anymore.’
‘My mother finally went into a care home three weeks ago. I’ll probably go up on Christmas Day and stay around for several hours. I will cook some special things like cinnamon loaf and biscuits.’
‘My wife, who had Lewy body dementia, died two years ago. Three years before that, we made the mistake of going to our son's home in Scotland (from Dorset). She was confused most of the time, much more than usual.
‘I enjoyed the “rest” of not having to entertain the family. But while the rest of us had a great time, my wife could barely share it. The lesson for us was stay at home.’
Amy in the US says,
‘We have learned to be flexible, and to adjust our expectations. We have gifts tucked away so we can produce them if the moment seems right, but out of her line of sight so they won't confuse her. We make sure they are items she will recognise and easily opened.
‘We reassure her that she already gave us our gifts (a topic of much anxiety every Christmas, even pre-dementia).’
Toony Oony says,
‘I have had Christmas cards printed with a message and Mum's name, as she receives huge numbers of cards but can no longer write them. A well-known online printing firm does super ones.
‘I print sticky labels with all her friends’ addresses on, and Mum and I do a double-act of sticking them on the envelope along with stamps – I peel, she sticks.’
What advice would you give someone with dementia and their family and friends to help adjust after moving into a care home?
Let us know by 7 January 2019 so we can share it in our next magazine.