Supporting a loved one living with dementia at Christmas

Written by: Alison Reijman Published: December 6, 2023

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for families to come together and celebrate. However, for a loved one living with dementia, the festivities might be rather overwhelming. Here are some ideas to help make it a happy time for them. 

 

 

Brendoncare’s care homes will be full of Christmas cheer and happiness over the festive season. However, we are always mindful that our residents living with dementia could find some of the celebrations confusing.

There are some simple ways to ensure that loved ones living with dementia, either in our care homes or at home, have a wonderful Christmas. Alzheimer’s Society is a fantastic source for many of these.

  1. If your loved one is living at one of Brendoncare’s care homes, please do keep an eye on their newsletter, Christmas programme or activities notice board. These will tell you what their plans are over the Christmas period. There may be some activities being organised in which you can get involved.
  2. Prepare a quiet room where a loved one living with dementia can take a break from the festivities. You can also play some calming music in the background to help them relax. Listening to music on headphones can help block out background noise.
  3. Create Christmas slowly so that your loved one can acclimatise to the changes you are making in the house. Put up the decorations over several days rather than all at once. If possible, use some familiar decorations such as a wreath or a favourite fairy to go on top of the Christmas tree.
  4. Be mindful too that flashing lights on the Christmas tree could be disorientating for them.
  5. Involve your loved one in these preparations such as hanging baubles on the Christmas tree or taking them out to do some Christmas shopping.
  6. Playing and singing Christmas songs and carols may evoke some happy memories for them.
  7. Be aware of any festive patterns or adornments you are using. Dementia often affects vision and perception so your loved one might mistake any patterns that include Christmas puddings or other festive food for the real thing.
  8. Keep activities low-key. If they cannot attend a Christmas church service, find one online or on television. Or contact their friends or church connections to see if they are able to visit them at home.
  9. Keep meals to regular times over Christmas to maintain routines. Don’t overload the plate if your loved one has difficulty eating. Put out lots of finger food and ensure they stay well hydrated throughout.
  10. Traditional activities such as games can generate happy memories for those living with dementia, and how they used to spend Christmas with friends and family. Where needed, adapt these for a simplified version to ensure everyone is included. Look at some photo albums with them or watch a favourite Christmas film together.
  11. Be flexible and be prepared to change your plans if your loved one is showing signs of distress and confusion. Allow loved ones time away from others if needed.
  12. Encourage time outside of the home, put on a warm coat, scarf and gloves to take in the fresh winter air, the smell of nature and winter sunshine.

Wishing everyone a wonderful, happy Christmas.