Caring for Somebody with Dementia at Christmas

Christmas can be a challenging time for everyone and this can be exasperated when caring for a person with dementia. Routine changes, noise, different environments and increased stimulation can combine to increase confusion and affect the behaviour of people with dementia.

Re:Cognition Health is passionate about raising awareness of dementia and pioneering new treatments and techniques to support those afflicted by the disease. The award-winning team of cognitive experts have produced a guide to help families and carers at Christmas to enable happiness and good cheer to resound throughout the festive period:

Put them first – Consider their wishes and what Christmas really means to them. Think about how they used to spend Christmas Day and the things they enjoyed most – was it carol singing, a Christmas morning church service, watching the Queen’s Speech? Try to incorporate as many elements of their favourite Christmas traditions into the day.

Involve them in the tasks – Boost their self-esteem by engaging and involving them with simple tasks. Whether folding tea towels or napkins or helping with meal preparation, they will enjoy the quality time and team work.

Plan ahead if they are staying over– If a person with dementia is staying with you, ensure you are fully prepared to make it as easy as possible for them. They won’t be in a familiar environment, so it’s a good idea to put way finding signs around the house so they can easily navigate, without having to ask. Picture signs are easily recognisable, so get creative with drawing symbols and arrows to rooms such as the toilet, bathroom, bedroom and kitchen.

Watch the liquid – Keep an eye on the amount of caffeine and alcohol being consumed as they may not remember how much they have had to drink. Caffeine can affect sleep and will likely be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than in the past, so try not to top up the glasses!

Smaller food portions – People with dementia may have a smaller appetite, so offer smaller food portions – they will unlikely want a big Christmas dinner. Second portions can always be offered if they are still hungry.

Easy on the sellotape – Make it easy for the person with dementia to unwrap the presents. Their fingers may not be very nimble, so save them the struggle by making the presents easy to unwrap.

A bit of hush – If there is lots of noise and conversations in the room, people with dementia may find it difficult to have follow a conversation. It’s best not to position them in the middle of a noisy room or table and advisable to try to keep the noise levels low.

Rest is best –build rests into their schedule, people with dementia tire easily and Christmas Day is tiring for everyone! This will also give you the opportunity to rest too, which is just as important.

Maintain the routine – Try not to alter their routine too drastically and keep them updated on the time of the day and activities taking place. Also ensure they take their tablets – it’s a good idea to set alarms in advance so they aren’t forgotten among the Christmas chaos.

Keep introducing – When friends and family arrive, ensure you clearly introduce each person and give context to the relationship– e.g. “This is your nephew Matthew, your sister Ethel’s son”. This will avoid the embarrassment of not remembering names.

Slow down – Build more time into tasks. Things will naturally take longer than normal so be prepared to be patient and don’t rush as this can be stressful for people with dementia.

Reminisce – People with dementia will be able to remember the past in detail so reminisce and reflect with them. They will love talking about past events and this will give them a sense of importance and happiness.

Music for the mind – Music is extremely emotive and the brain has the ability to remember music much better than other things, so people with dementia will enjoy listening to familiar music – Christmas carols make the perfect festive accompaniment!

Be patient and be prepared to repeat

Look after you – You can’t do it all on your own, so ensure family members are enlisted to support. Plan ahead with schedules so everyone has a task and jobs are evenly shared. It’s important for you to take regular breaks to prevent exhaustion, so have other family members at the ready to step in.

About dementia

Dementia is the leading cause of death in England and Wales, affecting 850,000 people. It is thought that there will be 6.5 million people affected worldwide by 2050 if the current trend continues.
More information
For information on Re:Cognition Health’s groundbreaking clinical trials, for comment and interviews with Dr Emer MacSweeney and additional information on Alzheimer’s disease, please contact Healthy Content:

Alina Wallace / 07946 189672 / E:
Christina Macdonald / 07957 360242 / E:
Katherine Selby / 07787 533143 / E:

About Re:Cognition Health
Re:Cognition Health was established in 2011 to provide a specialist service in the neurological assessment and imaging of cognitive impairment, neurovascular diseases and traumatic brain injury, including the provision medico-legal expert opinion. The Re:Cognition Clinics in London, Essex, Surrey and Plymouth are also major centres for international trials of disease-modifying and new symptomatic drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions.

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