Caring for a person with dementia at Christmas can be a challenging time for everyone. The change in routine, new environments, noise, increased stimulation and things generally becoming a bit more hectic can combine to cause confusion and affect behaviour for those 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 team of cognitive experts have compiled a guide for managing Christmas to help happiness and good cheer resound throughout the festive period:
1. Consider what Christmas means to the person with dementia – If they are religious, going to church could be a good idea if this is something they would normally do. Think about how they would choose to spend their Christmas beforehand and if you can, do it with them.
2. Involve them in tasks – If it’s possible for the person with dementia to help you with domestic tasks like folding tea towels or helping with meal preparation then do it. It will be good for their self-esteem and means you can spend quality time together, working as a team.
3. Plan ahead if they stay with you – If you choose to have the person stay with you, put signs on doors so that they can identify their room and where the bathroom is, but accept that you may still need to show them where the bathroom is. They may be able to read perfectly well but be unable to process the information. Signage may work but don’t rely on it solely and keep an eye on their movements to avoid distress.
4. Monitor the liquid – Watch very carefully their liquid intake, particularly alcohol and caffeine, as they may not remember how much they have drunk already. Too much caffeine will interfere with sleep. Also they will very likely be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than in the past, so watch the consumption very carefully, especially if people are topping up glasses (they will have no idea how much they have drunk already!)
5. Don’t overdo the present-wrapping – Make them easy for the person with dementia to unwrap so that they aren’t struggling to complete this task in front of others.
6. Manage the noise – People with dementia often find it difficult to listen to one person in a room where lots of people are talking. They are not able to distinguish one train of conversation when lots are going on with in ear shot so don’t position them in the middle of a noisy room or seated in the middle of the table.
7. Maintain the routine – Try not to change their routine and keep them orientated regarding the day, the time and what is happening next. Also ensure they take their tablets!
8. Keep introducing – Remind them of the names of family and friends visiting and make sure you introduce everyone clearly (with reference to the relationship) to avoid embarrassment of not remembering names of grandchildren etc.
9. Reminisce – People with dementia will be able to remember the past in detail and engage in conversation about events in their past so ensure reminiscent topics are built into conversation or old TV programmes are watched.
10. Music for the mind – The brain remembers music much better than other things so they will enjoy listening to familiar music and family favourites - Christmas carols make the perfect festive accompaniment.