How to care for dementia patients at Christmas?

Christmas time can be stressful even fort those family members in good health. For the patients struggling with dementia festive season is extremely overwhelming and anxiety inducing. Disrupting elders daily routine may cause challenging and out-of-character behaviour, including aggression. You can ensure a peaceful Christmas experience by following these helpful tips.

Prepare your guests

Caring for someone with dementia means that you know how to act around them. Unfortunately some of your guests won’t be familiar with the situation. Things will run a lot smoother, if you talk to them beforehand. Be honest and explain how to handle talking with dementia patient.

If you feel, that you are not prepared for this kind of conversation your carer can do it for you. She has a lot more experience and will be more than happy to help. Alternatively, send your friend this article.

You can also consider spreading out visits. Crowds and loud sounds are the enemies of dementia, hence it is wise to organise several smaller gatherings rather that a large one.

Decorate gradually

It has been proven, that patients with dementia feel best in familiar surroundings. That’s way it is crucial to introduce Christmas environment slowly and gradually. Don’t go over the top with decorations – bright lights can bother elderly. Keep it simple to avoid overstimulation and confusion.

Putting decorations bit by bit is a great idea. It will give patients with dementia enough time to get use to the new situation. Keeping up every day routine is essential, while caring for elders. We know, that Christmas time is usually very busy. You probably won’t have time to prepare special meals for elderly on top of the holiday madness. That’s why help from your live-in carer is invaluable.

Christmas with dementia patient

Get them involved in Christmas preparation

One of the worst feeling in the world is being omitted, particularly for elders suffering from dementia. The feeling of loneliness and separation may lead to depression and anxiety. Encourage seniors to be involved in preparations.

It can be as easy as asking them what to buy grandchildren. If person that you’re caring for is mobile, asking them to do small, manual task is also a great idea. Putting a bauble on a tree or making mince pies will connect elderly to the past and will bring the feeling of comfort and familiarity.

Bring back old memories

Stimulating the brain in an old age is very important. Exposing elderly to mental and emotional stimuli has positive impact on their well-being. Christmas time is a great opportunity to stimulate long-forgotten memories.

Simply talking to a long unseen family member can be beneficial. Looking through the old photo albums is also one of the Christmas activities for dementia patients. Putting up some old decoration will also put a smile on elders face.

How to talk to a person with dementia at Christmas?

Instead of asking them if they remember something, involve them with conversation by telling a story. Speak slowly, deliberately and give elders plenty of time to respond. They need to feel engaged but on their own terms. When telling a story remember to always use names rather than just pronouns (like “she” or “he”).

Try to stick to one train of thought. Patients with dementia often will have difficulties in following multiple threads, so keep it simple. But most importantly – be patient, mindful and considerate. When speaking to the Elderly with dementia or Alzheimer’s you will need to repeat the information several times. Wait patiently for the person to respond, it may take them a while to gather their thoughts.

As for the topic of a conversation, try to avoid bombarding elders with “how are you feeling”. Answering that can be very painful for a person suffering from any disorder. Be creative, maybe ask about their favourite bauble on Christmas tree or the tastiest meal on Christmas table.

Carer and elderly at Christmas

Create a quiet space

We have to remember that dementia patients will get tired much more quickly than we will, especially when there is lots going on. In order to prevent some distress, you can prepare the quiet room, where elder will unwind. It is a great place to relax far from all the noise, that can be overwhelming at times. You can encourage patient with dementia at Christmas to take more naps.