If your loved one will be with you this Christmas, you may already be worrying about how to make things run smoothly and enjoy the best that the season has to offer. Our advice? Pour yourself a sherry and peruse our list of tips for a season of glad tidings.
- The number one tip is to be flexible. If you aren’t clinging to rigid traditions and expectations, everything will feel a lot less fraught when things take unexpected turns. If your loved one doesn’t want Christmas lunch and fancies a sandwich instead – go with the flow. If they can sit and enjoy what they are eating while you enjoy your lunch, then everyone has an enjoyable time.
- Talking of food, don’t overload plates. Though the rest of us might enjoy a huge feast, too much can be daunting for someone with dementia. They can always have seconds.
- Create a quiet, ‘safe’ space where your loved one can retreat if things become overwhelming. Their own room is ideal, or a side room away from the main action.
- Think about ways to jog their memory that will bring joy. Can you fill a photo album or an iPad with pictures of Christmas past? Particularly this year, when visitors will be restricted or not allowed at all, it is important to keep a sense of family and community alive.
- Speaking of which, why not schedule a Zoom call with far-flung family? One upside of the pandemic is that we have all become much better at video calling, which can be much easier for those with dementia to take part in than regular phone calls as they can see who is talking. Try to keep the calls between just one other person rather than whole-family get togethers, or this can cause confusion and fatigue.
- Put decorations up gradually. Introduce the Christmas environment slowly. If you suddenly have a winter wonderland explosion in the front room it can be disorienting for your loved one.
- Best of all, include them in the decorating. Those with dementia can enjoy simple tasks such as hanging baubles on the tree or opening cards, to make them feel part of proceedings. On Christmas day, something like laying out Christmas crackers or folding napkins can give a loved one a sense of purpose and belonging (no peeling or chopping of course).
We will all be experiencing a different kind of Christmas this year, but hopefully with some planning and forethought this can still be a warm and enjoyable experience for our loved ones.