06 Dec How to Care for Family Members With Dementia at Christmas
For many families, the Christmas holidays are a time to spend time together, celebrating the season. Despite the best of intentions, however, lots of us find it stressful to be in sudden proximity with family members we rarely see. But for people coping with dementia, whatever stage they’re at, get-togethers and parties are a disruption that can cause real distress and disorientation.
Christmas for families with loved ones suffering from dementia needn’t be stressful. The key to a joyous festive events for everyone is to acknowledge the situation and make preparations. If dementia is new to your family, this may feel odd or awkward, but working together to ensure everyone is included can add to making your Christmas extra special.
5 Ways to Care for Family Members With Dementia at Christmas
The specialist staff team at Francis House Homecare has come up with some ideas for how you can celebrate a Christmas that everyone enjoys this year:
1. Planning and Preparation
Think about ways in which you could share time with family in smaller groupings. Large, noisy crowds are difficult for people with dementia, so quieter, more intimate gatherings would be better. Take time to talk to people in the family who may not have encountered dementia before; let them know what to expect, and provide friendly guidance on how to handle lack of recognition, repetition, or slippages in time.
2. Find Ways to Decorate Together
If a loved one has dementia, the best Christmas gift you can give them is familiar surroundings, and a calm and peaceful atmosphere. Resist the temptation to let young people loose with the decorations this year, and gradually introduce new elements into the environment. Rather than one big change, make small alterations, involving your loved one in the placing and choosing as you go.
3. Create a Calm Haven
We all need somewhere to retreat to in the midst of a social event, but for someone with dementia it’s more acute. Allocate somewhere in your home as a ‘quiet space’, ensuring that it’s easily accessible, and comfortable. Check in regularly and when you see signs of weariness, or distress, spend some time together, quietly, restoring energy and calmness.
4. Keep Communication Inclusive
Understandably, people can feel nervous about talking to someone with dementia because they don’t know what to say. A little bit of guidance on effective communication for more distant relatives can be really helpful. Offer them straightforward tips such as:
- Keep the volume normal, and avoid asking how they are.
- Try not to talk over their head, or engage in multiple threads of conversation.
- Focus on them; tell a story, maybe, about a previous Christmas or encounter.
- Be patient, no matter how many times something is repeated or forgotten.
- Don’t ignore them – it’s as painful to someone with dementia as to anyone else.
5. Provide Prompts for Shared Memories
Having a focus is a great way to unlock memories for someone with dementia. Draw attention to the older decorations as you put them up; talk together about family Christmases in the past. Enjoy the stories that emerge. Photo albums can play a similar role. The simple act of sharing memories as a family can be as joyous and celebratory as louder and more obvious festive fun.
If you would like to talk to one of our specialist dementia carers about caring for family members with dementia over Christmas, call Francis House Homecare today for a chat on 01234 841808