5 ways to keep Christmas stress-free for people with dementia

If you’re hosting Christmas this year for a friend or family member with dementia, follow our five simple tips to make the festive season merry and stress-free for all.

With one in six people over the age of 80 living with dementia in the UK1, it’s likely you know someone with the condition.

People living with dementia may experience difficulties with memory, mood, communication, reasoning and orientation. A stay away from home, even for a short time, can pose a real challenge.

But there’s nothing that makes Christmas more than a big family gathering, and for many people with dementia a change of scene can be really beneficial. Perhaps you also want to relieve a relative who does most of the day-to-day caring.

  1. Twas the night before Christmas

People with dementia can have problems with orientation and memorising instructions. They may know their way around their own home, but a new place can be bewildering.

Print out (or get your children to design) some very simple and clear signs to put on the doors to all the key rooms (toilet, bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, etc). Illustrations, as well as words, are really helpful. Then as soon as they arrive, walk them around your house and show them where everything is.

  1. Christmas morning

Some studies indicate that as many as 20% of people with Alzheimer’s will experience increased confusion, anxiety and agitation in the late afternoon and early evening, known as ‘sundowning’. So embrace the crisp winter’s morning and plan your more stimulating activities early on, when the person with dementia should be feeling fresher. A short walk outside is a great idea as this helps to regulate the internal body clock.

  1. All the trimmings

Pigs in blankets, stuffing, Yorkshire puds, even brussel sprouts – a Christmas dinner is a truly wonderful thing, but all those extras soon add up to a mountainous plate of food. Bear in mind that a heaving plate can be daunting for someone who may have difficulties eating. The person with dementia may also feel self-conscious at a large dinner table, so avoid making them the centre of attention.

  1. The Queen’s speech

In quieter moments – such as when the family’s slumped in front of the TV mid-afternoon – have some low-key activities to hand. Look through old photo albums together, put on one of their favourite feel-good comedy shows, or simply involve the person with dementia in your own activities if they want to. Designate a quiet room, away from the noise of television and music, and allow time for them to have a nap if they would like one.

  1. Silent night

Around 40% of people with dementia will experience sleep disruption, but there are a few things you can do to try to minimise this. Find out what their usual bedtime routine is and try to replicate this as closely as possible. Add some familiar and comforting items to their bedside table such as a family photograph, nightlight or ornament. A dementia clock is also a really good tool.

Leave night-lights on in the hallway, and keep the bathroom door open. You may want to consider a stairgate to prevent any nasty accidents, and give you peace of mind.

About Clifden House Dementia Care Centre:

Established 40 years ago, Clifden House Dementia Care Centre in Seaford specialises in providing residential and respite dementia care. It enables the individual to lead an active lifestyle with privacy, dignity and security. It also leads they way in managing over-medication and unnecessary prescriptions for residents, allowing the individual to live as full a life as possible.

Due to further expansion, Clifden House has various vacancies available, please see their website, www.clifdenhouse.co.uk

1 Alzheimer’s Society