December 9, 2021

Top tips to support you over Christmas

Christmas can be challenging, stimulating and for some quite lonely. Here we share 10 top tips (thanks to Dementia UK) to help you and your loved ones over the festive period.

From everyone at Dementia Jersey, have a wonderful Christmas, be safe & take care.

Always plan ahead

  • Take notice of changes in opening hours.
  • Make sure to collect prescriptions ahead of busy shopping times and organise any collections of medication ahead of any pharmacy closures
  • If taking a trip or staying with family, pack ahead so you can double check you have everything you need
  • Shop in advance
  • Take note of out of hour care & GP services (just in case)

Avoid surprises

  • If visiting friends & family, make sure they know in advance that your loved one has dementia or if easier that they have memory problems. If there have been any changes with your loved on let your family know.
  • It’s useful to ask everyone to keep conversations clear & simple to avoid any confusion.
  • Involve the person living with dementia when planning activities, make sure they know what’s going on but try not to overload with information all at once as this can be overwhelming.

Food & Drink

  • Plan ahead with meals and try to stick to foods that your loved one likes, avoiding foods they dislike.
  • If they have a small appetite keep portion sizes small.
  • Worried about missing out on festive cheers?
  • Why not try non-alcoholic beverages instead*.

* Have a conversation with your GP if you’re unsure about mixing drinks with medication.

Be kind to yourself

Christmas can be a lonely time especially for someone caring for a loved on, or perhaps they have moved into care or your bereaving a loss. Give yourself time to process feeling and most importantly be kind to yourself.

Reach out to friends and family or perhaps attend a community event to help keep you busy this Christmas.

Remember to also give yourself a break. Christmas can be stressful if you’re entertaining & cooking, be sure to have breaks and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.

Avoid over stimulation 

Celebrating Christmas can come with loud noises and flashing lights, which can be overwhelming for someone living with dementia.

If you can, try to reduce unnecessary noise like crackers, loud music and limit noises crossing over one another – such as talking across each other and having the TV on at the same time.

Be aware when having visitors including children & animals, notice if the person with dementia is becoming tired or that noise levels are getting difficult for them to tolerate.

Try to keep activities short with breaks (approx. 30-40 minute activities), and if you can, set aside a quite room where  the person with dementia can have some downtime. You can make extra efforts to make this room familiar by brining one of their cushions from home, spraying a familiar scent or even playing the music they love.

Keep to routines

Generally, people with dementia benefit from routine, knowing what is happening and what is going to happen next, therefore it can be helpful to uphold some of their normal routines over the festive period (even if you’re not at home).

Consider set meal times, morning & evening routines and favourite programmes.

Think of engaging activities

Try to think of activities that help spark memories, such as making a scrap book together, listening to familiar music, art & singing. Do you have any Christmas family traditions that you could do together?

Don’t over do it

Keep in mind what is manageable for the person with dementia. Allow your loved one to nap if they need to, and if returning back to home in the evening, make sure it isn’t too late. Tip – take them home when there is daylight so they can see they have returned to a familiar environment. Darkness can cause confusion.

Have a practice run 

If you’re taking your loved one out (to visit family or outside of their care home) consider having some practice runs to help understand what is achievable and realistic.

Include the care home and/or family with your planning and see where you can be given extra support.

Be inclusive, say “we” instead of “you” when making decision, and when going home – if you’re doing things together it can make things less confusing or frightening.

If you are returning your loved on to their care home, consider having an activity ready like having a drink or showing their carer gifts they have received in order to help distract whilst you leave.

Include the person with dementia

Try to be as inclusive as possible. Include the person with dementia in your Christmas activities. Wrap presents together, put up decorations, set the table and perhaps help with cooking.

If celebrating with friends & family, ask that they do the same to ensure your loved one feels welcomed & supported.