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Christmas With Dementia - Coping Strategies

Christmas With Dementia - Coping Strategies

Many of us love a big family gathering at Christmas and look forward to bringing loved ones of all ages together at this special time of the year. A great number will have family members staying overnight - sometimes for longer periods.

Just as we need to plan ahead for little children’s health and safety issues, cots and infant food so we may also need to plan for those older relatives who may have their own specific issues too. 

As we now know that one in six people over the age of 80 have a dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, it is quite likely that many of us will be facing the dilemma of how to manage an older relative in our homes who may indeed have this illness. Here are a few simple tips that could help make it a stress-free Christmas experience for all:

Christmas With Dementia | Coping Strategies | Ten Top Tips: 

  • If your guest is unused to the layout of the house, put bold, clear labels on doors to key rooms such as the kitchen, bathroom etc. If possible, add a simple picture for anyone with who may have a sight impairment.
  • Ensure your home is safe. Outer doors should be securely closed – especially if your guest is likely to wander around at night. Leave lights on and check there are not loose rugs that could cause accidents.
  • Allocate a ‘quiet’ room or area that they can go to if the house becomes too noisy or hectic. Maybe put on some gentle relaxing music.
  • Many older people are unable to manage a large plate of food and your guest may also need assistance with eating. Ensure their needs are met with someone on hand to help. Your guest may feel self-conscious about this so maybe set aside a table slightly away from the main crowd.
  • Make sure that alcohol is kept to a sensible level as over-indulgence can lead to friction and calamities.
  • Encourage your guest to join in with a good old family sing song* – traditional carols can be a lovely way to reminisce and will encourage participation.        
  • Find out about your relative’s past. Maybe get out some old photographs to look through together and encourage them to talk about past Christmases.        
  • Try to find something for them to help with such as drying up the dishes or laying the table. Maybe encourage them to go for a short walk if they are able.        
  • Look for signs of stress or discomfort. Allow them to have an early exit from the festivities if necessary. Many older people are unused to staying up late at night so make sure the bedroom is prepared and is warm. Make provision for assisting with undressing/toileting if necessary. Ensure there is access to water.       
  • Ensure your guest has their regular medication and that it is kept in a secure place – especially if there are young children around. 

*Why not take a look at our range of products specially designed for people who have a dementia like Alzheimer’s. Your loved one will really enjoy singing along to our range of music CDs that come with their own lyric books. Extra-large printed text makes these ideal for anyone with sight impairment. Why not have a rousing family sing-along with our ‘Happy Days are Here Again’ double CD and songbook set. Or take a trip to the West End with our ‘Ultimate Musicals Karaoke DVD. Words appear at the bottom of the screen and each sung word is highlighted. 

We also offer a huge range of picture books especially for reminiscence that aim to evoke fond memories of ‘A World of Work, Shopping’, ‘Childhood Days’ or ‘Family Life’ to name but a few. The striking colourful images (some are in black and white) will be sure to encourage older loved ones to talk about happy bygone times. 

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