How to support a person with dementia during Christmas

The holidays are difficult for many but can be especially difficult for those with dementia. Here are eight ways you can support those with dementia during the holidays.*

1.Put decorations up gradually

Introduce the Christmas environment slowly. Think about putting decorations up gradually over a few days so it doesn’t come as a big change to the person’s usual setting.

2. Keep it simple and familiar

Someone with dementia may feel overwhelmed during Christmas. Keep the day’s activities low-key and limit the number of activities. This will help your loved one relax.

3. Get everyone involved

There are many ways to involve people living with dementia at holiday time – from something as simple as hanging a bauble on the tree to doing some holiday shopping. Playing holiday music and singing favorite carols can be a simple way to involve the person in the festivities. The most important thing is that they feel included.

4. Create a quiet area

A large number of guests can be overwhelming, so ask family and friends to spread out their visits over the festive period.

If things do get busy, designate one room or space in the home a ‘quiet area’ where your loved one can relax without loud noise.

5. Bring back old memories

Whether it’s an old song they used to enjoy or a classic Christmas film, find something you can take part in that is important to the person. Making a family photo album or memory box could be a nice way to spend time together.

6. Be mindful of food

Although many people eat a lot at Christmas, a full plate can be daunting for someone who has difficulties eating. If you’re doing the serving, try not to overload your loved one’s plate.

7. Be flexible

It’s easy to get caught up in holiday traditions and how things have always been done in the family, but your festive season might begin to look different as dementia progresses. It’s always worth having a plan B, and be prepared to change your plans if a particular element isn’t working.

8. Plan ahead

If the person with dementia is living in an assisted living facility, it can be helpful to ask the home in advance what their plans are for Christmas Day.

*This article was written based on an article shared from the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK, Dec 2022.

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