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How to support someone with dementia at Christmas

HarrietD

Administrator
Staff member
Apr 29, 2014
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0
London
Christmas means many things to many people - typically a time for food, family and festivities. But for people affected by dementia, it can be more difficult. There is always so much to consider during the festive season, and that's especially true for carers.

Our Blog team would like to put together some tips to help people make the most of the festive season.

Do you have any tips on how to support your loved ones (and yourself) this Christmas?
 

HarrietD

Administrator
Staff member
Apr 29, 2014
7,006
0
London
Some of the tips we've seen in previous years:
  1. Put decorations up gradually
  2. Keep it simple and familiar
  3. Get everyone involved
  4. Create a quiet room
  5. Bring back old memories
  6. Be mindful of food
  7. Be flexible
Can you think of any more you'd like to add? If so, please feel free to comment below :)
 

jaymor

Volunteer Moderator
Jul 14, 2006
14,454
0
England
For me the last three years Ken was at home we kept it as just a normal day. Decorations, Christmassy food and goodies confused my husband and made him more anxious than he already was. It was just too much for both of us. So for us there was no preparation.

The. Children bought him clothes and his usual weekly supply of sweets and no Christmas wrapping In sight. He was used to his supply of sweets but the clothing was put away without him seeing it.

This was followed by four years in a nursing home and five and a half years since his death and my decorations for Christmas are now very low key.
 

Yankeeabroad

Registered User
Oct 24, 2021
22
0
This is my mom’s first year in a CH, and the first year apart for my parents (both have dementia but different stages).

How can we make it special for them both, but especially my mom?
 

Sarasa

Volunteer Host
Apr 13, 2018
3,920
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This will be my third Christmas in a care home for my mother and the first for my mother in law @Yankeeabroad . I think you probably need to chat to the care home about what they will be doing. It also depends how advanced your parents dementia is .
In 2019, pre-covid, mum's home had a party for each floor. Mum's had a panto followed by drink and nibbles the weekend before Christmas. My son and I went and we really enjoyed it. Christmas Day we spent with my mother in law who was still at home. It was all very low key but a nice day. Between Christmas and New Year the family took mum out to a Country House hotel near her home for afternoon tea. We actually had it at lunch time and it was a lovely occasion. Food mum liked and a very relaxed atmosphere. At the time mum was still able to understand quite a bit, so it seemed worth the effort
Last year I tried to visit mum before Christmas but she wasn't well, but I left her presents and visited after Christmas for a brief while. By then mum really didn't have a clue about the time of year, so trying to make it 'special' seemed pointless.
Mum's current home has a strict visiting policy so I doubt I could see her on the day even if I wanted to. I'll drop some present off earlier in the week. My mother in law's home is more relaxed, but I doubt they'd want all four of her children, partners and various adult grandchildren turning up. I guess they family will decide among themselves who visits when. My mother in law too has no concept of times or seasons so won't miss a big celebration.
 

Yankeeabroad

Registered User
Oct 24, 2021
22
0
Thanks @SaraS. I will check with the CH (or rehab which is where she is now) on what they plan. I think my mom will pick up on the external clues that it is Christmas but you make a good point that she may not remember the actual day. For us it’s always been more about hanging out as a family (and eating!) and less about gift giving. We (3 of us at most) don’t want to bring her to the house so maybe we will just bring the feast to her and be prepared to hang most of the day in her room with football in the background.
 

canary

Registered User
Feb 25, 2014
16,138
0
South coast
Hi @Yankeeabroad . Amazingly, they dont always pick up on external clues that it is Christmas. I remember visiting mum one Christmas to take her present round. The Care Home had Christmas decorations, sparkly lights everywhere and an enormous Christmas tree. There were carols being played, the smell of turkey and Christmas pudding cooking and all the care staff were wearing Santa hats. Yet when I gave mum her present and wished her Merry Christmas she was totally surprised and obviously had no idea that it was Christmas.

It was a bit like the way that it being pitch black did not make her realise that it was night time, or having snow on the ground made her realise that it was winter.
I could never get my head round it. You say to yourself - how could they not realise? But mum didnt.
 

HarrietD

Administrator
Staff member
Apr 29, 2014
7,006
0
London
Thanks so much everyone for taking the time to share these so far. Incredibly helpful :)
 

BarbGee

Registered User
Jan 14, 2014
3
0
My husband, Ken, was diagnosed with Lewy Body about 12 years ago and increasingly finds changes to our normal routine distressing. For the last few years we've just stayed at home by ourselves and kept Christmas really quiet. Last year Christmas Day was one of his "bad" days and he actually stayed in bed, asleep, until tea time. He wanted scrambled eggs so that was our Christmas meal. I think my tip would be to not expect much, keep it simple and try not to be disappointed if it's all a bit dull. That's life!
 

AndyBushman

New member
Nov 19, 2021
1
0
This will be my dad's first Christmas living with Alzhimers so will be interesting to see how it goes. He is in the early stages, so knows Christmas is on its way. Gonna make the most of it this year.
 

Sarasa

Volunteer Host
Apr 13, 2018
3,920
0
I'd try to make sure things aren't too different from usual if you can @AndyBushman. The last few Christmases mum was at home she was very well aware that it was coming but she got more and more confused with present buying and holiday itself could be a bit of a nightmare, even though she was happy with the arrangements before hand. There was the time we had to leave my mother in law's a day early as mum was so miserable and MiL wasn't much happier as she couldn't cope with my mum's non stop chatter, and the one where she accused us all of deliberately freezing her as she couldn't work out that her aching knees were due to going up and down the stairs at my brothers house,not him not having the heating on.
 

wildasba

New member
Sep 30, 2020
1
0
This Christmas will be my mum's second one in a CH but the first that we're able to visit or have her here. I'm planning to speak to the CH manager beforehand as regular visits, on the whole, don't always go well (I am not her daughter/her daughter is dead/ I am a very good actress/an imposter). On the other hand she asks the carers when I'll be visiting, and, even when she's giving me a hard time, will hold my hand and ask me to visit soon. I suspect it will be an on-the-day decision as to what happens - luckily we live in the same village so it won't be a problem to play it by ear. What I will say to others is - try to keep noise and other people to a minimum. My mum loved Christmas with us but on Boxing Day, when we had other family and friends over (it was the same group of people every year, who she knew), she would get very stressed, sitting away from everyone else (sometimes out on the stairs). A couple of times she was abusive to other people and she was always clingy with me - the whole thing was overwhelming for her and she couldn't cope. This was despite asking who was coming, wanting to help with the preparations and being quite excited about it all. Even if they seem ok with the whole idea, don't take it personally if they behave the opposite.

In fact, our mantra for coping with Mum, these last few years, is exactly that - Don't Take It Personally!
 

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