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Q&A: Christmas and dementia – sharing practical advice

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Saun_A

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Jul 9, 2016
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The festive season can be a wonderful time of the year but if you’re affected by dementia, it can also be stressful and isolating. There may be practical challenges and difficult feelings that arise and it can be difficult to find someone to ask for advice who understands the realities of dementia.

Do you have questions about how to plan, what to do about gifts or meals, how to handle gatherings with family and friends, or how to handle changes in location and routine?

We want to help. This Q&A discussion is a chance for you to ask and answer questions and share practical advice with other community members. This way you can share tips and advice with others who understand and have lived experience to share.

Why not ask a question below and check in on the discussion to see if you can help answer someone else’s question?

We will leave this Q&A discussion open throughout the festive season so there will be plenty of time to ask and answer questions.

If you have any questions you'd like to ask, you can post them below, or if you prefer you can email your question to us at talkingpoint@alzheimers.org.uk and we'll be happy to ask them on your behalf.
 

DesperateofDevon

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Jul 7, 2019
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Dads passing so close to Christmas means I will not be giving him a present this year , so I have a candle & will light it.
As for Aged mother “ the mantra” - “well I never liked Christmas anyway !” Is getting a good outing. A scarf for aged mother & some sweets.
Meanwhile I worry about the staying over of Mum! No carers in 4 times a day to help!
Mothers adversity to cleanliness & general mood plus her incontinence mean a lot more work - add to that the fact that Dads passing last week & me not rushing the funeral through before Christmas & New Year adds to the festivities!

I’m wrapping the single mattress in the safe room with plastic decorators sheets as waterproof mattresses can fail !

wish me luck
Xx
 

Bunpoots

Volunteer Host
Apr 1, 2016
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Nottinghamshire
Good luck @DesperateofDevon . It sounds as though you've got it well planned.
I had my dad over for Christmas the year before last and kept everything low key. I bought him a cardi and a pair of slippers, boring I know but it gave him something to open and nothing to complain about!

Last year I'd planned to visit dad at his carehome and I'd bought him a nice velour dressing gown which he never got as he died on the 16th December...so tonight I'm lighting him a candle and I'll do the same for all my loved ones on Christmas Eve.

I think it's easiest for PWD if Christmas is not much different to a normal day. Dad enjoyed the food and gifts but spent most of his last Christmas asleep on my sofa!
 

White Rose

Registered User
Nov 4, 2018
679
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Dads passing so close to Christmas means I will not be giving him a present this year , so I have a candle & will light it.
As for Aged mother “ the mantra” - “well I never liked Christmas anyway !” Is getting a good outing. A scarf for aged mother & some sweets.
Meanwhile I worry about the staying over of Mum! No carers in 4 times a day to help!
Mothers adversity to cleanliness & general mood plus her incontinence mean a lot more work - add to that the fact that Dads passing last week & me not rushing the funeral through before Christmas & New Year adds to the festivities!

I’m wrapping the single mattress in the safe room with plastic decorators sheets as waterproof mattresses can fail !

wish me luck
Xx
Sorry to here of your Dad's passing, perhaps you feel it is for the best rather than him having to endure more of this horrendous disease. My Dad passed away on 10th December 4 years ago (he had cancer not dementia), my auntie about the same time 5 years ago, so many people seem to go at this time of year, strange.
I hope you manage with your Mum, get as much sleep as you can and maybe just take the edge off with the odd glass of wine or two.
 

White Rose

Registered User
Nov 4, 2018
679
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I feel a certain amount of trepidation as I'll be cooking Christmas dinner, with my daughter's help, but it will be my PWD and 4 females. Just hoping I can keep him in a good mood, he has such mood swings and I don't want Christmas spoilt for the others. He won't sit and watch TV and he gets so cross if the attention isn't on him or if people are talking around him and he doesn't know what's going on (probably that's understandable). There isn't anything I could get him to do to keep him occupied. Mum might help him with his Dementia jigsaw puzzle but that won't last very long. I wonder if children's games such as pass the parcel might work, does anyone have experience of that? Any advice of how to keep him occupied would be welcome, thank you!
 

DesperateofDevon

Registered User
Jul 7, 2019
3,280
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Good luck @DesperateofDevon . It sounds as though you've got it well planned.
I had my dad over for Christmas the year before last and kept everything low key. I bought him a cardi and a pair of slippers, boring I know but it gave him something to open and nothing to complain about!

Last year I'd planned to visit dad at his carehome and I'd bought him a nice velour dressing gown which he never got as he died on the 16th December...so tonight I'm lighting him a candle and I'll do the same for all my loved ones on Christmas Eve.

I think it's easiest for PWD if Christmas is not much different to a normal day. Dad enjoyed the food and gifts but spent most of his last Christmas asleep on my sofa!
My candle is lit in yours & my Dads honour
Xx
Lots of early nights at the moment. boxes being ticked
Poor Mum really doesn’t comprehend anything else other than herself, I’m being gentle but firm. Xx
 

DesperateofDevon

Registered User
Jul 7, 2019
3,280
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I feel a certain amount of trepidation as I'll be cooking Christmas dinner, with my daughter's help, but it will be my PWD and 4 females. Just hoping I can keep him in a good mood, he has such mood swings and I don't want Christmas spoilt for the others. He won't sit and watch TV and he gets so cross if the attention isn't on him or if people are talking around him and he doesn't know what's going on (probably that's understandable). There isn't anything I could get him to do to keep him occupied. Mum might help him with his Dementia jigsaw puzzle but that won't last very long. I wonder if children's games such as pass the parcel might work, does anyone have experience of that? Any advice of how to keep him occupied would be welcome, thank you!
Fuzzy Felt
It’s the repetitive stickiness
Oh & a good slug of whatever in his drink to get a couple of hours peace .
I’m dreading Mums reactions but have daughter & oh(son in law ) & my best friend to lunch hopefully can wear mum out ! xx
 

Chaplin

Registered User
May 24, 2015
197
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Bristol
Mum moved into residential care in October after 5 weeks in hospital. She keeps asking if she’ll be home for Christmas so I tell her I will pick her up on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. She will spend the days with us and I will take her back to the home on an evening. I am dreading taking her back each day as I fear she will get upset when she realises she is not going ‘home’! As we all know our PWD is not referring to their last home but one long ago, before dementia robbed them of their memories!
We’ve not told mum her move is permanent as it will cause her distress. We remind her she is safe and well and she sees my dad every morning and either me, my sister or brother everyday after work. Tips on managing tricky situation would be welcome. Merry Christmas to everyone.
 

DesperateofDevon

Registered User
Jul 7, 2019
3,280
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Sorry to here of your Dad's passing, perhaps you feel it is for the best rather than him having to endure more of this horrendous disease. My Dad passed away on 10th December 4 years ago (he had cancer not dementia), my auntie about the same time 5 years ago, so many people seem to go at this time of year, strange.
I hope you manage with your Mum, get as much sleep as you can and maybe just take the edge off with the odd glass of wine or two.
Dad was at end of life care unable to swallow or speak. Yes I’m glad he’s no longer crippled with the pain of his degenerative spine & the horrendous bed sores. My Dad loves Christmas - the lights, family, etc. That aspect I shall be honouring & celebrating always. Dads friends call me with anecdotes & tales of mischief that kept me smiling today.
 

millalm

Registered User
Oct 9, 2019
249
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Dementia is like a gift that keeps on giving. It seems like there is never a day that passes without something difficult to deal with. Each Christmas I have been faced with going through all of my parents' memories as I try to decide what to take to put up in my Mum's room at the care home, my Dad has been gone for 7 years. Each year the selection is reduced due to space constraints, breakable and practical issues. I now have to decide what to do with all of the Christmas stuff that doesn't make the cut. It seems like every object I pick up sparks joy - yes Marie Kondo- every single one, along with the sadness that is now attached to them too. My only sibling, a brother who is an invisible has never been interested in helping me sort or clear out their house, or the 3 other places Mum has had to move to since her dementia was diagnosed, and has had no interest in taking any of their treasures as keepsakes.

Any suggestions on how to let go of all of this precious (to me) stuff?
 

DesperateofDevon

Registered User
Jul 7, 2019
3,280
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Dementia is like a gift that keeps on giving. It seems like there is never a day that passes without something difficult to deal with. Each Christmas I have been faced with going through all of my parents' memories as I try to decide what to take to put up in my Mum's room at the care home, my Dad has been gone for 7 years. Each year the selection is reduced due to space constraints, breakable and practical issues. I now have to decide what to do with all of the Christmas stuff that doesn't make the cut. It seems like every object I pick up sparks joy - yes Marie Kondo- every single one, along with the sadness that is now attached to them too. My only sibling, a brother who is an invisible has never been interested in helping me sort or clear out their house, or the 3 other places Mum has had to move to since her dementia was diagnosed, and has had no interest in taking any of their treasures as keepsakes.

Any suggestions on how to let go of all of this precious (to me) stuff?

I am donating clothes etc to the care home & what they don’t want to the homeless. objects are more difficult but I’ve let Dads wallet - empty bar memories of past events & his mums passport photo, a scarf of his & a jumper.

Dads photos go without saying to be kept sorted & put in an album. A job for a windy wet day with a roaring fire & cake, whisky & good company to discuss them with!

store what you can’t bear to part with & filter down slowly. Charity shops & homeless shelters welcome quality items.
My biological mums wardrobe went to charity & I kept a basket & a jumper of hers. I’ve used the basket for picnics but as of yet the jumper remains a step to far
Xx

be gentle on yourself

Memories & diaries are lovely, but don’t get bogged down with it all. I gave items I couldn’t donate to people I knew would appreciate them. Keeping memories & mementos special.

xx
 

DesperateofDevon

Registered User
Jul 7, 2019
3,280
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Mum moved into residential care in October after 5 weeks in hospital. She keeps asking if she’ll be home for Christmas so I tell her I will pick her up on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. She will spend the days with us and I will take her back to the home on an evening. I am dreading taking her back each day as I fear she will get upset when she realises she is not going ‘home’! As we all know our PWD is not referring to their last home but one long ago, before dementia robbed them of their memories!
We’ve not told mum her move is permanent as it will cause her distress. We remind her she is safe and well and she sees my dad every morning and either me, my sister or brother everyday after work. Tips on managing tricky situation would be welcome. Merry Christmas to everyone.
Tiredness is a good cue for returning to the care home. I used to time Dads return with the distraction of mealtimes, it worked - though he did use delaying tactics at times. Like a reluctant schoolboy returning to school! xx
 

seaville

New member
Dec 16, 2019
4
0
Does anyone have any suggestions to a Christmas problem - my Uncle died in August and my Aunt does not remember he has died as she has dementia. She doesn't ask about him or talk about him but seems OK in her world. She lives in a Care Home and has had her post redirected to me. She has had Christmas cards sent that are addressed to her and her husband as I've not been able to let everyone know of her husband's death. Should I give her the cards and risk bringing up her husband's death or withhold them and then she misses out on the cards? Has anyone else been in same position?
 

Bunpoots

Volunteer Host
Apr 1, 2016
6,402
0
Nottinghamshire
My candle is lit in yours & my Dads honour
Xx
Lots of early nights at the moment. boxes being ticked
Poor Mum really doesn’t comprehend anything else other than herself, I’m being gentle but firm. Xx

I have three candles burning at the moment...thinking of your dad too...I’m sure they’re all with us in spirit somewhere..
I remember my dad being unable to comprehend anything other than himself but he was quite sweet by then...so no big dramas.
 

DesperateofDevon

Registered User
Jul 7, 2019
3,280
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Mothers manageable but not when I’m on my own! So for both our sakes family will be around 24/7!
Think the shock of Dad passing is starting to hit home with us all - bit worried for mums mental health but team are aware!
Xx
Candle replaced with new one
Xx
 

Bunpoots

Volunteer Host
Apr 1, 2016
6,402
0
Nottinghamshire
Does anyone have any suggestions to a Christmas problem - my Uncle died in August and my Aunt does not remember he has died as she has dementia. She doesn't ask about him or talk about him but seems OK in her world. She lives in a Care Home and has had her post redirected to me. She has had Christmas cards sent that are addressed to her and her husband as I've not been able to let everyone know of her husband's death. Should I give her the cards and risk bringing up her husband's death or withhold them and then she misses out on the cards? Has anyone else been in same position?

Welcome to Dementia Talking Point @seaville. What an awkward situation.
I think I might be tempted to withhold the cards as they are likely to cause upset. I’m assuming she’s quite badly as she’s living in a care home. Perhaps you could mock up a few cards or tipex the ones she’s been sent? If she’s like my dad was when he entered a carehome she will probably be non the wiser and it’ll keep her happy.
 
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seaville

New member
Dec 16, 2019
4
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Welcome to Dementia Talking Point @seaville. What an awkward situation.
I think I might be tempted to withhold the cards as they are likely to cause upset. I’m assuming she’s quite badly as she’s living in a care home. Perhaps you could mock up a few cards or tapes the ones she’s been sent? If she’s like my dad was when he entered a carehome she will probably be non the wiser and it’ll keep her happy.
That's a genius idea. I could just re-write the card from thr senders and miss off my Uncle's name. I know it sounds nuts, but that might be the compromise I'm looking for. Thanks.
 

millalm

Registered User
Oct 9, 2019
249
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@seaville Silly question maybe, but can your Aunt still read? I discovered after months of hearing Mum talk about a book she was reading that she had actually lost her ability to read :( Either way you could just show her the cards and offer to read the verse to tell her who it's from.
 

theunknown

Registered User
Apr 17, 2015
434
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For the last couple of years I didn't bother with cards for my mum as she had no idea what day, month or season it was. It was a bit of a relief to no longer worry about what a suitable card would be for somebody who was in no way ever going to enjoy Christmas or a birthday again. So I would say that whatever you feel your aunt can (or can't understand) is the way to go. You say she doesn't remember her husband died, so would a name inadvertently put on a card mean anything to her anyway? If not, then no need for you to worry about it. If you think it may jog her memory and thus upset her then, yes, it's a good idea to replace the cards with others that you've written the sender's name on.

Wishing everybody on here the best Christmas they're able to have.
 

theunknown

Registered User
Apr 17, 2015
434
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@seaville Silly question maybe, but can your Aunt still read? I discovered after months of hearing Mum talk about a book she was reading that she had actually lost her ability to read :( Either way you could just show her the cards and offer to read the verse to tell her who it's from.

In response to millalm's post, it reminded me that my mum's reading glasses disappeared very early on when she went into the care home. Things replaced would soon disappear again as residents would go into other people's rooms, probably thinking it was theirs. Even if she still had the ability to read she'd have had no chance without reading glasses. It didn't seem to bother her - an avid reader whose career had been all about teaching children to read, and who taught me to read before I'd even started school, so I hope that she did no longer understand reading. Perhaps, if your aunt has reading glasses, you could hide them over Christmas ;)?

Sorry, obviously I'm making a (bad taste) joke, but on a serious note don't stress about it. Often the easiest solutions to a problem are the best ones.
 
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