What can you do to help a loved one with dementia have an enjoyable Christmas?

4 tips to help someone living with dementia enjoy Christmas

Christmas is a special and fun time of year for many, but it can also bring stress and emotional challenges, particularly for those who are affected by long-term and debilitating health conditions.

The festive season can be particularly difficult for those living with dementia and their loved ones, owing to the amount of change and hectic activity that often happens during the period, which can be confusing and unsettling.

With approximately 900,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK - a number that is projected to reach 1.6 million by 2040 - this is a consideration for many families and individuals close to those affected by the condition.

In light of this, the Alzheimer's Society has offered some advice on what you can do to support someone with dementia at Christmas.

  1. Make changes gradually

The charity's first tip is to take your time when making changes to the environment surrounding the person with dementia.

If you're planning to put up some festive decorations, for example, consider doing it over the course of a few days, rather than all at once. This will help them get used to the differences gradually, rather than seeing a lot of sudden change, which could cause distress.

  1. Keep things simple

In a similar vein of not making too many changes to avoid causing confusion, it can be a good idea to keep your Christmas celebrations low-key and simple, which will help to avoid making anyone feel overwhelmed.

You might also want to keep to routines that your loved one is used to - having meals at their regular times and in the same place, for example.

A member of the Alzheimer's Society's online community, Talking Point, said she decided to treat December 25th as if it was a normal day, because lots of decorations, different food and presents only exacerbated her husband's anxiety.

  1. Don't exclude people with dementia

While it's important not to go overboard with celebrations, it's also worth remembering that people with dementia shouldn't feel like they're being excluded from the festivities at this time of year.

Even simple things like hanging some baubles on a tree or sending Christmas cards can help people feel included.

The Alzheimer's Society passed on another piece of advice from one of its community members, who said: "With Christmas cards, my mum still wanted to send them out, so I got her to write her name on a piece of paper. I then scanned, resized and copied them and printed them out onto computer labels.

"Mum helped me to stick in a few of the labels so she felt involved, and I wrote the recipient's name in at the top and did the envelopes."

  1. Be flexible

Perhaps most importantly of all, you should try to be flexible and open-minded about how you want to celebrate Christmas if you have a loved one with dementia.

Traditions you once enjoyed together could now be a source of stress or confusion for them, so be ready to change your plans if they're not working out.