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Keeping Christmas memories alive

Keeping Christmas memories alive

When a family member has dementia, Christmas can be a time of extra stress and overwhelming emotions, but there are things families can do to make the festive season happier for everyone.

“If you’re celebrating Christmas with a family member with dementia, my advice would be to try not to focus on how things used to be, but instead think about how to make this Christmas fun,” advises Anne Schumacher, Chief Executive of Alzheimers Wellington.

“Try to keep family traditions going … unless that particular tradition is stressing you out, in which case don’t do it!”

Alzheimers Wellington has some helpful tips for making the most of the Christmas season:

In the build up to Christmas

- Slowly does it. You could get into Christmas gradually by putting up a few decorations each day. This may help the person with dementia adapt to the changed room.

- Be inclusive wherever possible. Try to talk about what’s going on, and, if possible, involve the person with dementia in choosing gifts or putting up decorations. Musical events like carol services can be a great way to take part in your community’s Christmas activities.

- Maintain routines. There’s a lot of socialising at this time of year, so try to make sure the person with dementia keeps to their regular routines for meals and sleeping.

On Christmas Day

- Quiet spaces. If you think Christmas Day will be too overwhelming, designate a quiet room in the house where the person with dementia can enjoy a break away from the hustle and bustle.

- Keep presents simple. Opening presents can be challenging for a person with dementia, particularly if surrounded by noisy excitement. To make things easier, you could give presents in gift bags rather than wrapping paper.

- The Christmas meal. To make things easier for the person with dementia, consider keeping your table decorations simple and using plates in a contrasting colour from the tablecloth.

Christmas in a rest home

- Talk to staff. If your family member is in a rest home, find out what’s planned for Christmas and time your visit to fit in with what’s happening on the day. It may be better to have a special Christmas visit on the 24th or 26th instead.

- Remember traditions. Look at a photo album and talk about the traditions and fun of previous Christmases. Listening to carols together can be a lovely way to get into the Christmas spirit.

- Simple gifts. For a family member with more advanced dementia, you could think of gifts for the senses like a fragrant plant or a colourful bunch of flowers, or even a gentle hand massage while you spend time together.

“And finally, not everyone with dementia has family near, so if you know someone living with dementia who will be alone at Christmas, can you include them in your celebrations?” says Ms Schumacher.

- Ends –

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