The countdown to Christmas is well and truly under way and, as families across Berkshire make plans to come together over the festive season, Annie Lewis, home manager at Larkland House care home in Ascot, has issued some timely advice for carers of loved ones living with dementia to help make this Christmas a special time for all.
Annie said: “At this time of year, we understand family carers may appreciate a little help and support to capture the magic of the season, as well as some inspiration on how to make the most of every opportunity to connect with loved ones throughout the festivities.
“We have therefore put together some top tips which we hope will help evoke precious memories, while also creating shared experiences and new memories, making this Christmas a time of celebration and joy for everyone.”
Where possible, involve those living with dementia in preparations for the Christmas festivities, so they feel part of the celebrations, retain some personal independence, and feel as though they have a role to play. This approach can give people a great sense of self-achievement and may well improve their mood. From Christmas baking to decorating the tree and even wrapping gifts – think about how you can make traditional, seasonal activities as collaborative as possible.
Take a trip down memory lane
Dealing with the loss of memories can be a very frustrating part of living with dementia. Try to ask questions about how your loved one used to celebrate Christmas and what their family traditions were. You could then try to recreate some of these to encourage a sense of comforting nostalgia, or perhaps make a Christmas memory box together to store their memories and help with reminiscence.
Countdown to Christmas
It is not uncommon for a person living with dementia to be full of joy for Christmas one day and to have no memory of the time of year the next. An advent calendar is a good way of giving your loved one a daily reminder of the time of year and it also helps to build up excitement and anticipation of the day itself and to celebrating with family and friends.
At Christmas play and make good cheer, for Christmas comes but once a year
When it comes to evoking memories, raising cheer and bringing people together, the power of music is incredibly strong; and what better way to get into the Christmas spirit and connect with loved ones than carol singing. Many people living with dementia can recall favourite tunes from years ago, so why not gather the family and enjoy a Christmas sing-a-long.
Lower stress, raise the joy
Repetition may seem tedious to the rest of us but it can often be reassuring to someone with cognitive impairment. You could get crafty and make Christmas decorations; the simple action of repeatedly putting the cloves into an orange can conjure up feelings of accomplishment and pride, or why not try threading popcorn, dried fruit and cinnamon sticks onto string? The decorations can then be hung around the home, where they will not only look festive but their scent may evoke calming, happy memories.
Just have fun!
It’s Christmas, a time for fun and laughter and it doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. There are a number of games and activities which can be played to stimulate minds and, if possible, get people living with dementia moving – for example, a simple “pin the nose on Rudolph the reindeer” game. Velcro can be used instead of a pin and the game can be made portable for those unable to stand – a great way to employ fine motor skills.
Get at one with nature
Access to nature and animals can play a key role in unlocking memories from the past, restoring a sense of wellbeing, and providing a calming effect for people living with dementia. A relationship with nature is an integral part of an individual’s sense of identity and how they give meaning to their experiences.
You could create a bird feeding station in the garden and top it up daily with treats to encourage local wildlife to visit. For those who can’t easily make their way outside, sitting quietly by a window with a hot chocolate watching the birds come and go can provide just as much enjoyment.
For more inspiration, information and advice on caring for those living within dementia, visit careuk.com, where you can request or download copies of Care UK’s two free guides: As Easy as ABC, Care UK’s guide to activity based care, and Listen, Talk, Connect, which has been designed to help family carers overcome challenges they may face in having conversations and general interaction with loved ones living with dementia.
For more information about Larkland House care home, please email email@example.com or call 01344 798 618.