This is particularly true at family occasions like Christmas, when there may be several people and different conversations going on.
Creating a calm environment and taking the time to think about conversation-starting questions can help everyone to enjoy the day more. As well as providing useful cues for conversations, these questions can also help families to find out more about their loved one’s past and interests.
Before Christmas, reminisce with your loved one to find out more about what makes Christmas special to them. You can incorporate them into your celebrations, making it special and easier for them to enjoy and engage in on the big day.
Start the conversation by sharing a memory like: ‘I remember that we always had our stockings when we woke up but couldn’t have our presents until breakfast was finished – breakfast seemed to go on forever with ham, boiled eggs…’
By reminiscing with the person rather than asking direct questions you help them to relax, this will often make a conversation easier.
Read more advice for celebrating Christmas when your loved one has dementia.
It is important to create an atmosphere where your loved one can join in. Try not to play background music during mealtimes as it is another layer of sound over the sound of talking and eating. This can make the conversation hard to follow, especially for other guests who may be hard of hearing.
Sometimes a person living with dementia may get confused about people’s names, what relationship they have with the person or what point in their life they are currently at. Try not to correct them as it can cause confusion, distress, or embarrassment. You might want to create festive name badges to help.
When talking, establish eye contact so your loved one knows you are talking to them, and they can pick up on visual cues about the conversation. It also helps to speak clearly at a very slightly slower rate than you might usually speak during a family conversation. Try to avoid correcting the person, go with the flow..
Sometime tastes and recognition of food textures can change, the person may start to eat with their fingers, whatever they do try to reassure them it’s OK, don’t make a fuss, and make a note to make it easier with the next meal.
Try to ensure the person is kept hydrated with plenty of water, remember they may need a little prompt to visit the bathroom and ay need to be shown where it is.
Always make sure there is a relaxing and inviting area where your loved one can go if they want some peace and quiet. They may not be able to do a whole day of noise and excitement, so try to give some quiet times away from the crowd throughout the day. Make sure they have a drink available and check in on them to ensure they are happy and comfortable and not in need of some quiet company.