Dec 01, 2016
With experience showing that carers often appreciate a little extra support and consideration at this time of the year, Kelly Mendham, home manager at Cavell Court, has compiled some top tips on how to make the most of every opportunity with those living with dementia throughout the festivities.
Kelly commented: “Christmas is a magical time that should be spent with your loved ones, but it’s important to ensure that family members’ different expectations are all met. Trying to manage the needs of those requiring additional care, while also delivering the ‘perfect’ Christmas can put a lot of pressure on relatives. However, there are plenty of ways to make sure it really is the most wonderful time of the year for all:
1. Get everyone involved
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 stirring the Christmas pudding mix to decorating the tree, and even wrapping gifts – there are a number of ways you can make traditional, seasonal activities as collaborative as possible.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear
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 gather the family and enjoy a Christmas sing-a-long.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Just have fun!
At Christmas, the most important thing is to make sure that everyone enjoys themselves. 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.”
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