Six ways you can make Christmas easier for loved ones with dementia

Christmas dinner.
Christmas dinner.
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Christmas can be an incredibly stressful time – particularly for families affected by dementia.

And with more people than ever battling dementia diagnoses, the prospect of a festive meal can cause confusion and distress for those dealing with the condition.

There are believed to be around 5,800 people in Leeds with a diagnosis at present although that figure is expected to rise to 10,000 by 2025.

The debilitating condition can cause issues such as memory loss, communication and reasoning issues and motor problems, meaning Christmas with dementia is something that needs careful consideration and planning.

As a result specialist homecare firm Helping Hands has come up with some useful tips to make Christmas time easier to cope with.

The firm’s Leeds manager Elaine Gaskill claims simple changes like reducing clutter on tables, placing signs to make the home easier to navigate and keeping to a routine could make a huge difference.

“The sights, sounds and unfamiliar routine of the Christmas period can be stressful for a person living with dementia,” she said.

“While it’s important to make sure your loved one feels fully included in the festivities, you should also be prepared to make some adjustments to make the celebrations as stress-free as possible.”

She added that the festive season is also a great time to reminisce, so creating some form of box or book of Christmas memories can get everyone involved.

The festive season is rarely stress-free but by planning ahead, Christmas can be enjoyable for all.

Reduce clutter

Vision issues associated with dementia can make it difficult to spot objects on patterned surfaces. Use a plain table cloth when setting the Christmas dinner table and choose plain plates with a contrasting edge to make it easier to identify the food on the plate.

Be dementia friendly

Place signs on doors and cupboards make your house easier to understand. Placing plain rugs on patterned carpets or on shiny floors will also make it easier for your loved one to get around the house.

Make a quiet room

The hustle and bustle of Christmas can be agitating. Making one room a quiet room in the house will give your loved one somewhere to take a few minutes to relax and calm down until they’re ready to rejoin the festivities.

Close the curtains as soon as it goes dark

Reflections in windows can be intimidating for those with dementia. Mirrors can also be taken down or covered up to reduce reflections around the home.

Try not to break from routine

Bring reassuring items from home, like a favoured mug or cushion, to help them settle. Changes to a regular routine can be the hardest thing for someone with dementia.

Allow more time for everything

Settling into festivities and then back at home can take much longer. When you drop your loved one back at their own home it’s possible that after a few days away their own house will feel unfamiliar, so allow an afternoon to spend settling them back in.

PIC: Simon Hulme

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