Supporting Carers through the Festive Season

by Reece Jobe

Christmas means many things to many people; I personally have a feeling that this year might just be a little different!  I can think of many occasions that I have worked on Christmas Day in care settings and had the best of times. I have found memories of knocking on the door on Christmas morning knowing you are the first person they would have seen and sometimes the only person they will! Seeing people’s faces light up when the connection is made that it is CHRISTMAS is something I will always cherish.

However, I think it’s equally important to remember how challenging it can be for people during the festive period. I have witnessed first-hand the struggles that people face, I will not brush it under the carpet.

On this occasion, I am hoping my 12 tips of Christmas will alleviate some stress and guide you through the Christmas period with your loved one who is living with Dementia.

On the First day of Christmas

Harsh but true!

Be prepared for the person living with dementia to not be particularly interested in Christmas or appreciate the significance of the festivities. It maybe that the individual is unable to comprehend what is going on around them or equally have negative experiences around the Christmas period. However, this is not to say that the decorations and cheese boards are a waste of time! My point here is to be creative, spend time doing Christmas activities. Making Christmas cards, decorating the house or watching a pantomime might help the person living with dementia to recognize the time of year.

On the Second day of Christmas

My second tip would be to consider how many people you have in your home during times of celebration. If you are a family who share a big Christmas dinner, then it will be useful to ensure the home has a quiet space for the loved one living with Dementia. Environment is easily overlooked so make sure it is a warm, quiet space. Noise level and entertainment can become overwhelming for someone living with dementia.

On the Third day of Christmas

If we’re lucky and Boris lets us, you may have been invited to friends or family to celebrate Christmas, it is probably better to let them know that you may not be staying for the whole day and ask your friends/ family not to make a fuss if you decide to leave after a short period. I would suggest talking to them beforehand to explain that the person living with dementia can become anxious and social situations can become a trigger.

On the fourth day of Christmas

Ah, one of my personal favourite parts about Christmas – the FOOD! It is all just so rich, delicious and the smells that fill the house when it is all cooking. However, it is important to be aware that whilst we all enjoy treats at Christmas the food can be quite rich and may have an adverse effect on someone that is taking a combination of medication. No one wants an upset tummy over the Queens Speech!

Smaller portions may also be helpful as you can always go back for more if you are still hungry!

On the Fifth Day of Christmas

I know it is easier said than done but, try not to use the phrases like “do you remember when………” If you have any visual books about Christmas (or you can get then from the library) it may help to look through them. In doing this, it might help to prompt an early Christmas memory to talk about.

In some situations, it best not to look at family photo albums but this is dependent on the individual. It can cause added stress for the person living with dementia as they might begin to worry about the person being shown to them.

On the sixth day of Christmas

If you are a family who like to attend church during the Christmas period, then my tip is to try and position yourself towards the back. This will allow you to leave without feeling like you are making a fuss or if your loved one gets anxious or confused you can leave without disruption to the service.

On the seventh Day of Christmas

It is important to consider alcohol intake. Unfortunately, we live in a society where alcohol is glamourised. This means marketing techniques lure you in to buying their products and quite often it’s sold a lot cheaper during the Christmas period. However, be aware of alcohol intake, it’s very easy to lose track of how many you have consumed especially if you’re having a good time and pouring your own drinks!

If a person living with dementia is consuming alcohol it can often exacerbate behaviours. It can also have an adverse effect on medication (please see the blog, Just One Mrs Wembley). If you still wish to have an alcoholic drink over Christmas, I recommend that you enjoy a non-alcoholic option or a very low percent, this way everyone is happy or mix wine with lemonade or soda water.

On the eighth day of Christmas

It’s easy to become lackadaisical over the festive period. I am guilty of it. However, try and maintain a routine. You can do this by planning your days in advance, especially morning and night-time routines. Ensuring that you remain in a routine will help to reduce further confusion in the hustle and bustle of the festive cheer.

On the nineth day of Christmas

My nineth tip is to try and get some fresh air. It becomes increasingly more difficult to get out and about when the days draw in and the weather turns cold. However, do not let that stop you! I would advise getting around 20 minutes of fresh air a day if possible. The benefits are almost endless but here is just a few: being outside can increase energy, improve digestion, relieves stress, anxiety, and getting that all-important vitamin D.

On the Tenth day of Christmas

If the weather is really causing you havoc and you cannot get outside but you still want to be active, then there here is a few ideas. All the activities will be sure to promote dexterity, mood, and heart rate!

  • Get a balloon and just knock it around the room, this is great because all generations can participate. (you will be surprised how much fun can be had)
  • Ball and target practice. All you need is a ball and an old paper or bin or container. To make it harder move further away or change the position of the target.
  • Take part in an OOMPH session (Seated Exercise) on Youtube which was created by Jane, one of our amazing Support Workers.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

Do you ever just sit and wonder what you can buy for someone as gift? Well I think I might be able to help you this year. Just call me Santa’s Little Helper if you wish!

There are lots of websites that sell jigsaws, books and games for people with dementia.  At Sage House we use products from Active Minds (pictured above) and sell a range of jigsaws, colouring books and games. Dementia Support has free activity packs that would make a good stocking filler – call us if you would like more information on what we have available – 01243 88691.

On the twelfth Day of Christmas

My last tip to you and the most important is to have some fun and enjoy yourself! After all, it’s CHRISTMASSS!

I would like to thank you for reading, and I hope you have a Merry Christmas on behalf of everyone at Sage House, Dementia Support.