Helpful tips to navigate Dementia this Christmas season
The festivities of Christmas and the New Year is an exciting time for many, but they can also be extremely challenging for individuals with cognitive impairment.The changes in routine, increased social engagements and confusing changes to the decor in their living environment can be overwhelming, leading to increased agitation and confusion.
If you are preparing to spend the holiday period with a loved one or friend with dementia, here are some tips to help create special moments and make it an enjoyable time for all.
Keep Decorations Simple
Christmas decorations may be enjoyed by people with dementia. It is best to introduce them slowly over a couple of days and avoid flashing lights and artificial decorations that look like edible objects. The snap mechanism in Christmas Crackers may also frighten those who are very sensitive to noise.
Stick to Familiar Routines
Changes in routine can lead to increased confusion. Where possible try and be flexible around timing of events to accommodate regular meal and bed times. Be prepared to change your plans and allow down time if a particular situation is leading to increased agitation.
Plan your Christmas Menu
When planning your Christmas menu it is important to consider including snacks and finger food. Reminder not to overload serving platters and try and use ones that provide colour contrast to the food. This assists someone with dementia to see the food and graze without having to worry about handling cutlery.
Get Everyone Involved
It is important that individuals with dementia feel involved. Participating in meaningful activities can assist them with feeling productive and purposeful. You may need to vary the level of involvement depending on their ability. It can be as simple as hanging a few Christmas decorations, helping set the table or assisting with making shortbread biscuits.
Plan Appropriate Activities
Planning activities ahead of social events can help facilitate conversation and connection with others. Playing card or board games can take the pressure off creating conversation by providing group interaction and engagement. Rules can be adjusted according to the individual’s ability. It is also a great way in which grandchildren can have a positive visit with their grandparents. Listening along to Christmas Carols can also help recall memories and evoke responses such as singing and movement.