7 ways to help seniors with dementia at Christmas time
As the end of the year draws ever closer and with Christmas festivities fast approaching, it’s hard not to get caught up in at least a little bit of the excitement.
Indeed, there is a lot to get done – especially if you’re one of the many who has a tendency to leave things to the last minute! With the gift-buying, wrapping, food planning and preparation, and everything else going on, one thing you may not have considered yet is how you can make this joyful time as fun and inclusive as possible for older loved ones.
If they have dementia, you may think this task proves to be a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, we’ve got plenty of experience in this area. So, to assist you in creating a welcoming, happy environment for seniors with dementia during your Christmas celebrations and over the holidays, in this blog you’ll learn 7 handy tips to do just that.
1. Keep medications on hand
If your loved one is on one or more regular medications, you want to make sure you have everything they need. Your local pharmacies will likely be closed on Christmas Day, for example, so it’s important that you ensure they have enough medication to last.
If not, visit the pharmacy and ask for all of the different medications to be packaged into a blister pack for better management.
2. Maintain a routine
There are several benefits of a structured daily routine to people with dementia including reducing their anxiety and enabling a certain level of independence, and this is no different when it comes to Christmas holidays.
This includes everything from waking up and breakfast, brushing teeth, dinner and bedtime, and activities like taking a walk or listening to music. By minimising any substantial changes to their routine, you’ll be minimising the chance of any confusion experienced.
3. Minimise guest numbers
When a loved one has dementia, it can be overwhelming for them if there are too many people around at one time. To avoid this, instead of having one big event, organise a few smaller sized catchups with friends and family where possible.
4. Exclude blinking lights and loud noises
Decorating the Christmas tree often involves wrapping lights around it (after you’ve spent hours detangling them, of course). But if they’re blinking lights, you might want to forego them (or adjust the light settings) when you have a loved one with dementia, as they may lead to anxiousness and confusion for them.
In a similar vein, avoid anything that makes sudden loud noises. That means having the volume low on any Chrissy tunes you’re playing, minimising the volume on the TV and asking that loud relative to keep their voice down.
5. Include them in activities/preparations
There are a lot of different activities you can have your loved one with dementia participate in. One idea is to take them for a visit to the local shops; it will likely have Christmas decorations all over the place for them to see, you can help them do some shopping, and even sit down for a cuppa. The best time to do this would be non-peak hours so it’s relatively quiet and the crowds are at a minimum.
Some other activities include:
- Decorating the Christmas tree, wreath for the front door, etc.
- Baking and cooking
- Arts and crafts (hand-made presents, making ornaments and cards, etc.)
- Reminiscing about past Christmas celebrations
- Listening to Christmas music
- Watching classic Christmas movies
6. Offer a ‘chill-out zone’
Even after you’ve done all you can to make them feel relaxed and happy, things may still get a little much. If this happens, there should be a room you can bring them to that they feel comfortable in and can take a break.
7. Don’t forget about you
If you’re not taking care of yourself well, you won’t be able to care for someone with dementia as well as you can. It’s vital that you don’t forget to care for yourself as well – sleep well, eat well, exercise (if you have the time) and take a break every now and then.
It really is so important to make sure your family members who have dementia are included during the holidays, and by incorporating one or more of the above tips it will make it a lot easier to do so.
You may also consider checking in on elderly neighbours if you have any, as they may well need some extra help during the holidays but may not actually have anyone to ask. Simply asking how they are and if they need anything can make them feel less alone and brighten up their day. It is a time for caring, after all!