Christmas is supposed to be a joyous occasion for all. However, Carewatch Cardiff says it can be a stressful and lonely time of year for people living with dementia, with many feeling isolated, unable to join in with the festivities or left off the family guest list due to the fear and stigma surrounding the condition.
Creating a dementia friendly environment around the home and in the community can make a huge difference to families, friends and their loved ones at Christmas by ensuring that people living with dementia are fully included in the festivities. Here are Carewatch Cardiff’s top ten tips:
1. Involve everyone: There are many ways to include people living with dementia at Christmas – from something as simple as hanging a bauble on the tree to Christmas shopping. This is important.
2. Slowly does it: Introduce the Christmas environment slowly. Think about putting up decorations gradually over a few days so it doesn’t come as a big change to the person’s usual setting.
3. Bring back old memories: Whether it’s an old song they used to enjoy or a classic Christmas ﬁlm, ﬁnd something fun to do. Making a family photo album or memory box could be a nice way to spend time together.
4. Don’t overdo it: Someone with dementia may feel overwhelmed by lots of noise and unfamiliar people around, so try and keep visitors to a few at a time. Schedule periods of rest throughout the day or have a quiet room they can retreat to in case things become too much.
5. It’s good to talk: Christmas can be a very stressful time, so don’t bottle it up. Alzheimer’s Society’s Talking Point forum is a place to ask advice, join in discussions and feel supported by others living with dementia. Or call Alzheimer’s Society’s helpline on 0300 222 1122.
6. Become a Dementia Friend: By wearing your Dementia Friends badge with pride whilst out and about this Christmas, you’ll make a big difference by showing your support and understanding to those affected by dementia.
7. Christmas shopping: With a bit of planning, Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be too stressful. Shop in the morning when it’s quieter and you can take your time. A number of major retailers now have employees who are Dementia Friends in stores, including Argos, Barclays, Homebase, Lloyds Bank and M86. So look for the badge and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
8. Musical events: Try to include people with dementia when attending carol services, as singing carols is a great joint activity and can bring back lovely memories.
9. Accommodate: If you’re organising a party or event, have a quiet room set aside and make sure facilities are clearly labelled. Knowing where to go will really help someone with dementia feel more confident.
10. Be patient: It’s easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of Christmas, but if someone seems confused or is taking a bit longer to do something, take a breath and be patient.
“At times such as Christmas, it is so important that we all band together and make sure that people living with dementia feel included and those who care for them know support is available if needed,” says Carewatch’s Cardiff Care Manager Natalie Pitman-Trenarne. “I have spent 18 years working in care and I know only too well the difficulties faced by both. The condition can be incredibly challenging.”
There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with 70% of people in care homes diagnosed with dementia or severe memory problems, it is a major issue for many older people living in the local community. An estimated 21 million people in this country, or 42 per cent of the population, know someone living with dementia. Dementia can be life changing for the person affected as well as for their family, but with the right support, people can still live well.