How to support a person with dementia at Christmas

New Christmas advice is being issued to carers of islanders living with advanced dementia.St Joseph's Care Home in Jersey says the festive season can be very stressful for patients and their loved ones. 

The advice is to tone down the decorations and keep to a normal routine as best as possible.

''Try to keep a routine, try to minimise too much change within the household, so not too many decorations, flashing lights, and changing objects around. Try to do things slowly and create a break away room so at least there's one part of the house that's quiet and accessible to that person to be able to move away to.''

Colette Bonner, Dementia Policy Advisor for LV Group

8 ways to support somebody with dementia at Christmas:

  • Put decorations up gradually

Introduce the Christmas environment slowly. Think about putting decorations up gradually over a few days so it doesn’t come as a big change to the person’s usual setting.

  • Keep it simple and familiar

Someone with dementia may feel overwhelmed over the Christmas period, so it's best not to overdo it. Keeping the day's activities low-key will help your loved one to relax.

  • Get everyone involved

There are many ways to involve people living with dementia at Christmas time – from something as simple as hanging a bauble on the tree to doing a spot of Christmas shopping. The important thing is that they feel included.

  • Create a quiet room

A large number of guests can be overwhelming, so ask family and friends to spread out their visits over the festive period. If things do get busy, designate one room in your house a ‘quiet room’ where your loved one can relax without loud noise.

  • Bring back old memories

Whether it’s an old song they used to enjoy or a classic Christmas film, find something fun you can take part in. Making a family photo album or memory box could be a nice way to spend time together.

  • Be mindful of food

Although many people eat a lot at Christmas, a full plate can be daunting for someone who has difficulties eating. If you're doing the serving, try not to overload your loved one’s plate. Finger food is a good alternative.

  • Be flexible

It’s easy to get caught up in Christmas traditions, but your festive season might begin to look different as dementia progresses. It's always worth having a plan B, and be prepared to change your plans if a particular element isn't working. 

  • Plan ahead

If the person with dementia is living in a care home, it can be helpful to ask the home in advance what their plans are for Christmas Day.