The festive season is all about spending time with family and friends. However, those who have parents or loved ones to look after needing dementia support may feel worried about upcoming celebrations:
- Will your loved one enjoy themselves?
- Will they be comfortable?
- How do I prepare family and friends to be more understanding of their needs?
- Will I enjoy myself?
If you’re a carer of a loved one with dementia, you are not alone in these worries. Likewise, at Flexi Support we’ve seen the importance of addressing these concerns.
Specifically for a person with dementia, the break from their usual routine, the noise of a party gathering, and meeting new faces they may not remember can trigger feelings like fear, anxiety, or aggression. Therefore, planning ahead to help your loved one feel at ease can go a long way in making an enjoyable and inclusive day for everyone.
Make Christmas More Dementia-Friendly
Drawing from our experience as professional carers, here are some ways to help your loved one feel more supported and involved during the festivities:
1. Go with the conversation flow
Approach conversations with flexibility to go with the flow of the person with dementia. Sometimes they will get names of people mixed up or repeat themselves, but go with the flow. There’s no need to correct them.
2. Consider the best time for shared celebratory meals
Routine and familiarity is important for dementia support. Therefore, changes to routines like their everyday mealtimes can cause a lot of confusion. Bearing this in mind, have some flexibility around meal preparation and the time everyone gathers to eat.
3. Create a sense of familiarity
Entering an unfamiliar environment can cause stress and frustration for a person with dementia. Accordingly, having familiar items on hand can help them feel safer and more comfortable. For example, these items could be photos, snacks they like, or a cushion they’re used to sitting on.
4. Gift giving and receiving
Encourage your loved one with dementia to be involved in gift preparation and giving. It can also help to suggest gift ideas to family and friends.
5. Share the care and activities
Where appropriate, reach out and ask family members to share the responsibility of supporting a loved one with dementia. In addition, include children with activities like looking through photo albums, reading a book out loud, or watching a movie together.
6. Allow for quiet time
Prepare a quiet room or schedule a short walk outdoors to give your loved one a break from the noise. If you know you’ll have your hands full on Christmas Day, organise this with someone ahead of time.
7. Allow for unhurried time
Christmas can be a busy time, but it can be worth giving some old traditions a miss in favour of more time to be unrushed and to enjoy the occasion. A person with dementia may not remember the details of their outing, but what is more important is that the moment is enjoyed.
Dementia Support: Plan Ahead for Christmas
In our experience at Flexi Support, we know that unexpected changes are not helpful for carers providing dementia support. Taking time to plan ahead can alleviate the worries and stress of the busy festive season.
Here’s our checklist:
- Are your health and care provider/s closed over Dec/Jan?
Providers like Flexi Support have both support workers and rostering team available 365 days of the year. This means our clients can call the Flexi Support office during the holidays to request support worker shifts.
However, other providers may have limited office hours or closures over Christmas and public holidays. As routine and familiarity is important for dementia support, check ahead of time to avoid any service disruptions.
- Do you need additional support for the extra social activities?
You don’t have to do it alone. Additional support can be provided to help you and your loved ones attend the celebrations. This could be extra support hours to help your loved one bathe and dress for the occasion, or safely transport them to and from the venue, or support to be comfortable during the social gathering.
- Are you planning on going away?
Consider respite time for yourself as rest is important for everyone. While you’re away, there is support available to look after your loved one. Providers like Flexi Support with at-home services can help with things like organising transport, assisting with grocery shopping and even overnight care if needed.
How Dementia Symptoms Affects Someone
We can all relate to forgetting things from time to time, but it helps to explain dementia symptoms to family and friends. Importantly, it can prepare them to be more patient and understanding, and can invite them to be more inclusive of a loved one with dementia.
When a person starts to get dementia, they may:
- Forget recent events, names or faces
- Repeat the same question/s
- Not be sure what time or date it is
- Find it hard to make simple decisions
- Put things in the wrong place
As dementia gets worse, a person may:
- Have trouble speaking clearly
- Find it hard to express how they think or feel
- Find it hard to eat, drink, wash or dress themselves
- Not be able to go to the bathroom by themselves
Moreover, dementia will affect each person differently and there are various diseases that can cause dementia. But it is not yet known why one person with dementia may get a certain disease while another person may not. We do, though, know that dementia is a disease symptom and is not a normal part of ageing.
By spending some time to plan ahead, we hope that your loved one living with dementia, and yourself as a carer, can have a more stress-free festive season. Additionally, reach out to your family and friends for some understanding and flexibility towards a more dementia-friendly Christmas. It can go a long way to making the occasion more inclusive and enjoyable for everyone involved.
If you’d like additional support during Christmas and New Year, give Flexi Support a call on (03) 9560 3333, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. With over 300 carers, we service all of greater Melbourne with shifts available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Visit the Dementia Australia website for more information about dementia support: https://www.dementia.org.au/.