How to make the festive season dementia friendly

While everyone experiences dementia differently, it often affects the way people process and respond to their environment. The noise and over stimulation that can come with a Christmas party can be overwhelming and may cause confusion or agitation.
Here are some ways to make your celebrations more dementia friendly.

1. Keep it simple

Things like appetite, swallowing and abilities can change quickly for someone with dementia. It can even vary from day to day. Plan a couple of special meal options taking into account the needs and preferences of your loved one.
People with dementia can also become disorientated and unsettled in unfamiliar environments so keep it simple. Plan the day, stick to routines as much as possible, and be aware of any emotional triggers that may cause confusion or agitation.

2. Stick with familiar

Try to use familiar decorations and put them up slowly over a few days. Daily routines are important for people with dementia and sudden changes may result in agitation and distress. Stick to routine eating, bathing and rest times where possible throughout the holiday period.
Familiar family traditions can also be a good way to reminisce- keepsakes or photo books can help connect the person with stories from previous celebrations, old songs or Christmas movies can also bring everyone together.

3. Keep it calm

Having lots of people in your home can become overwhelming to someone living with dementia. Excited children, loud music and multiple conversations can be confusing and may cause anxiety.
Try to create a ‘quiet room’ where someone with dementia can retreat if needed.  If you’re planning a large gathering, consider having a smaller one as well for just a few special people including the person with dementia.

4. Be flexible

It’s easy to get caught up on how things have always been done at Christmas and family traditions, but the festive season might begin to look different as dementia progresses. Try to keep expectations realistic and in line with the current needs of the person and be flexible. Be prepared to change your plans if something isn’t working.

5. Get everyone involved

Hanging a bauble on the tree, singing along to Christmas music, setting the table or helping to send cards; there are a lot of ways to involve someone living with dementia at Christmas time. Modifying tasks to suit their ability and finding a way to help them contribute will give a sense of independence.

6. Seek support

The holiday season is a time when both the person with dementia and family members may feel a sense of loss. This may also impact those people without family more strongly.
You can reach out to the National Dementia Helpline, 1800 100 500 (8am to 8pm Monday to Friday except public holidays). Or find them online