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Holiday Tips

An elderly man living with dementia kissing his granddaughter on the cheek at Christmas time

The festive season is a time to enjoy social gatherings and family events which can often mean lots of noise and activity. For a person with dementia, this can be disruptive, confusing, and even distressing, with changes to routine and surroundings. Minimise stress for you and your loved one by following our helpful tips:

  1. Be flexible – Try to arrange celebratory mealtimes around the usual routine of the person with dementia, and if something isn’t going to plan, be prepared to change and accommodate to suit your loved one’s needs.
  2. Be mindful of possible triggers – Try to minimise changes in lighting, environment (eg moving furniture around), sleep routines or diet which can bring about unsettling changes in your loved one.
  3. Encourage helping – People like to be involved and feel they are contributing, and this is no different for someone with dementia. Give your loved one jobs they can manage – this could be folding serviettes, helping to write a gift list, decorating a Christmas tree, setting the table, or helping to prepare a meal.
  4. Avoid large groups of people – Festivities during the holiday season can often be loud and boisterous, and this can be overwhelming for a person with dementia. Where possible, keep gatherings small and provide comfortable spaces for your loved one to have some quiet time, if need be.
  5. It’s OK to ask for help – As a caregiver, it can become habit to “do everything” and not ask for any assistance. During this busy time of year it is especially important for you to accept help when it is offered, take time out for yourself when you can, and delegate jobs to other members of the family. If respite is an acceptable option, consider utilising some extra hours to allow you time to go shopping, organise gifts, or run errands. This is not selfish – it will give you some breathing space and enable you to be a better, less stressed caregiver.
  6. Prepare visitors – It may be some time since some family members and friends have seen your loved one, and they may be unprepared for the changes in personality, appearance or physical ability. Encourage guests to interact with the person with dementia as they would have done on previous occasions. Reassure them that conversation, touch and laughter are still just as important to your loved one, even if communicating verbally has become difficult, and that it is ok to just sit quietly with them if that is all they can manage.

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