Having your friends and family together at Christmas and New Year is a great chance to catch up, celebrate and exchange gifts. However, for people living with dementia there can be some extra challenges – routines disrupted, unfamiliar environments and some support services being unavailable over the holidays. This can be a difficult time for both the person with dementia and their support network; however, there are some steps that can be taken to make the holidays as stress free as possible.
Although it is easier said than done, preparing for the holidays as much as possible will help. If friends and family are visiting, it is a good idea to warn them of any unexpected changes in behaviour, such as eating habits, and remind people not to be offended if they aren’t recognised immediately. Encourage them to introduce themselves and explain their relationship to the person with dementia instead.
Discussing and preparing for schedule changes over the period can really help. Drawing up a timetable or diary and regularly chatting about it can help you all to feel more in control of your plans. GP surgeries are closed over Christmas and New Year, so ensure you have enough medication to cover the holiday period. There are emergency social work services in your area, if you need them, to find out the contact number call the Freephone 24 hour Dementia Helpline 0808 808 3000.
If you are visiting people over the festive period, particularly if you’re staying overnight, it can be helpful to ensure that rooms and hallways are safe and well-lit for the person with dementia to use. Adding labels to doors, for example the bathroom, can allow the person with dementia to be more independent. Although your caring duties are important, it is also important to take some time for yourself. Christmas and New Year is an important time for celebration and relaxation.
Here are five top tips for living well as a carer this festive period:
- Encourage napping – make sure there is a quiet place with an armchair to doze in (remember, carers need naps too!)
- Get outside – even though it is cold, make sure to wrap up warm and get some fresh air
- Stay active – make sure you are giving yourself time to do things you enjoy doing
- Watch your diet – everyone indulges at Christmas, as we should, but try to ensure you’re still eating enough fruit and veg per day and taking in lots of fluids
- Take time to talk – don’t think that your role as a carer is a taboo subject, talk to friends and family about it or call the Freephone 24 hour Dementia Helpline on 0808 808 3000
We have also developed a Christmas ten top tips for living well with dementia leaflet that you can source here