Are you hosting a guest with dementia this Christmas? If so, Alzheimer’s Society has some top tips to ensure both you and your guest enjoy the festive period to its full potential.
Christmas is traditionally a time for celebrating but for people with dementia and their carers it can present a range of challenges. Staying with friends and family can add strain to an already busy caring routine and noisy, busy households can cause confusion and increase the sense of isolation a person with dementia sometimes feels.
For many people, the thought of having a guest with dementia this Christmas may seem quite daunting, but it needn’t be this way. By taking a few extra steps to ensure the person is supported in the environment they are staying in, it is possible for them and the rest of the family to experience a merry Christmas this year.
Alzheimer’s Society’s Top tips
Plan ahead: Labelling different rooms in the house such as the bathroom, kitchen and guest room can help if the house is unfamiliar to your guest.
Think about safety: Leaving some lights on and doors open may avoid confusing the person with dementia if they’re up at night.
Don’t overload your guest’s plate: Although many people eat a lot at Christmas, a very full plate can be quite daunting for someone who has difficulties eating. Try not to make a fuss if the person cannot, or will not, eat everything on their plate.
Drink sensibly: Some people tend to drink more than usual at Christmas and this can make arguments and accidents more likely. Although sociable drinking is all part of the fun for many people, try to ensure that drinking
stays within sensible limits.
Respond to emotional needs: It may help if you can think of some activities and tasks that the person may enjoy doing in the quieter moments. What do they enjoy doing in their normal day-to-day life? They may have some
happy memories of bygone celebrations that you can reminisce about. Do you have any old photos you could look at together? The person might also enjoy puzzles, games, walking or household chores such as cooking and cleaning. Try to involve them in your own activities, as much as possible.
Respect religious attitudes: Would your guest like to go to church and, if so, is there somebody who could accompany them? Designate a quiet room: If the house becomes very busy and your guest is stressed or if anyone is feeling stressed or tense, there will then be somewhere quiet for them to sit and relax.
Ask if they want to sing carols: It’s good to do something jointly with other people but singing also stimulates both mind and body.
The needs of the host
Congratulate yourself for coping, and for being there for someone who needs you.
Try to pace yourself and set realistic goals. Remember to take time for yourself.
If you are struggling and feel that you need to talk to someone impartial and in confidence, you can contact the Alzheimer’s Society’s national helpline or our online discussion forum, Talking Point (manned 24/7), which may also be a source of comfort and advice.
Our website also contains lots of information and helpful fact sheets available to download − www.alzheimers.org.uk
Alzheimer’s Society National Dementia Helpline − 0300 222 1122 or helpline@ alzheimers.org.uk (Weekdays 9am-5pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-4pm except over the Christmas and Easter holiday weekends).
Talking Point: Talking Point is Alzheimer’s Society’s online support and discussion forum for anyone affected by dementia. It’s a place to ask for advice; share information; join in discussions and, most of all, feel supported.