Research by the Live-in Care Hub (www.liveincarehub.co.uk) has found that the number of people living with dementia in the UK is steadily increasing and can bring many difficulties such as memory loss, mood swings and an inability to cope with certain situations. Coping with the Christmas season with parties, music, different foods and family gatherings can be hardest of all not only for the dementia patient but also for those caring for them.
Follow our suggestions for how you can help to make the festive season easier to cope with for a person with dementia. The No Place like Home report has more useful hints and ideas on how to improve life for a dementia patient.
Prepare Them for the Big Day
Explain to them what is about to happen and if there are to be any visitors make sure they understand that this will only be for a short while. If they suffer from memory loss make a memory board with photos of expected guests and names printed clearly underneath their pictures. Place a large sign on the door of their bedroom and explain to them that this is where they can come if they feel things are getting on top of them.
On Christmas Day
Some dementia patients can become confused or frightened by increased noise and by lots of people coming and going from room to room. Explain to family and guests beforehand about the need to keep noise to a minimum and that children will be expected to refrain from running around indoors. Playing the dementia patient’s favourite music can help to calm them as can displaying photos and memories of their earlier life. Maintain an ambient temperature in the home to aid comfort.
Studies have shown that some dementia patients often experience the most confusion and agitation at set times of the day, usually late afternoons and evenings, a condition known as ‘sundowning’. With this in mind why not arrange any activities such as a short walk or parlour games for the mornings when the patient should be more receptive. Allow them to retire to their bedrooms in the evenings if that’s what they prefer.
Keep this fairly low key and avoid the temptation to place a heavily-laden plate of food in front of the patient. This could intimidate them and make them feel anxious or upset. Take the time to find out what kind of food suits them and how much they can eat. If they can manage a traditional lunch allow them to take their time over it but if they prefer a sandwich or egg and chips that’s fine; whatever they feel comfortable with.
Keep to their normal bedtime routine as much as possible to minimise any sleep disruption. A soft night light and low music can help distract them from noise made by others. If they are prone to wandering at night a baby-gate could prevent any accidents.