They say Christmas is not about what's under the tree, but who's around it.
Families across Huddersfield will be gathering for some festive fun this week, but the break in routine can be stressful for people with dementia.
Taking time to make your home a peaceful environment for vulnerable family members and taking simple steps to help them enjoy Christmas means everyone can share in the festive spirit.
Home care provider Helping Hands West Yorkshire has advised six simple tips to make it simpler to cope at Christmas time:
- Reduce clutter on the dinner table : Vision problems associated with dementia can make it difficult to spot objects on busy, patterned surfaces. Use a plain table cloth on the Christmas dinner table and choose plain plates with a contrasting edge to make it easier to identify the food on the plate.
- Make your home dementia friendly: Placing signs on cupboards showing the items inside and on doors to indicate which room they lead to will make it simpler for everyone visiting to find items around the home. Placing plain rugs on patterned carpets or on shiny floors will also make it easier for your loved one to get around the house.
A Dementia Toolkit including room cards can be requested from the Helping Hands website.
- Make one room in the house a quiet room : The loud noise and hustle and bustle of Christmas can be agitating for a person with dementia. Making one room a quiet room in the house will give your loved one somewhere to take a few minutes to relax and calm down until they’re ready to rejoin the festivities.
- Close the curtains as soon as it becomes dark: Reflections in windows can be intimidating for those with Dementia so draw the curtains as soon as it gets dark to avoid this. Mirrors can also be taken down or covered up to reduce reflections around the home.
- Try not to break from routine too much: Changes to a regular routine can be the hardest thing about the festive season for a person with Dementia. Bringing reassuring items from your loved one’s home - such as a favourite mug or cushion - can help them settle in your house.
- Allow more time for everything: Be prepared to allow more time for regular Christmas activities and when you drop your loved one back at their own home. It’s possible that after a few days away their own house will feel unfamiliar, so allow an afternoon to spend settling them back in and familiarising themselves with their surroundings.
Elaine Gaskill branch manager at Helping Hands West Yorkshire said: "The sights, sounds and unfamiliar routine of the Christmas period can be stressful for a person living with dementia. While it’s important to make sure your loved one feels fully included in the festivities, you should also be prepared to make some adjustments to make the celebrations as stress-free as possible."
"Christmas is a fantastic time to sit down as a family and reminisce. Life story work is an important part of person-centric care for Dementia and sitting down with the whole family to create a box or book of Christmas memories is a great way of including everyone in a festive activity.
"Music is also incredibly important in Dementia care and playing nostalgic carols can bring back fond memories of Christmases gone by."