Celebrating the festive season with a person who has dementia

Elderly ChristmasAs we get closer to the Christmas holidays the question of how to make it a pleasurable experience for a person with dementia is always a big question. Essentially, this time of year can be rather overwhelming for all of us with increased noise, hustle and bustle and flashing lights. It can also be an opportunity for sensory stimulation and reminiscence. Below are my ten top tips for a calm and enjoyable Christmas.

  1. Start slowly and gradually – don’t introduce all the decorations at once. This can make the environment feel unfamiliar and increase a sense of disorientation.
  2. Encourage the person with dementia to take part in putting up decorations – they may not do it quite like you planned but doing a job and seeing it through can give you a great sense of achievement.
  3. Noel Festive Room SpayUse a multi-sensory approach – Christmas is an opportunity to great an multi-sensory atmosphere. We focus a lot on lights but what about the smell of cloves and cinnamon, carols with a slow tempo, textures of making holly wreaths, baking mince pies.
  4. Create oasis of calm – if people are coming to visit give the person with dementia time to adjust to the noise level and create quiet time after the visitors have left.
  5. Talking Photo AlbumHelp the person with dementia feel included – when visitors arrive provide some props to help they create conversations with the person with dementia such as a photo album of familiar photos or an item from a past interest. Basically focus on the memory they have.
  6. Pace yourself – don’t plan too much as transitioning from one event to another can be overwhelming.
  7. The Christmas diary – create a Christmas diary and put in a place where the person with dementia can see it. Keep it straight forward with the day and what is going to happen. Refer to it to help the person with dementia prepare.
  8. Remembering Christmas past – use Christmas events as an opportunity to reminisce. Christmas photos, old Christmas decorations and family stories all help generate conversations.
  9. Social Games Saver PackBeing part of Christmas – sometimes you don’t have to be doing something all the time. Being on the edge looking in can be just as pleasurable, for example listening to carol singers, watching a children’s nativity play or watching a game of charades being played out.
  10. Make sure you have some quiet time too – put on some favourite music, dim the lights and have a good multi-sensory holiday.
Lesley Collier

About Lesley Collier

Lesley holds a Senior Lectureship in Occupational Therapy within the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Southampton where her research portfolio includes sensory processing in people with cognitive impairment and the use of multi-sensory stimulation.

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