With Christmas just around the corner, most people are spending December preparing themselves for the holiday rush. But according to Dementia Auckland CEO Rod Perkins, people with dementia have special needs at this busy time of year.
“Family members or friends with dementia often require a “less is more” approach to help support them through the holiday season,” says Rod.
“We understand people are busying catching up with relatives, however the bustle of guests coming and going can be very disorientating for a person with dementia.
“It’s important not to “quiz” people with dementia about people’s names. If the person seems to be having difficulty with names, just give them the name of the person, such as saying, ‘John, here’s Keith just stopping by to say Merry Christmas.’ By giving this cue, you can empower the person living with dementia to just enjoy the conversation without distress.”
Choosing the right gift for someone is always important, and dementia can be another consideration when selecting a gift.
“Research has proven the importance of mental stimulation in keeping symptoms of dementia at bay, and a gift of memories is a great way to offer this,” says Rod. “There are so many great ideas for stimulating memories, like creating a memory box of old tickets, photographs and souvenirs, making a scrap book or compiling a music list of their favourite songs.”
People with dementia can also have trouble navigating a new environment, so if you’re traveling to an unfamiliar location, take the time to do a ‘walk through’, and make sure that doors are clearly identifiable. Ensure that your family member is able to move smoothly from one room to the next, and that lighting is consistent. For example, for some people flashing Christmas lights are distracting, and for others they are a non-issue.
Familiar foods that are easy to eat are more accessible for people with dementia, and can also function as a memory aid. It may also be helpful to select plain crockery, or plain table linens.
“We mostly recommend that you enjoy the holiday,” shares Rod. “Supporting a person living with dementia may take some pre-planning at this time of year, but the rewards are worth it.”
Dementia Auckland provides a wide range of services and support across the greater Auckland region. Dementia Key Workers offer intensive support and practical strategies for the carer of a person with dementia, including home visiting, telephone consultations, and support groups.
The holidays are an occasion to be enjoyed by all, and dementia shouldn’t prevent anyone from celebrating with friends and family. For more advice on celebrating a dementia-friendly holiday season, contact Dementia Auckland at on 0800 4 DEMENTIA.