Christmas with Dementia

With only seven days left until Christmas, I am finalizing my plans to go and visit my family in Edmonton, Alberta, for the holidays. 

My brother and I used to have an annual tradition where we would take my mum out of the continuing care home for an overnight visit on Christmas Eve and wake up on Christmas Day to open presents as a family. I really cherished this tradition as it was one of the only times a year my mum willingly came out of the home.

Each year was stressful; for my mother, myself and the rest of the family, but the last few years became too much to bear. We decided to alter our tradition to bring brunch to the home and eat together as a family.

It is important to be adaptable with this disease as each day is different. Even if you have plans for how to pass the time, be it baking or sharing in conversation, the best you can do is to involve the person in a way that's not stressful, so that they feel included and needed.

A question to ask is how can the person with dementia contribute to this celebration? Remember, they’re doing the best they can and they still love you as much as they always have.

A few things that I have learned over the last 10 years of caring for my mum during the holiday season is:

  • Be patient to allow person with dementia to open presents without feeling rushed. Offer help if need be, but don’t try to hurry them along. 
  • Noise can be difficult to cope with for the person with dementia.  Remind friends and relatives  to keep the noise down, or try to keep one room in the house a quiet zone, where TV, music and noisy games (or people) aren’t allowed. 
  • Tell loved one if visitors are stopping by to minimize stress. Also, explain to visitors that they may see a difference in their behaviour or demeanour.
  • Don't about making Christmas perfect. Try to keep it real, and if things go wrong, keep your cool and maintain perspective. 

Here are some additional tips for supporting people with Dementia at Christmas.