Lots of people have mixed feelings about Christmas. People can love it, love the presents, the sparkle, the food and seeing all their friends and family. Other people hate it, as everyone comes over and consumes all their food and drink and it just costs a lot of money and it’s a big fuss about one roast dinner!
People with dementia will be somewhere on that love it / hate it spectrum. It can be overwhelming with lots of family and friends that they have not seen for a long time and too much rich food. For others, they love seeing their family, who might only make the trip to see them a few times a year, but including Christmas.
If you are a carer supporting a person living in the community who has dementia, then think about what is going to be best for them. It might be nice to spread out the visits from family over a few days or weeks. If they come to your house for Christmas dinner, then they might get tired and need to go home early, so they might need driving or a taxi to take them, so book early or stay sober.
The food might be very rich for them and if they don’t drink much and then have a glass of bubbly on the big day, think about how this will affect their digestion and ensure that the carers know or they have easy access to the loo if the food has an adverse effect on them.
If you are giving them a gift, think about what the person with dementia will enjoy, food and drink are easy options to choose, what do they love to eat and drink, which is their favourite chocolate? Or is it nuts and crisps? What about a magazine subscription or some adult colouring books or puzzles?
There are often dementia friendly carol services that people can attend, so they can be part of the celebration and acknowledge the religious aspect of this festival.
But what if they are not Christian, it is just a festival for other people to them. If they practise another religion, then whilst they might eat the food that is on offer within the community, it might not be their food and they might appreciate a break from other’s people’s celebrations.
Christmas is also one of the times of year when people feel most lonely. If they live on their own and see all the adverts on TV about family and friends getting together and having a great time, it emphasises their aloneness. Think about connecting them with a community group, to ensure that they are not entirely left out of the celebrations that might be happening in their community.
Christmas can be a wonderful time for connection with your community, for getting together and sharing food and stories and making memories. But Christmas does not mean the same for everyone, it is probably worthwhile having the conversation with the person with dementia as to what they want to be involved with and what is too much for them. Then hopefully everyone can have good time.
To one and all, have a peaceful Christmas and may the New Year bring you all that you wish for yourself.