For people with dementia and those close to them, Christmas can be stressful.
As the full-time carer of someone with dementia, you may find your loved-one becomes confused, upset or maybe aggressive around the holiday season. Emotional memories may also be triggered, as other family members may recall previous Christmases, perhaps when the person with dementia participated more so in Christmas activities (for example, a mum who traditionally prepared Christmas dinner but can no longer do so.) The person with dementia may also be confused and mix up this Christmas with past ones. Try to go with the flow and allow the person to talk about older memories. You can extend this form of ‘reminiscence therapy’ by looking at old photos.
Making your home friendly and easy for your loved one can make a big difference. Put labels on bathroom and kitchen doors and on the person’s bedroom, so they know where they are going. If their primary carer isn’t staying with you, ask if you should buy incontinence pads and slip-proof mats for the bathroom, or anything else special, such as medications. Lock doors which lead onto busy roads in case the person with dementia wanders. If they want to take a walk, make sure someone tags along.
Put the hall light on, or a nightlight in the person’s bedroom and leave the bathroom door open so they know where it is. Remove rugs or objects on the floor which could be tripped over, lock away dangerous substances and remove sharp knives, particularly if the person with dementia no longer recognises risk. make sure you know where your nearest accident and emergency department is, and keep a list of important contacts by the phone.
‘Sundowning’ can occur in people with dementia in the late afternoon and evening, causing mood swings, disorientation or hallucinations. It is thought to occur due to an interruption in circadian rhythm (the body clock). Try to reduce the level of demand on the person with dementia at this time; avoid complex tasks and decision-making, reduce noise and allow time for a nap. Ensure the lights inside your house are on and the curtains are open until the sun goes down.