Christmas for person with dementia

How to support a person with dementia at Christmas

5 min read |

The true joy of Christmas comes from bringing family and friends together for your celebrations, but for a person with dementia it can be overwhelming.

Bright lights, sparkling decorations and music can take their toll on the senses.

And when familiar faces and places all look different in their festive get-up it can be disorientating.

Here are our top 5 tips for who to support your loved one living with dementia this Christmas.

Here’s what we will cover in this article:

  • Be inclusive. Invite your loved one to participate in the festivities wherever possible, but be mindful to adjust activities and noise levels so they can cope.
  • Talk about your loved one’s needs with family members, especially children so they know how to interact and they can be considerate.
  • Create a quiet space that your loved one can relax in if festivities get too boisterous.
supporting someone with dementia at christmas

Dementia and Christmas

If you have a loved one who is living with dementia, there are simple adjustments you can make to ensure they can enjoy the festivities along with everybody else.

All it takes is careful planning, the willingness to be flexible and an open heart.

Keep celebrations within a familiar environment and if possible, have the festivities interspersed with quieter, more restful periods.

Christmas day for person with dementia

Christmas often throws the normal daily routine out the window, so be considerate of how your loved one is coping and try and stick to as normal a schedule as possible.

Be mindful of dementia sundowning – a collection of symptoms which worsen during the afternoon and evening hours, causing agitation and disorientation.

Try to ensure there’s enough familiarity for your loved one to have them feel safe and comfortable.

Here are some of our top tips for how to support your loved one living with dementia this Christmas.

old people dementia christmas

Tip 1: Create a role for everybody

If you want to make each guest feel like a true part of Christmas, give them a role.

For a relative living with dementia, it can be as straightforward as hanging up a single decoration, stirring a sauce or laying out crackers.

You’ll be amazed by how impactful this gesture of inclusiveness will be as everyone works together to create a joyful Christmas experience – plus, you’ll be able to outsource a few jobs!

Worried about your loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

Tip 2: Talk about how to talk

Before everyone gets together, it’s a good idea to discuss the best ways to converse and communicate with a relative living with dementia.

Everyone, especially children, will benefit from understanding that your loved one needs them to speak clearly and slowly in short sentences and keep things simple.

Dementia and outpacing

Cross talk, loud noise and frenetic movement are likely to cause distress, so try to create a calm atmosphere.

Discuss with your families topics such as what does outpacing mean in dementia? 

Outpacing in dementia is when a person with dementia is presented with too much information, and too quickly for them to process.

Talking calmly, slowly and clearly is key.

christmas dinner person with dementia

Tip 3: Amend your menu

Whether you go for roast turkey with all the trimmings or your family’s bespoke version of a Christmas feast, consider what a person who has dementia will eat.

There can often be issues with swallowing and chewing, so having small portions of soft foods that are easy to consume will help.

Hopefully, there’ll be plenty of delicious food on your menu that’ll fit the bill.

routine and dementia at christmas

Tip 4: Create a quiet space

Whether you’ve got actual kids or big kids who love Christmas, the noise levels are likely to rise as the merriment takes hold.

The combination of lots of chatting, music, and activity can deliver a sensory overload to somebody living with dementia.

How to support a person with dementia at Christmas

Find a space in your home where you can set up a quiet area with comfortable seating, a TV or radio and blankets.

It’ll provide a welcome refuge if everything proves too much.

Find out more about sensory stimulation, its benefits and dangers of 0ver load, plus can hypnosis can help dementia,  in our specialist dementia care section.

christmas music and dementia

Tip 5: Embrace Christmas music

Music is a gift for people living with dementia as lyrics and tunes are stored in a part of the brain left unaffected by the disease.

Create a playlist of Christmas favourites, particularly songs from their youth, for everyone to enjoy.

Music for dementia

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests music for dementia can have real positive benefits. There are some great resources online as well as those listed in our music for dementia guide.

A combination of carols, old time seasonal songs and swing band classics will be a winner all around – and often will result in a sing-a-long that’ll make things feel every shade of festive.

Plus don’t forget your loved one may also benefit from watching some specialist dementia tv.

Find care for your loved one

Organising care for a loved one, especially a person living with dementia, can be confusing and overwhelming.

How do you know what level of care your loved one needs? How do you make the right choice?

Don’t worry, at Sweet Pea we do all the hard work for you.

Just tell us a little about your loved one’s care needs – what do they need help with? What are they struggling to do for themselves right now?

In a few simple clicks, we’ll provide you with a shortlist of trusted, available care providers in your local area matched to your loved one’s needs.