This Christmas, make your holiday a dementia-friendly Christmas! Today we share strategies for maintaining a dementia-friendly atmosphere while celebrating the holiday season.
What exactly does dementia-friendly mean?
Dementia-friendly means to respect, support, and understand persons living with dementia and be inclusive to individuals. Being dementia-friendly means that you are not only supporting persons with dementia but supporting all persons. As a way to be dementia-friendly this holiday season, it's important that you understand dementia and the ways in which individuals might need extra assistance or redirection. It's essential not to argue with a person with dementia even if they might not be entirely correct. Instead, agree with individuals and support them in the present moment. Create an atmosphere that is welcoming, not too overwhelming, and make a quiet, safe area for a loved one with dementia to go to if they do begin feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. This provides them with the opportunity to take a break and relax, allowing them to have a more enjoyable time.
For example, if your family opens gifts on Christmas day and typically go around a circle subsequently and your loved one is no longer opening gifts in the same order, do not argue or disagree with them and let them continue opening their presents the way they want to. Be flexible and open to adaptations.
Creating a dementia-friendly environment
It's essential that you understand your loved one with dementia and create an environment that empowers them to continue engaging with others and makes them feel comfortable. Loud music, a lot of conversations, and full spaces can make persons with dementia feel overwhelmed. Ensure there are no obstacles in the path of travel that could lead to any accidents. Be aware of these sensory aspects in the environment and make your loved one feel comfortable. If they seem overwhelmed, ask them what you can do to make their experience better. Perhaps reading a favourite story, listening to calming Christmas music, or sipping their favourite drink might help them relax.
Keep in mind their personal preferences and offer options
What are some of their favourite traditions or things to do over the holiday season? Provide them with the opportunity to make choices about what they want to do and offer options for them. This allows persons with dementia to feel dignified when provided with choices. Keep in mind that everyone experiences dementia differently, so knowing each person's preferences is an important aspect to providing the best care.
Visiting in long-term care
If your loved one is in long-term care this holiday season, pay them a nice visit! Bring along any of their favourite holiday things and create an environment filled with Christmas cheer and the special time of year. The holiday season can often be a time where persons living with dementia can feel isolated or lonely, but by stopping in and visiting them, this can have such a positive impact. At the end of the day everyone, no matter a dementia diagnosis or not, should enjoy the holiday season alongside their friends and family.
How do you make your home or space dementia-friendly over the holiday season? Share with us in the comments below!