As we approach the end of November, our thoughts turn towards the festive period, and we recall how those few days of Christmas come and go in a whirlwind of carols, tinsel, family and friends. But in a care home, it can be a tricky time. We share some of our top tips for a happy season.
Like Easter, this is one of the times of year when we most successfully ‘cue’ people into the time of year and the many events we have planned. Many organisations start their festivities before Advent starts, with opportunities to stir the Christmas cake and pudding mixtures. Once December starts, Christmas tree decorating, card writing, practising carols, and reminiscing about nativity plays of old over a cup of tea and a mince pie are great opportunities for meaningful activity and occupation.
Using the evocative scents and tastes of festive fare offers fabulous opportunities to engage with people at different points in their journey with dementia. Activities using songs associated with Christmas and sharing the wide-eyed excitement of children from local primary schools singing their newly learned Away in a Manger create shared moments to reminisce, and can be particularly beneficial for those with advanced dementia.
Life stories and experiences can be particularly poignant at this time of year. It is important to recognise that not everyone has happy memories of Christmastime, so sensitivity and empathy are essential – a negative response to activities or refusal to join in might be an indicator either that the person has sad memories of this time of year, or that they are struggling to make sense of their current reality.
Christmas activities are often full of noise and colour, yet sometimes people with dementia have difficulty with too much noise and chatter. Making sure there are quiet times and safe havens from the hustle, bustle and excitement of the festive period can offer much-needed time for reflection as well as recognising and supporting diversity and differing needs of the people we support.