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Christmas can be a difficult time for all those caring for someone with a disability or chronic illness as services and normal support networks briefly close or shut down.  Even more so for those helping someone living with dementia.  Routines carefully cultivated over the year stop and respite disappears placing huge strain on families.  I wanted to offer some tips for getting through the festive season!  Here are The Ness top 5 tips:

1.  Say Yes to Help! – Although during Christmas some external services pause it is also a time when friends, family and neighbours are on holiday. Make sure you create a network of support; people popping in to offer entertainment, neighbours bringing food, family staying overnight to offer some rest.  What ever is offered or needed reach out and accept/ask for help.

2. Keep Busy (if possible) – It get’s dark early and the weather is often horrible so the temptation is to isolate and watch more telly. However, for someone living with dementia this can create disturbed sleep (not enough sun light), heightened confusion, increased anxiety.  By going out visiting, doing activities, welcoming children, you will help the person with memory loss to be tired at night and engaged during the day.  This can reduce stress.

3. Get out into nature – Try to get out and go for a walk or spend a little time outside. As mentioned, the short days can mess with our diurnal clock and the lack of sun reduces melatonin making sleep more difficult.  Nature and fresh air also improves mood and helps bring some structure to the day.

4. Be aware of too much stimulation! – Christmas can be busy! Children screaming, music blaring, telly on and lots of excitement.  Too much stimulation can create confusion, increase anxiety and cause distress.  Ensure there is a quiet space, a calm room and active fun is spaced with calm rest.

5. Think about Communication! – Understanding how to communicate with someone living with dementia and teaching others how best to communicate will make the festive holidays easier. Those with dementia can’t filter distraction easily and so if you want to include them turn off the music/television and talk clearly so they are not distracted. Large group conversations are very hard so if you want to include someone with memory loss ensure the chat is between 3 people maximum.  However, also be aware that those with dementia can be very happy just absorbing the people and don’t need to be bought into the conversation but enjoy being part of the atmosphere and watching the proceedings.  Look to my communication blog for more tips.

There is no doubt the Christmas period can place huge strain on families and The Ness is here to help.  We are open throughout Christmas and can offer advice on the phone.  However, in the new year it is important to get people linked to specialist services like The Ness so that families can get needed respite and those with memory loss can get mental health stimulation.  Contact us for any questions.

Have a very Merry Christmas

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