Christmas can be difficult when loved ones are ageing, but this is especially so when the unwelcome guest is dementia, says Jessica Morris.
With all the food and drinks to organise, presents to buy and emotions to negotiate, Christmas is generally stressful enough, but when you add a family member with dementia the stress levels can easily go up.
Dementia brings with it its own set of challenges. As brain function is altered, dementia changes a person’s thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday tasks. People with dementia can be forgetful, confused and appear withdrawn.
Often the sufferer shows a significant personality change, and this can be confronting, especially to young children.
For family members, the onset of dementia in a loved one can also bring up memories of previous Christmases, before the devastating diagnosis of dementia hit your family.
But all is not lost. Tamar Krebs, the CEO and founder of the unique aged home organisation, Group Homes Australia, says there are ways to mitigate the anxiety and keep the joy of the season, while supporting your loved ones with dementia.
If you know that replicating the Christmas of the last 30 years is going to be a huge strain on your parents, have Christmas at your house.
Organise a pick-up and drop them back at their house at a reasonable time in the day.
Use the tree decoration as a task for the children in the family.
Try to focus on creating new memories and living in the moment, rather than focusing on how things ‘used to be’.
Celebrate what your parents can do, rather than concentrating on what they can no longer do. Enjoy the fact that they are around here and now. Be sure to tell them how much you love them and how happy you are to be spending this Christmas with them.
Christmas is a popular time for reminiscing. Looking at old photo albums or mementoes is a powerful tool to remind people of who they are, and what makes them unique, rather than just being a person who is living with a diagnosis of dementia.
Not everyone who lives with dementia has family around to help care for them. At this time of year it can be a desperately lonely for some people and isolating experience if you are not surrounded by friends and family.
If you know someone who is living with dementia who will be alone this Christmas, please reach out to them and include them in your celebrations.