Christmas is almost upon us, and there are always joys, but also lots of sadnesses and sorrow that can make this time of year challenging. Grief is one of the big challenges for both people with dementia, and their families.
When we can no longer remember our family, it is perhaps more difficult for them, and and not knowing how to connect when a loved one no longer recognises family or understands place and time is certainly difficult for others, but it is challenging for people with dementia as well.
One key to connecting with loved ones with dementia is “to be where they are.” For example, if they think it is still 1927, you will not convince them it is 2014, and imagine how upsetting it would to be to not remember having children or grandchildren. Don’t start conversations with “Remember when…” No one likes taking quizzes they will fail! Instead, ask how his or her day is and talk about the plans for the day, perhaps even as they are happening, rather in advance.
Play music we remember, or that we enjoy. When dementia means a person can no longer verbally communicate, the five senses become very important for mental stimulation as words slip away. Just like music, familiar noises whether a white noise machine playing beach waves or recordings of family voices reading a favorite book can be soothing.
Make sure the physical environment including things like lighting are access are dementia friendly. Photographs and memorabilia may help. Fill the room with photographs and accomplishments of the past, rather than new people or new events; it might be better to avoid current photos that will be confusing. Old photos may also help start conversations about memories.
No matter of the reaction or a lack of reaction or the variation of a mix of emotion, remember the cliché, “It’s the thought that counts.”
Finally, we have a poem written by a DAI member Mick Carmody, some of htis thoughts on Christmas. Thank you Mick.
HO HO HO!
Not long now before we hear HO HO HO! all day and night
Houses and gardens decked out in flashing lights bright
Trees with tinsel, lights and christmas baubles, prezzies under the tree
Auzzies swelter in the heat, America plays in the snow with glee
Santa down the chimney what does this mean to me
The family get together once a year
Mixed with alcohol same stories brings a tear
I live with Dementia, I don’t drink or like crowds or bright lights
Anxiety, fear, mixed with glares and stares and disbelief from many
with short sights
He is to young for Dementia, you must be seventy and a nanny
I know, I have seen many
Is he loopy or just plain dumb as alcohol takes over numbing the
Brain into gear before mouth into action is becoming a strain
Those who know my symptoms are real, lose tears and show grief
My carer sighs with relief
Santa please see to it next christmas I am with only those who
understand and care
Everybody living with Dementia has similar Christmas family stories
CHRISTMAS WISHES TO ALL
(Mick Carmody © 2014)