How to support someone living with dementia at Christmas

December 11, 2019

As the festive season approaches here are our tips on what you can do to keep the celebrations dementia friendly



  1. Plan ahead: It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of Christmas and make plans to attend lots of different festive events. Although you might want to ‘treat’ your loved one to special days out and trips, often crowds and lots of lights may lead to sensory overload and distress. Studies show that many people with dementia experience increased confusion later in the day, so plan outings for the morning, when there may be fewer crowds and it will be easier for you to enjoy your time together.
  2. Revisit the past: Christmas is the ideal time to be nostalgic and enjoy sharing memories. Perhaps some of your decorations hold sentimental value or there are Christmas family traditions you can enjoy together. Many dementia patients find it easier to access long past memories rather than recent ones, so use this opportunity to take a trip down memory lane.
  3. Give a tour: If your loved one is visiting your home for Christmas it may be helpful to them if you create some very simple and clear signs to put on the doors to all the key rooms, such as the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, and so on. Illustrations as well as words are really handy. Then as soon as they arrive, walk them around your house and show them where everything is.
  4. Streamline the dinner: As much as we might be looking forward to a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, a heaving plate can be daunting for someone who has difficulties eating. The person with dementia may also feel self-conscious at a large dinner table, so avoid making them the centre of attention. If you know that they prefer a smaller serving (or that they have always hated sprouts!) adapt their plate accordingly. Being together at Christmas is what counts after all.
  5. Give them a break: In calmer moments – such as when the family is slumped in front of the TV mid-afternoon – have some quieter activities to hand. Look through old photo albums together, put on one of their favourite Christmas films, or simply involve the person with dementia in your own activities. Designate a quiet room, away from the noise of television and music, and allow time for a nap.

At Clifden House we offer a vibrant and active environment, as well as a home for family, friends and carers to spend quality time with their loved one. Our care team is on hand to offer help and advice on communicating with a loved one with dementia, whatever the stage of their illness.

We would like to wish all our residents, their friends and family and our wonderfully dedicated care team a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.