It’s an unfortunate fact of life that as we get older, our risk of experiencing loneliness rises exponentially. With dementia, this risk can be elevated even further, making events like Christmas more stressful and isolating than they should be.
The tips outlined in this blog are designed to help make the festive season easier to cope with, providing provisions and guidance for getting through.
Dealing with dementia and loneliness this Christmas
Dealing with dementia can be difficult at any time of year, but at Christmas, when so much is focused on celebration and togetherness, it can be even more isolating to feel alone.
Whether you’re a person with dementia or someone who cares for a person affected by it, then this blog is for you. There are ways to help combat feelings of loneliness and have an enjoyable Christmas on your own terms.
Loneliness at Christmas & Dementia in figures
Last year a sixth of people (16%) with dementia spent Christmas Day alone, according to an Alzheimer’s Society survey of over 1,000 people affected by dementia1, leaving a fifth of families struggling with feelings of guilt and anger over their ‘lost Christmas’ (17%).
Alzheimer’s Society announced these figures on launching its Christmas Appeal, calling on the public to donate what they can this Christmas so the charity can reach more people through its desperately needed services.
The survey also found that:
- for nearly a third, a 15-minute visit was the only social contact during week of Christmas
- three-fifths more likely to struggle to recognise family members since last Christmas
- two thirds of family carers feel anxious about the Christmas season, with over a sixth of families having to make changes to usual celebrations because of their loved ones’ increase in symptoms (17%)
Of those who did see someone during the week of Christmas, nearly a third merely had a 15 minute visit from either a neighbour, family member or paid carer (30%) and nearly a half only had visitors to drop off Christmas dinner and presents (44%).
Two thirds of family carers (66%) are already feeling anxious about Christmas, with a quarter now having to cope with increased caring responsibilities due to an increase in their loved ones’ dementia symptoms (24%).
How to support a person with dementia at Christmas
There are several ways to help make things easier for people with dementia during the festive season, whether you’re a carer, a relative or a loved one.
Firstly, remember that you might have to decorate your home more gradually than you would normally, as a drastic, rapid change in their surroundings could be distressing for someone with dementia.
Secondly, look for ways you can incorporate memories from previous fun times into this Christmas. Consider whether you have any photographs, music or anecdotes that you can share which will help to create a cosy, welcoming atmosphere.
Make sure there’s a safe place where your loved one with dementia can relax and centre themselves if Christmas gets too loud or excitable. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you have dementia, so this is sure to be appreciated.
If you’re just popping in to see someone with dementia, then ask them how they want to celebrate. Not everyone wants to have a traditional Christmas and they may just appreciate the company without all the fuss that goes along with it.
Crucially, remember to keep them involved in the festivities. Whether it’s a game, preparation for Christmas or even just a conversation, knowing they are remembered and cherished will go a very long way. The Alzheimer’s Society has lots of helpful tips to make Christmas easier on people with dementia and their support network.
It’s okay to ask for help and accept support from care professionals
If you or a loved one is feeling lonely this Christmas, don’t be afraid to reach out for help and support. There are avenues available to help you feel less alone during what is for many a difficult and lonely time of year. Read this genuine testimonial from Suzanne, wife of a client with dementia who’ve experienced live-in care just before Christmas.
Combatting loneliness is a cause close to our heart and one that Ashridge Home Care continues to support. Anyone can be lonely but it is important to remember you are not alone. No matter what your age and health condition being loved and cared for is important to all of us.