Christmas a difficult time for those with dementia

MEMBERS of the community have been urged to look out for their elderly neighbours during the festive season, especially those who might be on their own.
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The chief executive of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, John Watkins, said it could be a difficult time of year for people on their own.

“It could be a good time to check in with an elderly neighbour, offer to sit and have a cup of tea with them and make sure they are OK,” he said.

“An estimated two million Australians live alone. This is a good time to remind them that there are people in the community who care about them.”

For the 300,000 Australians diagnosed with dementia, Christmas can also be a difficult time of year, especially when reuniting with extended family and friends, some of whom are no longer familiar.

Disruption to routines, unfamiliar environments and lack of regular support services can also be stressful for people with dementia.

Tips for families, friends and carers

Offer reassurance

People with dementia enjoy routines, so Christmas Day and holidays can be an unsettling time. Some people with dementia may become confused, upset or even aggressive, so spend time listening to them, explaining things to them and offering reassurance.

Visitors

Try not to have too many visitors come to the person all at once. Needing to recognise too many faces at once and hear the sounds of many voices can become confusing and overwhelming. Set aside a quiet space for the person to retreat to for a little down time, if needed.

Remembering names

Make sure you introduce yourself or the visitor by name and, if they have trouble remembering, remind the relative with dementia of the name and the connection with that person from time to time.

Conversation

The ability to communicate varies, depending on the degree of dementia. Keep the conversation to one topic at a time, speak clearly, allow the person time to process what has been said and time to contribute.

Keeping involved

It is important to involve the person in activities at home. You can do this by getting them involved in activities like wrapping gifts, reading cards you receive together or looking through photo albums or scrapbooks. Involve them in day-to-day activities as well, such as cooking and walking. Also, allow some quiet time during the day.

For more information or advice, call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 and talk to someone who understands, or go to www.fightdementia.org.au.

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