Christmas is a time for the whole family but the break from routine can be stressful for people with dementia.

Home care provider Helping Hands Chester has been working with people with dementia and their families for 26 years through a range of hourly visiting and live-in care services. They focus on allowing people to stay in their own home and live independent lives.

Branch manager Claire Sheppeck recommends the below tips to make it simpler to cope during the festive season:

  • Reduce clutter on the Christmas dinner table. Vision problems associated with dementia can make it difficult to spot objects on patterned surfaces. Use a plain table cloth when setting the Christmas dinner table and choose plain plates with a contrasting edge to make it easier to identify the food on the plate.
  • Make your house dementia-friendly. Placing signs on cupboards showing the items inside and on doors to indicate which room they lead to will make it simpler for everyone visiting to find items around the home. Placing plain rugs on patterned carpets or on shiny floors will also make it easier for your loved one to get around the house.
  • Make one room in the house a quiet room. The loud noise and hustle and bustle of Christmas can be agitating for a person with dementia. Making one room a quiet room in the house will give your loved one somewhere to take a few minutes to relax and calm down until they’re ready to rejoin the festivities.
  • Close the curtains as soon as it becomes dark. Reflections in windows can be intimidating for those with dementia so draw the curtains as soon as it gets dark to avoid this. Mirrors can also be taken down or covered up to reduce reflections around the home.
  • Try not to break from routine too much. Changes to a regular routine can be the hardest thing about the festive season for a person with dementia. Bringing reassuring items from your loved one’s home - such as a favourite mug or cushion - can help them settle in your house.
  • Allow more time for everything. Be prepared to allow more time for regular Christmas activities and when you drop your loved one back at their own home. It’s possible that after a few days away their own house will feel unfamiliar, so allow an afternoon to spend settling them back in and familiarising themselves with their surroundings.

Claire Sheppeck said: “The sights, sounds and unfamiliar routine of the Christmas period can be stressful for a person living with dementia. While it's important to make sure your loved one feels fully included in the festivities, you should also be prepared to make some adjustments to make the celebrations as stress-free as possible.

A Dementia Toolkit including room cards can be requested from the Helping Hands website.