All those with small children may be looking forward to the delights of Christmas. At the beginning of December, however, there is sometimes a dawning awareness that it can all get a bit much. As the days go by the tinsel and glue comes out and decorations are made. Lists for Santa start to be created and the countdown begins. How many more sleeps till he comes? As well as the pressure of shopping and preparing for family visits, parents have to manage the increasing hysteria. Parties, late nights, shopping trips…children get overtired and over excited about everything around them building up the pressure.
If you are also caring for a person affected by dementia, you will be aware that agitation and anxiety can be the result of too much pressure. Whether at Christmas, or any other time of the year we can all do with advice about how to keep things calm and composed. The same techniques often work for young and old, whether affected by dementia or not. Here are some simple ideas taken from the books by Prof June Andrews.
- Change as little as possible. A calm routine helps people stay composed. Surprises have their place, but for people with dementia, it can become too much and they may express this with agitated behaviour.
- Try to keep a good pattern of rest and sleep. “Sundowning” behaviour (when a person gets upset in the late afternoon, is often regarded as being caused by sheer fatigue. There is a lot to be said for an afternoon nap for everyone.
- Keep noise levels low. Too much noise sets nerves on edge and it is hard to stay calm when trying to concentrate with lots of distractions.
- Increase light levels. Many of us think of subdued lighting as being a source of calm, but for older people, it just makes it harder to see and to work out what is going on. Except at night, when the bedroom should be as dark as possible to support good sleep, keep the light nice and bright.
- Do familiar things. Singing carols and playing the old Christmas songs can be very comforting.
Christmas comes but once a year, and it is lovely, but we need to keep it manageable. Try to stay relaxed and have a great time!