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The Alzheimer’s Society has discovered over half of people with dementia see their family less often during Christmas than they did before they were diagnosed

The song may claim ‘it’s the most wonderful time of the year’, but for many people with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, it can become the opposite, as Christmas can be very isolating.

That’s what a recent report from the Alzheimer’s Society is hoping to highlight.

They’ve carried out research which has found over half of people affected by dementia find Christmas the most isolating time of the year, with many saying that they actually dread the festive season. Just over half (54%) say the see their friends and family less often over the Christmas period than they did before their diagnosis.

The survey also discovered that 49% of people get stressed by the change to their usual routine, 39% find Christmas shopping challenging because the shops are too busy, 31% find preparing Christmas dinner more difficult and 22% get irritated or confused by decorations such as Christmas lights and trees.

One major challenge highlighted by the research was that shops are still not particularly supportive for people with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society is working with major retailers so that staff can learn about dementia and the steps they can take to make a difference. Sainsbury’s, Argos, Barclays, Homebase, Lloyds and M&S are just some of the companies that are working to become dementia-friendly.

Kathryn Smith, Director of Operations at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

‘While for many this time of year is full of excitement, we must not forget that dementia doesn’t stop at Christmas and feelings such as isolation and confusion can be intensified during this time of year.

‘Alzheimer’s Society is here to support people affected by dementia to cope in the lead up to Christmas. From not overloading the dinner plate to allocating a quiet room where people with dementia can find solace during busy times, our guidance on how to support people during the festive season will empower people to make small steps to have a better experience.’

They want to draw attention to their Talking Point forum, where people can talk to others in the same position, and their helpline (0300 222 1122) which is staffed by people trained to provide guidance.

Debbie Granger, 50, from Telford, Shropshire helps her father, Geoff, to care for her mum, Chris, who lives with vascular dementia. Christmas has changed in a big way since Chris’s diagnosis, but together the family has made adaptions to ensure they can still celebrate the festivities

‘The changes caused by Mum’s dementia are particularly noticeable at Christmas. We have found that many people lack empathy and patience for Mum’s condition, and as a result we don’t get invited to Christmas parties anymore or have friends over. It’s sad, but we have learnt to adjust to dementia being part of our Christmas.

‘With the advice we were given at the Dementia Cafe we attend, we have put steps in place so Mum and Dad can still enjoy the festivities. We play board games that are designed for people with dementia which help jog memories and reminisce about the past. It’s a new kind of Christmas, and certainly quieter and lower key than past ones, but Mum can still enjoy it and that’s all that matters.’

For more tips on helping a loved one stay happy and calm at Christmas, check out some of our other Christmas articles here.