Settling down on the sofa to watch a TV show is as much a part of the festive season as turkey and mince pies. Here’s our selection of the best shows airing this Christmas that will trigger memories and special moments for someone with dementia
Television can play a useful role at Christmas when you’re caring for someone with dementia. The right shows at the right time can help loved ones to relax, and may even stir good memories and great conversation. But with so many channels and programmes to choose from, simply selecting something what they (and you) might enjoy could take quite some time…So we’ve done the leg work for you! Here’s 12 dementia-friendly dramas, comedies and films which will be screened over Christmas.
TIP: Don’t be disheartened if they can’t sit through the whole film…it’s the quality of the experience that matters and the conversation and memories it might trigger.
Hilda Ogden’s Last Ta-Ra
Tuesday 20 December, 8pm, ITV
This tribute to recently deceased Coronation Street legend Jean Alexander will include classic comic clips from her lengthy Corrie career which started back in 1964. The programme will include a special recreation of Stan and Hilda’s living room set, including Hilda’s treasured ‘muriel.’ Around 20 million viewers watched Stan and Hilda in their heyday, and if your loved one was one of them this is likely to trigger some lovely memories and become a great conversation starter. And if you don’t know about the ‘muriel’…ask them to explain!
Back in Time for Christmas
Wednesday 21 December, 5pm, BBC2
The Robshaw family experience what the festive period was like in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. This is, admittedly, a repeat from last Christmas but nevertheless we think older people with dementia could find it very enjoyable. Younger members of the family could also find it educational, and make them feel rather lucky too – the 1940s Christmas looks pretty grim!
Christmas With the Double Acts
Friday 23 December 8pm, Channel 5
Laugh along with some stand out comic moments from some of the greatest double acts to have been on TV, including Morecambe and Wise, The Two Ronnies, French and Saunders and Ant and Dec.
Christmas Eve, 4.45pm, Channel 4
This Christmas classic animation about the small boy whose snowman magically comes to life will delight everyone. For loved ones with dementia the beautiful music and animations could provide a soothing experience – one where words aren’t needed.
Call the Midwife
Christmas Day, 8pm, BBC1
The year is 1962 but instead of shivering in London’s East End, this heart-warming two hour special has the nuns and midwives of Nonnatus House working in a missionary clinic in South Africa…and delivering lots of lovely babies. This is feel-good TV at its best and it’s bound to bring back many fond memories, particularly for loved ones who raised families during the Sixties.
Ethel and Ernest
Wednesday 28 December, 7.30pm, BBC1
Get your hankies ready for this tender love story by Raymond Briggs (author of The Snowman) which will resonate with many families on the dementia journey. The beautifully animated film tells the story of Raymond’s parents Ernest, a cheery milkman and Ethel who met in 1928 and enjoyed a 41-year marriage, until Ethel is diagnosed with dementia and gradually loses her memories. Bringing their story to life was an emotional experience for Raymond, now 82, who was in tears when he heard Jim Broadbent (Ernest) and Brenda Blethyn (Ethel) record their parts. ‘He said it was like having his mum and dad there,’ says Brenda Blethyn. ‘The characters are very reminiscent of my own parents, it was an emotional journey for me too.’ We’ve no doubt many others will feel the same.
Three Memorable Musicals
We all know the power of music to bring back memories, so these delightful musicals could be just what your loved one needs. Be aware that they may not want to sit through the whole film, but even a few excerpts could be enough to have them singing along and tapping their toes.
Singing in the Rain
Christmas Day, 4.10pm, Channel 5
A dazzling Hollywood musical from 1952 starring Gene Kelly and including that famous tap dance amongst the puddles…
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Boxing Day, 12.20pm, Channel 5
A slick foot-stomping musical staring Fifties heartthrob Howard Keele with outstanding songs including Bless Your Beautiful Hide and Spring, Spring, Spring.
Tuesday 27 December, 9pm, Channel 5
Made in the eighties but set in 1963 this first-love romance starring Patrick Swayze just has one hit song after another, and some impressive dirty dancing…You could have the time of your life watching it.
Three Christmas Classics
You may groan because you’ve seen them so many times, but for a loved one with dementia these beautifully made black and white films could provide some powerful reminiscence therapy.
Miracle on 34th Street
Friday 23 December, 12.10pm, Channel 4
This original Christmas classic stars a very young Natalie Wood as the little girl who doesn’t believe in Father Christmas…and the superb Edmund Gwenn as the man who manages to change her mind.
Scrooge: A Christmas Carol
Christmas Eve, 5.10pm, Channel 5
Arguably the best version of the Dickens story ever made, this wonderfully atmospheric film stars the great Alistair Sim as the ultimate miser, Ebenezer Scrooge.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Christmas Day, 2pm, Channel 4
It doesn’t matter how many times you watch this film, its wise message (no man is a failure if he has friends) never fails to disappoint. If your loved one is likely to find it difficult to sit through all 135 minutes, try watching the first 10 minutes and the last half hour. The sight of James Stewart running up the main street of Bedford Falls shouting ‘Merry Christmas everyone!’ could be enough to stir many happy memories and feel-good emotions.