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If you’re looking after someone with dementia at Christmas, this last-minute list will ensure you have everything you need to make the festive season go as smoothly as possible.

Let’s face it, most people’s pre-Christmas to-do lists can stretch on a fair bit, from buying presents and food shopping, to decorating and Christmas card-writing. But if you’re also playing host to a loved one with dementia, chances are you’re going to be feeling like that list suddenly got a whole lot longer. Similarly, if you and your loved one are heading off to someone else’s house, you want to make sure that you’ve packed all the necessary items they need over the Christmas period.

While there may be a few more things to think about, your best option is to take note of our list of questions and start preparing with suitable products, so that the days before, during and after the Christmas holidays run as smoothly as possible. This could be anything from checking you’ve got enough dementia-appropriate activities to do, to ensuring they’re comfy and warm in their room.

Ask yourself these questions:

Are they prone to wandering and getting lost?

If the person with dementia has a tendency to wander, it’s vital that you make preparations for this, especially if they’re not staying in their usual home. They may forget that this is where they’re supposed to be over Christmas and try and get back to their own home.

Products to try:
Simple mobile phone
If they do wander off, making sure they have a mobile phone in their handbag that’s easy to use could be useful. That way, if they become lost, they can call you.
– Signs
Putting up signs around the home could be useful for someone with dementia so they can easily find places like the bathroom, toilet or their bedroom and orientate themselves in an unfamiliar environment.
A GPS tracker could be useful if a loved one is confused about their surroundings and keeps walking off. This can happen if they’re visiting for Christmas so in an environment that they don’t recognise and aren’t used to.

Have you checked the lighting?

Dementia can affect eyesight, making it harder to see items and to respond in low light conditions. This could potentially put the person with dementia at risk of falls, or even worsen issues around hallucinations if they’re suffering them.

Products to try:
Plug-through night light
This is useful as you can plug the light into a socket, but still plug another item in on top.
Night light motion sensor
These lights will flick on when they sense motion, so are useful plugged in near doors or on routes to places like the bathroom to provide a clear route for your loved one with dementia.
Two-way light wand
A handy torch, the light from this wand lasts 10 times longer than a regular bulb and is very bright. It also has a stand so can be mounted to a wall or surface.

Are they experiencing incontinence?

This can be a traumatic challenge for both the person with dementia and their carer, so it’s important that you’re full prepared for the situation while they’re staying with you over Christmas with a range of products.

Products to try:
Incontinence pads or incontinence underwear
These are basics for anyone affected by incontinence, but it’s vital you have enough stocked up over Christmas while the shops may be shut.
Waterproof mattress protector
Putting a loved one with dementia up in the spare room can be an upheaval for them, and could leave them uncertain and nervous, which could lead to agitation and incontinence. Protect your mattress with a cover and it will be easier to keep their sleeping area dry and hygienic.
Moist cleansing wipes
If the person with dementia needs help when using the toilet, moist cleansing wipes can be a useful item to have, as they make cleaning your loved one easier and more comfortable.

What activities have you got planned?

It’s really important that you allow for the fact that your loved one might not be able to take part in the same activities that you usually enjoy at Christmas, and may struggle to follow TV programmes or phone conversations. Ensuring that you have things for them to do over Christmas that are suitable will help to prevent boredom and keep your loved one happy, stimulated and engaged.

Products to try:
Ideal for puzzle lovers, a dementia-friendly jigsaw contains less pieces than regular jigsaws – normally between 12 and 24 – which makes it easier to complete while still providing a feeling of satisfaction once completed.

Call To Mind Board game
This is a game that’s been specially designed for people with dementia, but created in the style of a regular board game with cards and a spinner. It encourages reminiscence and conversation.
– Christmas crafts
Get your loved one with dementia into the Christmas spirit by encouraging them to make decorations. Crafts are a fantastic activity for someone with dementia as they provide purpose and are fun and engaging.

Do they have any mobility issues?

If the person you care for can’t get around as easily as they used to, you’ll need to think about that when they come to stay with you (or if you’re going to somebody else’s for Christmas). Dementia can affect co-ordination meaning getting up and walking around becomes more difficult and could potentially lead to falls.

Products to try:
Instant fit grab rail
If your loved one with dementia doesn’t normally live with you, you’re not going to want to have to install grab rails in the house just for a couple of days. An instant attach grab rail uses powerful suction to stick to walls and surfaces and provides an easy yet temporary place to hold on to which is ideal for bathrooms.
Walking stick
A simple walking stick can be extremely useful if your loved one has some mobility issues, but is still able to walk around.
– Handling belt
If the person with dementia needs help getting up and out of a bed or chairs, a handling belt could be useful. It’s a padded belt with handles that lets you securely move someone around without it putting strain on your back (and nobody wants to put their back out over Christmas!).

Have they got comfy clothing?

Everyone likes to feel cosy and comfortable at Christmas, but if your loved one with dementia hasn’t packed many clothes, then they’ll want something to wear around the house. This will help them to feel calm and content.

Products to try:
Bed socks

As you age, your circulation can decline, meaning your extremities – hands and feet – can become cold more easily. Bed socks are useful for keeping feet warm.
Cosy clothing
Great for wearing in bed or around this house, capes, bed jackets or ponchos are easy to put on and ideal for keeping a loved one with dementia warm.
People with dementia are often at a greater risk of falls because the illness causes them to lose some of their visuospatial abilities. It’s why it’s so important that the slippers they use are not only comfortable but also well-fitting and don’t slide off too easily. Providing slippers that are easy to put on, but fit securely around the foot and have proper sole with grips are the best option.