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Creating a happy and joyous Christmas for those with dementia

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All over the country, towns and cities are now gearing up for the Christmas season. As lights and decorations fill the streets, shops put on festive displays and choirs sing carols all around, it feels like a joyous and magical time of year.

While the festive season is often enjoyable and exciting for many of us, for some it can actually be a lonely or even stressful time. This is especially the case for older members of society who are perhaps a bit more vulnerable or isolated, as they may end up feeling excluded from the festivities.

This can also be a particularly challenging time for those living with dementia, so it’s important for us to ensure our loved ones have a friendly and inclusive atmosphere around them at Christmas. Paying extra special care and attention during the holiday isn’t easy, but there are a few tips for how you can help to create a dementia friendly environment at home and outdoors.


The excitement of Christmas often makes people eager to get in the festive spirit as soon as possible. Some of us may have already transformed our homes into little Christmas grottos with bundles of decorations and festive songs playing on a loop.

However, making sudden changes to a familiar environment could leave someone with dementia feeling a bit overwhelmed and uncomfortable. When putting up decorations at home, it’s often a good idea to think about doing this gradually over a few days, so it doesn’t feel like such a massive change all in one go.


One of the things we love about Christmas is that it has a timeless quality. Thanks to familiar songs, traditional carols and classic films, Christmas often tends to feel largely the same no matter what year it is. This sense of familiarity can help those with dementia to easily join in the festivities.

At home, we can support loved ones by going through photo albums and sharing fond memories of past events. If we want to take our loved ones out and about, attending a carol service can also be wonderful way to get involved with the local community, as it can be a confidence boost to sing along with carols that are well-known and loved by all.

Public awareness

As dementia is an invisible illness, members of the general public may not be fully aware of noticing when certain individuals may be living with the condition. Many dementia charities and organisations have adopted a common symbol – aptly the Forget-Me-Not, a light blue flower with five petals – to easily identify when someone has dementia and to show support for them.

Several major retailers now operate as Dementia Friends, a scheme set up by the Alzheimer’s Society to promote awareness and understanding of dementia. This includes training staff to recognise the signs of somebody with dementia and to provide support however and wherever they can.

Christmas shopping

This leads us on to Christmas shopping, which we all know can be a frantic and stressful experience at the best of times. With so many people forming crowds in the streets and in shops, it can be particularly overwhelming for somebody with dementia.

To avoid the chaos whilst doing a bit of shopping, it’s often a good idea to go out earlier in the morning when it tends to be quieter. This may allow you more of a chance to take your time as well, so you and your loved ones don’t end up feeling rushed or becoming flustered.

Parties and gatherings

Christmas is often a time for large gatherings of family members and close friends. If you’re organising a party at home or in a function hall, you may want to ensure that there is an additional quiet room available. This will allow somebody with dementia the option of having a safe and comfortable space just in case the party atmosphere becomes too busy or loud.

It can be a massive help for someone with dementia to make sure facilities are clearly labelled. This may prevent them from becoming confused or feeling as though they need to rely on someone else’s help, boosting their confidence in the process.

Overall, try to remain patient

It’s easy to get swept up in all the hustle and bustle of the festive season. However, it’s important to be aware of others who may find this time of year challenging or overwhelming.

When times get a bit intense and stressful, try to remain calm and patient when dealing with others who may be confused or unsettled in their surroundings. This way, we can ensure that Christmas is a jolly and inclusive time for all.