Whether your Christmas shopping began mid-July, or you prefer a more traditional approach to celebrations, managing care over the Christmas period does require some thought and preparation.
The aim of this guide is to help you approach Christmas feeling more organised and better informed on the services and help you can access during the festive season – whether you are hosting a relative receiving care, or you are planning to help them enjoy Christmas in their own home.
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Getting the environment right
If you still have small children, then Christmas undoubtedly comes with lots of excitement. And mess. If you are hosting a relative who has mobility issues, take a few moments to consider the practical aspects of them getting around your home. Will they have space to move freely in hallways? Do you have room to store a wheelchair / walker when not in use? If they have an oxygen tank, will they have space to sit with it next to them? Considering this in advance will allow you to think about how best to organise furniture so that you don’t spend the day moving things around.
If you’re visiting a relative, ask them how they’d like their day to run. If they’ll need to rearrange aspects of their home to accommodate you, or organise extra crockery and seating, it may be worth visiting them in advance to help them prepare.
Food and drink
For elderly or unwell people, a full plate can be overwhelming and rich food can be difficult to manage. Again, speaking to your relative in advance will be a big help – avoiding the embarrassment of them turning food away or not being able to eat.
Consider too any difficulties with chewing, swallowing or cutting food. In the excitement of a Christmas dinner it can be easy for these things to become overlooked and difficult for a person to ask for help. If your relative needs help with cutting up their dinner, prepping their meal in the kitchen for them before bringing it to the table can make life easier for everyone.
Check in advance whether your relative’s medication needs to be taken with food or cannot be taken with alcohol. If you are hosting, make sure your relative has brought their medication with them and that you know when it needs to be taken.
Making Christmas dementia-friendly
Christmas decorations, loud noises and full houses can all present difficulties to someone living with dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society has some excellent advice which includes:
- Putting decorations up gradually
- Keeping the day simple and familiar
- Getting everyone involved in the preparations
- Creating a quiet room
- Bringing back old memories
You can find the full list and further advice here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/alzheimers-society-blog/how-support-somebody-dementia-christmas.
What to do if you can’t be there
According to Community Christmas, 87% of older people want a traditional Christmas spent in the company of others. If it’s not possible for you to be with your relative at Christmas, and you’d like to make sure that they’re not on their own (assuming that they do not prefer to be on their own), there are some services that you can use.
Community Christmas is an organisation that is dedicated to helping communities make sure that no one feels alone at Christmas. They do this by supporting volunteers in putting on events that bring together their community – providing companionship and a Christmas dinner, usually free of charge.
They also provide a listing of all events happening on Christmas Day, making it easy for you to find out if there is a luncheon nearby. Visit https://communitychristmas.org.uk/map/ and put in your town or postcode for listings.
Abbeyfield Homes’ Companionship at Christmas Campaign
Abbeyfield Homes opens its doors to older people in the community every Christmas, providing food, drink, a warm welcome and companionship to people who would otherwise have spent Christmas alone. Find out more about their campaign here: https://www.abbeyfield.com/companionship/
Age UK’s advice Line is open between 8am and 7pm 365 days a year. They can be reached on: 0800 055 6112.
It doesn’t have to be all about the ‘big day’
If hosting Christmas Day feels like too much to take on, then consider spending time with your relative on one of the days between Christmas and New Year. Most of us experience a ‘slump’ after the excitement of Christmas Day has worn off – arranging a visit during what is typically a much quieter time will provide you all with something to look forward to.
At Helpd, we provide a dedicated online introductory service that puts you in contact with carers – including those who are available over the Christmas period. To find out more about what we do, visit www.helpd.co.uk
If you liked this guide, why not read another: The Helpd guide to bringing care directly to your parents.