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The hustle and bustle of the busy holiday period can be challenging and stressful for people living with dementia and care partners who can often feel isolated and lonely during this time.

There’s lots we can do to prepare for the holidays and support each other over this period. Here’s some tips you may find helpful.

If you are living with dementia or are a care partner

Try and keep as close to your normal routine as you can. If the routine must change, try and introduce the change slowly so there is time for adjustment.

Plan ahead to try and avoid last minute disruptions or rushes. For example, ensure you have adequate supplies of medications and other supplies, such as continence products, that you may need ahead of the last minute rush before pharmacies close.

Keep up good hygiene practices, especially if you are traveling. Wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitiser, carry a mask and use where appropriate, and keep a record of where you’ve been using the Covid Tracer app or booklet.

Allow for lots of “quiet time” in between socialising, and try to maintain your normal rest and sleeping routines.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for support from others. People often want to help but don’t know how best to.

The holidays are a time for memories and traditions. Music, decorations, smells and activities can help the person with dementia experience the occasion. Be mindful of those memories or traditions which will bring joy and those that might evoke not so happy memories, or those which may cause someone to feel upset or distressed.

Food and drink are a special part of our festive celebrations, and everyone should be encouraged to participate in the preparation as they want and feel able to. The same safety measures that are taken every day should continue.

If you are having visitors or going away, give yourself plenty of time to prepare. If things have changed since you last saw friends or family, consider updating them before you meet so that they know what to expect.

Be prepared for closures over the holidays and make sure you know where to go for help during this period. Check with your GP practice to see when they are available and if they have any back-up services available. If you have an emergency support plan then keep that close by and use it if required.

If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you can free call or text 1737 at any time to speak with a trained counsellor.

If you support someone in residential care

If the person with dementia is in residential care they may also experience changes as staff prepare for the holidays. These changes in routine can be distressing. If possible try to encourage regular visits by family and friends, as the facility allows, or help new staff to get to know the person and their background and needs, perhaps by sharing a story about their past holidays.

Be sure to check in regularly with the facility for any updated advice or procedures around in person visiting restrictions.

Supporting people living with dementia and care partners

Earlier this year we all saw first-hand the impact of Covid-19 for older people and those living with dementia, and equally, the impact we can all have with a little kindness and consideration.

Offering support to friends and neighbours who are living with or caring for someone with dementia is a great way to help. Make sure any support or contact you have is done safely and in line with the latest advice around changing alert levels, which you can find here.

You could arrange to visit for a cuppa, or if you are able to, help out with caring for the person to allow the care partner time for holiday preparations, or just a short break and some quiet time.

Offering to pick up groceries or supplies can also be really helpful, especially during the busy shopping periods.

Be mindful of noticing if someone doesn’t seem themselves. The holidays are a happy and busy time, but can feel overwhelming and stressful too. Take the time to check in with the person and encourage them to reach out for help and support.

These sorts of thoughtful gestures or offers of support will go a long way to help those around you who are affected by dementia.

Some useful links

Nga mihi o te Kirihimete me te Tau Hou words inside a christmas wreath