Dementia care advice at Christmas

It is the most joyous time of year, that is, unless you can’t remember why it is joyous or who your loved ones are that make it joyous. In light of the Christmas holidays, today I write a very personal entry…

It has been three and a half months since my grandmother passed away, from what we are not entirely sure, but what we do know is that she suffered in the end from quite severe dementia. Though she couldn’t remember the names, or to whom they belonged, of her 14 great-grandchildren, at times the names of her 6 grandchildren and even, on bad days, who her daughter was, but when I would call my Abuela from London, she always knew instantaneously who it was.

Happy family reunions

The holidays were her favourite time, and on Christmas Day they would drive her to my mother’s where I would meet her in the drive to assist her out of the car. I would then lead her to the sitting room where she would pat her hand on the seat next to her, encouraging me to join her. She would then sit there as her many family members would pour in the door, awaiting their hugs and kisses, Christmas wishes and a Happy Anniversary. Yes, that’s right, my grandmother was married on Christmas Day and this year would have been her 75th wedding anniversary.

She always said it was her favourite time of year; the decorations, the traditions and festivities, the food, and of course the family.  We are very lucky to have so many members of our family and no one is short of love and/or care. But many in the world are not as blessed and that is why we here, at Harley Street Care, work to provide the most passionate and quality care we can.

Coping with dementia

The holidays can be tough for those suffering from dementia. I spoke with my mother  (who was the primary care giver for my grandmother) and asked her a few questions, for the sake of passing on her knowledge and experience to our Harley Street Care members dealing with that of which my mother endured for almost 10 years.

I asked, “What was most difficult around the holidays about having a family member with dementia?” She answered, “ The anxiety. Not for me, but for her. Large groups heightened it, confusion reigned at times and it became difficult to spend large amounts of time in those situations. It can be frightening for them, and therefore painful for their primary caregiver.”

I then said, “What would you say is most difficult for you, now that she is gone?”

“Not having her around,” she sighed, as her eyes began to blur from the tears building, “not sharing the holidays with her. I feel a void, she enjoyed seeing the tradition being passed on so much and I enjoyed fulfilling that role and following in her footsteps.”

Importance of care

“Throughout the time she dealt with the dementia, for what are you most thankful?” She smiled, “The care that she had. They were kind and made sure she was taken care of and comfortable, with plenty of activities to participate in, especially around the holidays. I will always be eternally grateful for that, knowing there are many people who do not have family and friends with whom they can celebrate.”

I then asked one last question, “What advice can you give to our Harley Street Care members, who might have family suffering from dementia, especially around the holidays?”

She sat up and wiped her eyes, as they seemed to glisten and brighten at the question. “Include them. Take the time to spend with them, but not just to be around them, but to talk and engage, put their anxieties at ease and help them to enjoy the holidays to the fullest, because time is something we cannot control and we never know when that moment might be their last.”

I saw one last tear roll down my mother’s face before she got up to continue cooking my Abuela’s recipe for our Spanish Christmas Day dish, Arroz con Pollo and she said smiling “And I did that last year. I am so happy and thankful looking back that I took the time last Christmas to sit down and talk to her, I will cherish that for as long as I live.”