'˜Why we're taking a christmas picnic to our mum, who suffers from dementia'

NEW research by the Alzheimer's Society today reveals more than half of people affected by dementia find Christmas to be the most isolating time of the year. But one Lancashire family have arranged an alternative Christmas for their loved one, to make the festive period more special

Saturday, 10th December 2016, 3:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:48 pm
Susan Restorick, 59, with her mum who has dementia at a previous Christmas celebration

“WE don’t dwell on the past or the future. The dementia is now part of mum’s life and we just work with that.”

Susan Restorick, 59, and her family have arranged an alternative Christmas for her mother Cora, 87, who lives in a specialist dementia care home.

They will be taking a Christmas picnic into the home and spending the day with her there as they don’t want her to feel isolated over the festive period.

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Susan, from Lytham, explains: “This Christmas we wanted to do something a little different with mum.

“As she struggles to eat some food now, my daughter is putting together a Christmas picnic that we are going to all have in the care home on Christmas Day.

“It started just being me going to visit, but now the whole family are coming.

“As a family we have a very positive outlook. We don’t dwell on the past or the future we take the approach of focusing on the now.

“The dementia is now part of mum’s life and we just work with that.

“That’s why we want to celebrate Christmas in this way with mum and give her a lovely day.”

The family’s heartwarming plans come as new research by the Alzheimer’s Society has uncovered that more than half of people affected by dementia (51 per cent) find Christmas to be the most isolating time of the year, with many stating they are dreading the festivities.

Fifty-four per cent of those surveyed said they see their friends and family less often over the Christmas period than they did before their dementia diagnosis.

Living with dementia can be very challenging – but around this time of year the difficulties people face and the emotions they experience are often heightened, with 49 per cent of those surveyed reporting that the change in their usual routine is stressful.

Thirty-eight per cent felt the extra noise associated with the excitement of the festive season can be stressful and 31 per cent found preparing Christmas dinner more challenging and 22 per cent said decorations such as Christmas lights and trees can be irritating and confusing

Despite the challenges, people affected by dementia have told Alzheimer’s Society that there are things that will make their Christmas a more enjoyable experience.

This includes seeing friends and family more frequently and keeping to their daily routine as much as possible, such as set meal times.

Sharing experiences and talking to others in a similar situation were also cited as important to having the best possible Christmas.

Deborah Parker, operations manager for Alzheimer’s Society in Lancashire says: “While for many this time of year is full of excitement, we must not forget that dementia doesn’t stop at Christmas and feelings such as isolation and confusion can be intensified during this time of year.”

To support families affected by dementia at this time of year, Alzheimer’s Society has created an infographic – www.alzheimers.org.uk/supportatchristmas – with guidance including introducing Christmas decorations gradually, over the course of a few days or even a week, so that it doesn’t come as a big change to the person’s usual setting.

Alzheimer’s Society also provides a range of services to enable people to have the best possible experience over the festive season.

People affected by dementia told the charity that sharing experiences would help and Talking Point, the charity’s online discussion forum, is a place where they can get advice.

n The festive season doesn’t have to be the loneliest time of the year for people affected by dementia. Alzheimer’s Society is there to help. Text DONATE to 70660 and donate £3 to help fund vital services.