A BROMSGROVE care home has offered advice to people spending Christmas with a loved one living with dementia.
The assistance comes from Suzanne Mumford who is the head of dementia at Care UK which runs Chandler Court on Recreation Road.
She said: “Firstly, use your knowledge of the person’s likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests – think about what makes them an individual.
“With this in mind, also think about what their current reality is.
“For example, do you feel that they think they are living in a different era?”
She added if that was the case people should think about gifts to give them or items to use when interacting with them.
“The sense of smell has a very powerful link to memories, so a much-loved perfume or aftershave worn when they were younger is ideal because it helps to maintain grooming routines and the memory recall that its smell provokes is also beneficial.”
Music is also important – from personal connections to helping people tune in to their past.
Vongai Mushinga, Home Manager at Chandler Court, adds: “Music plays a big part of life here at Chandler Court and we’ve seen its benefits on those living with dementia. CDs or a personalised playlist make wonderful presents and the internet means we can now get access to some obscure tracks from across the decades.
“The trick is to find out where the person is in their memory. A lady in her 80s probably won’t want to hear music from the 1940s, because in her mind she is 40 and enjoying listening to the Beatles, Mungo Jerry or Brotherhood of Man. The important thing is to keep talking to the person to find out what they like.
“DVDs also make a useful present as they bring back memories of another era and trips to ‘the flicks’.
“Especially useful are the compilation DVDs that have the best songs, dances or scenes from much-loved films as they are full of life and don’t require too much concentration. Alternatively, many people love the quick humour of programmes like Morecambe and Wise, Dad’s Army, ‘allo ‘allo, and Steptoe and Son.”
Another piece of wise advice from Suzanne is to look in the gift shop of your local museum, as they often have everything from ration books and old photograph books to old toy cars. These can make lovely presents and also prompt conversation and memory sharing.
Sensory gifts, like a scented hand cream that you can gently massage your loved one’s hands, are also examples of gifts that can offer a comforting touch that is often missing in the later stages of life.
Vongai said: “Perhaps you might prefer to make a gift instead.
“Memory boxes or albums designed to trigger memories and conversations can also be fantastic presents.
“You can fill it with old photos and trinkets to build up a link to the past.
“For example, if it were the memory of a trip to the seaside, you may include postcards, shells and old photos of the seaside resorts the person used to enjoy visiting.”
Suzanne added older people are also from a generation which used to make their own gifts and this is an activity which can be shared with family members.
“Older people are also from a generation that used to make their own gifts.
“Whether it’s sitting down to decorate a jar and filling it with bath crystals, decorating cakes, knitting or making cards, these activities are not only creative and rewarding for the person themselves, but gives you a chance to sit, chat and laugh about Christmases past.
“They could help to make a memory box for someone else, which offers an increased sense of purpose.”
And Vongai added: “Throughout the year, we should all try to remember that the greatest gift we can offer older people is our time.
“The last two years have been incredibly challenging, and particularly for older people, with so many self-isolating for long periods of time. Often a phone call, visit, or helping hand can make all the difference.
“We understand that lots of relatives or friends feel unsure when it comes to gifts for their loved one living with dementia, and we hope our tips provide some inspiration and reassurance to those struggling.”
Call Customer Relations Manager, Paul Chambers, on 01527 907 849 or email Paul.Chambers@careuk.com for more on Chandler Court in Bromsgrove.
Alternatively, visit careuk.com/chandler-court.