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Thursday, 22 December 2016

Engage: Tips on reducing dinner stress for Christmas guests with dementia

Written by The Press Association

People who are hosting somebody with dementia for Christmas dinner are being urged to think about how they set the table to reduce stress levels.

New tips suggest allowing people with dementia to graze on items such as sausage rolls, pigs in blankets and mince pies to prevent them feeling overwhelmed.

Christmas dinner should also be a small gathering with familiar people to ensure the person with dementia does not find the day too distressing.

Other tips include keeping background music at low levels to reduce confusion, avoiding red colours in table settings, which can be upsetting for some people with dementia, and serving food on blue plates, which will always provide a contrast with the food and means food can easily be seen.

The table should also be free of clutter and kept as simple as possible, with cutlery laid just before each course and candles put away.

It is also recommended that the meal is discussed with the person with dementia beforehand, so they know what to expect and may be able to suggest foods from past Christmasses that they have enjoyed.

James Clear (pictured), a chef with Care UK, which came up with the tips, said: "The key thing to consider when having Christmas with a loved one living with dementia is to not only give some thought to that person's likes and dislikes around food and drink, but also to get family members or friends to remind you what has made their Christmas gatherings so special in the past.

"Evoking memories will help your loved one feel so much more at ease and able to enjoy the food and this special occasion."

Kathryn Smith, director of operations at Alzheimer's Society, said: "Dementia doesn't stop at Christmas and for many people affected by the condition the festive season can actually heighten the difficulties they are already facing.

"This can be very upsetting, but it's important to remember that there are things families can try to do help make Christmas more enjoyable for everyone. These clever tips and recipes from Care UK are really worth giving a go.

"Other tips and tricks we've heard about from people affected by dementia include putting up Christmas decorations in stages because their sudden appearance can be frightening, listening to familiar music or reminiscing over photos and making sure there's a quiet room available if the festivities become overwhelming."

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