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23 Mar 2016


Make the most of the Easter break and take the stress off when caring for a person with dementia – here’s how to make it as peaceful as possible for everyone.

Words: Christina Macdonald

If you are caring for a person with dementia, the Easter break can be a challenging time for everyone as it may result in a change of routine and life is generally going to be more hectic. It may be down to you to make sure that the person with dementia is not going to be alone over Easter, and you may have the added external pressure of needing to be with family members and loved ones. And perhaps you’re expected to cook a meal. So what can do you to take the pressure off a bit?

Make it a team effort. Make sure that family and loved ones know they need to do their bit and everyone has their own responsibilities so that you aren’t carrying all the pressure alone. If you are picking the person up from their home, designate a driver to do this while you prepare a meal and someone else does the housework.

The right location
The second thing to consider is where the person with dementia is going to be during the Easter break. If they already live with you, then it’s going to be easier to try and stick to your normal routine. If they normally live alone or in a care home and you want to be with them, then it’s worth considering your options carefully. While it may seem like a natural choice for them to stay with you, it may not be the best solution for everyone. They may prefer to be in their own home with you visiting them, rather than coming to you and being in a less familiar environment. A change of environment and routine can be unsettling.

I would personally recommend keeping the person in their home if possible so that they feel more relaxed and can stick to their usual routine. Several years ago, I brought my mother (who has vascular dementia) to my home for Easter. She hated the change of environment. She found it confusing and woke up many times in the night, unsure where she was or how to find the bathroom. I put signs up on each door to label every room, but it made no difference. I also left a night light on but she kept getting up and turning it off, then getting up again and falling over in the dark. The strange environment unsettled her. She wanted her own TV and her own sofa.

I learned my lesson. The following year, I visited her for Easter and we went out for lunch in her friendly local pub. After lunch, we lounged on her sofa and watched TV. She had no spare room, so I stayed in a local hotel and went back the next day and took her out for a long drive. I returned home later that day feeling very relaxed. It was far less stressful for everyone.

Stay sober
If the person does come to stay with you, they may want to go home earlier than expected. Even if they are meant to be staying overnight, they may change their mind and ask to go home. Make sure someone in the family hasn’t had a drink and can drive them home if they become distressed or insist on going home.

You might want to consider how the extra noise in your house may affect the person with dementia. Louder music and more people in one room than usual, as well as lots of different conversations at once may be confusing and also tiring for them. If your lounge is very busy, find a quiet room where the person can sit and read or talk to you. Ask if they would like a rest. Take them out for a walk if they normally like to do some exercise.

When you sit down for dinner, don’t put too much food on their plate – give them their normal portion size so that they don’t end up feeling sick or suffering from stomach problems. Avoid letting them drink too much as this can lead to arguments and increase the risk of falls.

Remember you need a break from time to time as well. If you feel tired, ask another family member to sit with the person or accompany them on a walk.

Above all, don’t be too hard on yourself – make sure you get some rest and enlist plenty of support from family and loved ones.

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