Post 58...Christmas, dementia, and the emotional roller coaster

Post 58...Christmas, dementia, and the emotional roller coaster
Photo by Chad Madden / Unsplash


Christmas is a magical time of the year, it is one of the only times we take a moment to reflect not just on the year passed, but on previous Christmases and whom we spent them with.

For people living with dementia and their carers Christmas can be magical, but it can also be scary, perhaps overwhelming, and uncertain. This collaborative post with Sylvia Stock takes a quick peek at the emotional roller coaster of Christmas, and how that can affect families at this most special time of the year.

The emotional roller coaster of Christmas - By Sylvia Stock

Oh My! Don’t we all love Christmas!!? Yet emotions run high at this time of year do they not?

-        Families arguing over who’s turn it is to “do Christmas”.

-        “I always have to go to them at Christmas.”

-        “I suppose they will be there again causing an argument.”

I heard it all in my community nursing days. Peace and Goodwill seemed to be nowhere to be seen! The Christmas Emotional Roller Coaster has many a customer every single year!

Then add into that the added stress of caring for a loved one at home or who is in 24/7 care. A unique set of emotions seems to come out of the bag at this time –

Guilt around not having the loved one at home to join in the festivities or choosing between keeping family happy or visiting your loved one.

Sadness because you are spending this first Christmas way from your loved one.

Anger & Frustration  because this year your family comfort zone is disrupted

Grief  as suddenly you may have to let go denial of the reality of things and adjust everything

Confusion  as you try to get your head round how best to “do Christmas”

Here is a quote from a plaque of my mothers, to help you walk though / ride the Christmas Emotional Roller Coaster –

God Grant me the Serenity

To Accept the Things, I cannot Change.

To Change the Things, I can;


The Wisdom to Know the Difference


Key Links - Find other dementia related content here

How does dementia affect Christmas? – By Chris Roby

Christmas can be wonderful in care homes, with many providers genuinely putting on fantastic festive activities for the residents, including children singing carols, Xmas grotto’s, festive food and decorations.

However, do we sometimes ‘forget’ how this may impact a person living with dementia?

Of course, it is not only care homes that celebrate; we all do, because its Christmas, a time for reflection at previous years gone by, how we celebrated back then and how we yearn for that time again. Sadly, even at Christmas, we cannot go back in time, which makes the stark reality even more scary as we consider Christmas with a loved one living with dementia.

Top Tip - sometimes a quieter environment can be better for a person living with dementia.

When a person has dementia it is important to keep them stimulated, but it is equally important not to overstimulate them. Dementia impacts the brain, meaning that all of a person’s 5 senses, and how they respond to them, is challenged by dementia. Sometimes, we see folk with dementia finding it tough to remember the correct word, or to say what they want to say; this is because their brains are having to work in overdrive just to speak as they would want to normally.

Imagine, therefore, suddenly being rushed around, smelling different kinds of food & drink, meeting people who you may not recognise but they know who you are, listening to music and discussion that you cannot follow, all at the same time…its enough to make us all tired.

There is a fine line between providing positive stimulation for someone with dementia, and negative stimulation (i.e too much). Christmas is a wonderful time for all, dementia or no dementia, but for folk with dementia, perhaps a gentler Christmas in a peaceful yet pleasant environment would be better placed, rather than the traditional Christmas as it was years ago.

 In terms of practicalities, many care homes will not admit new residents over the Christmas period, and indeed many families are averse to this due to the concept of ‘just one more Christmas at home,’ or indeed Christmas simply gets in the way because of other family commitments.

Top Tip - Avoiding hospitals in the winter is important for people living with dementia.

Many hospital patients at this time of year can also get stuck in hospital because the system ‘shuts down’ for Christmas, potentially increasing the risk of a Healthcare Associated Infection including Covid-19, or the loss of mobility due to a prolonged hospital stay.

With all that said, Christmas is a wonderful time of year for most people including those living with dementia, and by making small amendments to the way we do Christmas, we can ensure that they enjoy it in its current glory, even though this maybe very different to the way it was before.


To conclude this post is simply to say a very merry Christmas to you and yours. Enjoy the warm company of friends and family, listen to music, watch TV, eat too much cheese, and above all make, as many new memories as you can.

For anyone who is in the position of needing additional support, you can send me an email to book a consultation, or look through some of the other useful content on both The Care Whisperer, and The Dementia Whisperer websites.