WHAT OUR RESIDENTS HAVE TAUGHT US...
Dear Friend of the Devonshire
We are indebted to all who have lived and worked at the Devonshire for teaching us. The views presented in this newsletter article are based on our own experiences, observations, learnings, dementia mapping and clinical research from around the world. They are all the opinions of the author, based on over 31 years of experience working with people living with dementia. Annar Mangalji, Director, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of West London for her work with dementia.
Big traditional family Xmas celebrations may not work at this point in your loved one’s dementia journey.
It is possible that a huge traditional extended family gathering will be too noisy and overstimulating for someone living with dementia.
You may have already experienced the disappointment of spending days planning and preparing, only to be told as soon as they arrive that they want to go home. They may completely disengage or get very restless.
We are trying to minimise this trauma.
To avoid disappointment we suggest you first find out what they will be comfortable with. Smith and Donna will be able to guide you.
You may need to adjust your plans. You may have to lower your expectations for the festive holiday season.
As dementia progresses large gatherings can be too noisy and overstimulating. Multiple loud conversations, loud music, any excessive noise or lighting (too bright or too dark), flashing lights and unfamiliar surroundings can be overwhelming.
We suggest smaller get-togethers and even shorter visits. For a person living with dementia whose brain is not receiving or understanding as well as before and who is having difficulty tuning in to one conversation, it takes a much bigger effort and can be very disorienting to see and be with so many different people and try and carry on so many different conversations in a short space of time.
If you do find yourself with such a dilemma, try and find a quiet space where you can help your loved one become less agitated and reset.
We suggest doing a one-on-one activity with them.
Arrangements can be made for you to participate in one-on-one activities in the privacy of your loved one’s room at the Devonshire.
One to one may be difficult if you are hosting the event, but this is a good time to enlist the help of other relatives. In our experience family members do want to help but often don’t know how. Provide information to other family members before the event, particularly if it has been a while since they last visited. Many people don’t understand that the brain is dying and need help. All you need is a quieter place, a comfy chair, a drink, the right room temperature... maybe look at old photographs or have them help you wrap small gifts. The purpose is to spend time together. If they ask to go and see what’s happening in the noisy area great…escort them, interpret for them with lots of clues... be their advocate.
Including your loved one living with dementia with purpose will provide occupation and is very rewarding for them. Your patience and skilful prompting, doing simple tasks will make them feel useful. You may never eat the mince pies they helped you roll out and fill, you may have to rewrap the presents, BUT DOES IT REALLY MATTER?
They may forget the details of the moment but they will remember the feeling of warmth, security and love.
If you would like us to send our newsletter to any other family member or colleague, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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If you would like a copy of one of our previous articles from our ‘What our Residents have taught us...’ series:, please email with the date and title of the article as listed below along with your contact details to email@example.com
2019 Feb – What does it feel like to have dementia
2019 Mar/Apr – Responsive behaviours of dementia
2019 May/Jun – Questions from family carers
2019 Jul/Aug – Memory Loss
2019 Sep – World Alzheimers Day workshops for the community
2019 Oct – Vision changes caused by dementia - power of the brain to rewire
2021 Jan-Feb – Dementia friendly environments/Simple changes Big difference
All photos have been reproduced with permission from family and advocates.
Stay safe and well and enjoy your precious time together.
Best wishes from all of us at the Devonshire