Stimulating memories this Christmas
Christmas is such a good time for reaching the person hidden behind the dementia, writes Louise Morse. Here are some new ideas that can help you do that
Thousands of people living with dementia will be celebrating Christmas with their families this year, happy to be together after last year’s Covid separation.
It can also bring an extra special gift for people with dementia and their families because although we celebrate it each year, it’s part of a life-time of Christmases that are stored in our long term memories. When these memories are stimulated in people with dementia it helps restore the person’s sense of identity and, at Christmas time, strengthen their faith.
With this in mind Pilgrim Homes has produced a special Christmas edition of our Brain and Soul Boosting for Seniors (BSBS).
The BSBS programme is run in faith groups, churches, family homes, sheltered housing and by chaplains in some hospitals, with very good results. There have been improvements in mental thinking (cognition) and spiritual wellbeing.
The Christmas session is something that the whole family can enjoy. It prompts discussion and uses ‘guided discovery’ in a way that stimulates memories for people with dementia or cognitive impairment, while at the same time being fun and faith affirming. It can lead to feelings of contentment that sometimes enable people with dementia to step through the fog and reappear as their old selves for a little while. A wife said about her husband, ‘He doesn’t usually say much, but afterwards he began talking with us.’
It is based on the biblical story of the Nativity, with relevant Scriptures, and includes suggestions for activities to do together, ending with a reflection and closing prayer. This year’s Christmas BSBS leaflet is available for download, free of charge, from our website.
Other things that families can do together are two new jigsaw puzzles, based on Psalm 34 and Psalm 150.
There is also a new picture book, ‘God’s Word in God’s World,’ that is already proving popular with older people, though it’s elegant enough to be a coffee table book for people of every age. Each picture captures a part of God’s creation and is captioned with a Scripture verse. It was the brainchild of a daughter who used to visit her father when he lived in one of our care homes. He loved looking at the pictures and hearing her read the captions. The book is now blessing hundreds in the same way. It’s obtainable here.
Louise Morse is a speaker and author of several books on issues of old age, including dementia. She is also external relations manager with the Pilgrims’ Friend Society, a Christian charity founded in 1807 to help support needy elderly Christians.