Dementia robbing families of a joyful Christmas
Christmas will ‘never be the same’ for people with dementia, with a third unable to visit loved ones and 37% no longer able to recognise family members according to a leading dementia charity.
65% of current carers say dementia has “robbed” them of a carefree and joyful festive season, a new survey from Alzheimer’s Society Cymru reveals today.
Currently, more than 50,000 people in Wales are living with dementia and the results from the survey lay bare the devastation caused by the terminal disease, highlighting the emotional and physical impacts it has on families.
The survey found that since 2022, one third of people with dementia are cut off and unable to visit loved ones, while one in four (24%) people with dementia are no longer able to take part in any Christmas activities and a quarter no longer recognise family or friends.
Tragically, one in five (21%) are unable to hold a conversation with loved ones.
Time for celebrations
The charity also reports that caring for a loved one with dementia at Christmas is taking its toll on carers. Of the dementia carers surveyed in Wales, 29% said they felt more emotionally drained and 24% felt more physically exhausted. Worryingly, 5% said they were at ‘breaking point’.
Christmas is usually a time for families to get together and celebrate. But for musician Andy Huntley from Bridgend, it will be another year without his Mum Ceri due to Alzheimer’s disease. Ceri’s condition is so far progressed that she now resides in a full time care home.
Andy said: “Sadly things changed when my Mum started to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease. She would usually cook Christmas dinner but in 2017 we noticed she was no longer confident in the kitchen, meaning I had to step in for the first time. Up until that point my mum would effortlessly cook a delicious dinner for the entire family.”
“When lockdown ended in 2021, I made the decision to move back to Wales after 12 years in London to help my mum and dad. I hadn’t seen them in real life for two years. When I did, I realised how much my mum had progressed and how my dad wasn’t coping.”
Andy continued: “It was hard to leave my life in London but it’s a decision I will never regret. That Christmas would turn out to be the last one we spent together. My dad became very ill shortly after and we had to make the tough choice to put my mum into care to help us focus on caring for my Dad. After battling with his health for most of the year, my dad sadly passed away in September 2022 and my mum is now in full time care. Christmas would never be the same again.”
“I really miss having my mum around at Christmas and would give anything to hear her say my name and wish me a Merry Christmas again, I honestly can’t remember that last time she said my name. As hard as it is these days, I will always be thankful for the Christmases we had before Alzheimer’s disease took my mum. My heart goes out to anyone else living with dementia this Christmas.”
Andy has released a single called Find Yourself in tribute to mum Ceri. It’s a family affair – brother Simon filmed an accompanying music video, and Simon’s wife Shelly provides additional vocals.
Kate Lee, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society said: “One in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetime. Christmas should be joyful but for many of the 900,000 people living with dementia and their families, their Christmases have changed forever.”
“Too many people are facing dementia alone. We want everyone affected by dementia to know that whoever you are, whatever you’re going through, you can turn to Alzheimer’s Society for help. Over a quarter of carers (27%) we spoke to say the greatest Christmas gift they could receive would be talking to someone who understands. Our Dementia Advisers are just a call or a click away. They can give someone the guidance, advice, and empathy they desperately need.”
Alzheimer’s Society vows to help end the devastation caused by dementia. For support or to find out more about the ’12 Days of Christmas’ appeal visit alzheimers.org.uk/Christmas
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