How to cope with Christmas when your relative is in care

How to cope with Christmas when your relative is in care

Coping with Christmas when a relative is in care - the Christmas treeChristmas can be stressful at the best of times, and the same can apply to other feast days, festivals and celebrations. Needing to spend time with an elderly parent or relative in a care home as well can add to the pressure.

You may be wondering how to make things special for your relative at Christmas – and how to manage everything else too.

If you’re in this situation – or you have been before – we’d love to hear your tips. To kick off, here are some suggestions you’ve shared with us before…

  • If you can’t visit your relative on Christmas Day itself, have Christmas at the care home on a different date. Depending on your relative’s state of health, they may not realise it’s not the actual day, and yet you can still show your love just the same.
  • Have Christmas lunch at the care home with your relative – or take some festive food in with you and ask the home if you can set up a table in a quiet corner just for your family. As well as being nice for your relative, by eating with them at the care home, however difficult, you can observe mealtimes and notice how much assistance your relative needs.
  • Where possible, involve your relative in planning something or preparing something for Christmas, however small. For example, if they can still hold a pen, it may simply be signing a couple of cards for old friends (and it doesn’t necessarily matter what your relative’s signature actually looks like). Or perhaps you could help them wrap a gift for another member of your family. Playing an active role, even if only briefly, may help them retain some sense of purpose and value. And if these are all things they used to do, it may help trigger some good memories.
  • Take a Christmas gift for the care home staff; it can be a nice way to maintain good will, and some staff may be working all through the holiday.
  • If it’s difficult to think of what to give a relative in a care home as a gift for Christmas, you could make up a book of old photographs to help trigger memories, or pull together some images of their favourite holiday destinations.

Do you have some tips and ideas to share with other families? Leave your comments below.


  1. Patricia Wilson 3 years ago

    We are lucky that we can go on the day and share lunch. Last year we had a table moved into Mum’s room and had the meal there. The year before we ate in the dining room. We can see how Mum is and organise accordingly. The biggest adjustment is mine. I had hosted Christmas for Mum for years at her house before she went into care. I stayed with her over Christmas for a few days. The first year I didn’t know what to do with myself and felt lost. Last year I decided to embrace the new and had lunch with Mum and then went onto cousin’s after. I had Christmas night later relaxing on the settee watching what I wanted with a glass of wine and enjoying the quiet. I feel that accepting how things are, rather than thinking about how it used to be is not easy but the best way of coping for me. I love every moment with Mum but also really recognise that her needs are different now. I try and make sure that she is comfortable and not stressed and then I feel better too.

  2. Angela Sherman 3 years ago

    Loud music and lots of activity can be bewildering for people with dementia. If this applies to your relative, and you can still get them into a car, maybe take them out to a nearby wood or park or lake that they used to visit. Not only will you get away from the ‘noise’ at the care home and get some fresh air, but it may also trigger some positive memories for your relative and create some new ones for you.

  3. DorryG 8 years ago

    I took my grandchildren in to see my own Dad in the care home a few years ago, before he died. They took it upon themselves to perform some songs and dances from their Christmas concert at school, plus a carol for him. You should have seen his face – it brought a big smile and a tear to his eyes at the sametime – a joy no money could ever buy. The staff in the home enjoyed it too!

    • Angela 8 years ago

      That’s such a lovely thing to do and, as you say, very special. Thanks so much for sharing it.

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