Christmas songs and movies can help people with Alzheimer’s, health experts say

Watching old films and singing traditional Christmas carols can stimulate emotional memories.

Watching old films and singing traditional Christmas carols can stimulate emotional memories. Photo: YouTube

Television repeats of Christmas classics such as The Snowman and It’s A Wonderful Life could help the memories of people with dementia, health experts say.

Familiar TV repeats and old seasonal songs can provide stimulation for those with Alzheimer’s and help keep the brain active, according to British dementia specialist Professor Alistair Burns.

An estimated 447,115 Australians are currently living with dementia, including three in 10 people over the age of 85, and one in 10 over 65.

Those suffering from the disease experience symptoms including memory loss, difficulty thinking or reasoning, and feeling anxious or angry about memory loss.

However, rewatching recognisable films and singing along to old songs can help stimulate emotional memories, Professor Burns said.

Emotional details and reaction remain lodged in the mind and can be rekindled, promoting a connection with other people, the national clinical director for dementia at Britain’s National Health Service explained.

People with dementia might find it hard to follow convoluted conversations amid the chaos and noise of Christmas and can end up feeling excluded,’’ he said.

“Gathering the family round to watch a much-loved classic film, thumb through an old photo album, play a family game or even sing along to a favourite carol can bring people together and help everybody feel part of the fun.”

Britain’s Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Kathryn Smith agreed that old movie favourites and classic Christmas songs could cheer up people with dementia.

“Reminiscing can be beneficial to someone with dementia – it can help to maintain their self-esteem, confidence and sense of self, as well as improve social interactions with others,” she said.

Dementia Australia’s tips for including people with dementia in Christmas celebrations

  • Be flexible when considering the best time to share a celebratory meal. Bear in mind that a change in routine may be confusing for a person with dementia
  • Modify the environment to ensure triggers for confusion are mitigated. For example, at Christmas, these triggers may be in the form of edible-looking artificial table decorations such as fruits, sweets or blinking Christmas lights
  • Create opportunities for family members and friends to share the caring role. They may assist by hosting an event at their home or organising a group-specific activity
  • Encourage the person with dementia to be involved in gift preparation. It is also helpful to suggest gift ideas to family and friends
  • Allow time for rest and quiet. Taking on too many tasks or trying to maintain past traditions may increase the feeling of being overwhelmed for the person living with dementia.

-with AAP

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