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Celebrating Christmas when your loved one is in a care home
If you have a loved one in a care home, Christmas may have seemed to lose a little of its sparkle. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Care homes offer plenty of opportunities to celebrate with your loved one, and to enjoy the festive season just the same as if they were still at home. 

Celebrating with your loved one 

Just because your loved one is in a care home, doesn’t mean you have to exclude them from your festive celebrations. Why not pop in and decorate their room, or bring them some Christmas cards from their friends and family to open and read with them? Aside of this, here are some top tips for making your visit and celebrations go well:

· Play music and sing: Older people can get a great deal out of singing and listening to music, so bring along a CD or an iPod with speaker to play some of their favourite festive melodies. 
· Show them your photos: So many of us leave photographs languishing on our smartphones or PCs, never to see the light of day again. Print out a handful of photos from recent events, and let your loved one look through them to reminisce and catch up on all your news. 
· Favourite foods: The care home is likely to be loaded with treats over the festive period, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring along some old favourites. From home made mince pies to their favourite fudge, a taste of home can bring comfort and joy to your loved one. 
· Get involved: Hopefully you’ve already got some familiar faces around the home, such as care workers or other residents and their families, so join in with activities to reinforce those connections. If you’re new to the home, this is a great time of year to make new friends and connect with people, which can be truly valuable in helping your loved one to feel included. 
· Don’t overdo things: As much as you want to enjoy this special time, it’s crucial not to overdo the festivities. Particularly people living with dementia can become overwhelmed if there’s too much going on, and even those who are not cognitively challenged will become tired if they try to do too much. Schedule some quiet time to let everyone recharge their batteries. 

Celebrating with older people in their care home setting doesn’t need to be anything less than magical. Talk to our team about how best to spend the festive season with your loved one, and make this Christmas just as special as all the others. 

Christmas at Blenheim House 

Our care team work hard in the run up to Christmas to get our residents involved in plenty of festive activities. From making decorations to buying and wrapping presents, we want to make Christmas just as fun in our home as it is at home, and to welcome family and friends to spend time with their loved ones. 

We like to get to know each individual person in an intimate way, particularly if they are suffering with cognitive impairment. Telling us about past Christmases, favourite foods or songs and other familiar situations can help us to tailor their Christmas experience to make it memorable. 

You are welcome to join us for a special meal on Christmas day, or at any other time over the festive period. In fact, our doors are always open, so whether you want to come for an hour or stay all day, we’ll ensure you can have a wonderful time with your loved one this year. We often have Christmas entertainment or other events taking place, so why not ask a member of staff if you’d like to join in with some of these activities. 

Of course, you don’t have to stay in the home, so if you’d like to take your loved one to a carol service, out for a meal or to your family home for the day, just talk to our care team to find out how we can help you. Christmas is a time for family, and whether you live nearby or far away, we want to help you and your loved one to celebrate in a way that meets all your needs.

Top tips for supporting people with Dementia in your community this Christmas
With around 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia this Christmas, there will almost certainly be people in your own community who are affected. Whilst Christmas can be a wonderful time to spend with family and friends, for all too many dementia sufferers, it can be a very isolating, worrying time of the year. 

Alongside all the changes brought about by decorations, noise and lights, those living with dementia are frequently ostracised, with two thirds saying they have received fewer invitations to social gatherings since their diagnosis. All too often a lack of understanding and worries about behaviour will leave those living with dementia alone, unwelcome and isolated. 

Become a friend to those living with dementia this Christmas with our top tips to help you support those affected in your community. 

· Know the badge: The Dementia Friends badge is a blue and yellow forget-me-not flower, and a symbol of people who understand and are willing to help those living with dementia. When affected people go shopping or out and about, they know they can look for the badge to ask for assistance. Retailers like M&S, Barclays, Homebase and Argos have trained Dementia Friends in store, who are ready to help anyone who becomes overwhelmed or confused. 

· Wear the badge: To really add comfort to those with dementia in your community, why not learn about dementia yourself and wear your own Dementia Friends badge? There is plenty of information online about how you can help those living with dementia, and by wearing your badge with pride, you’ll be raising awareness and showing you’re willing to help when you’re out in your community yourself. 

· Be accommodating: If you’re organising any events or activities around the Christmas period, remember to make them accessible for those living with dementia. Simple changes like big, clear signposts and quiet rooms set aside can make everything much easier and more welcoming for those people. 

· Create music: Studies have shown that listening to and participating in musical activities, particularly when old favourites like carols are involved, can be highly beneficial to those living with dementia. If you know of people in your community who are living with this illness, why not invite them along to the church carol service, or to a sing song at the community hall? Carolling can be very inclusive for those living with dementia, and can bring back wonderful memories too. 

· Be patient and understanding: It’s all too easy to get caught up in the Christmas rush and bustle, particularly when we’re out last-minute present shopping or getting our food for the big day. Try to think about others when you’re out and about, and instead of getting irritated by the confused old lady in the supermarket, ask if she needs any help. 

It is estimated that within the next decade the number of people living with dementia will exceed one million. That’s around one in every ten people you’ll meet. Knowing the signs, and what you can do not just to help them but to make them feel included and valued, can make all the difference to those in your community.

7 easy things to do that could boost your memory
The natural decline of our memory is a fact of life. The hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory, loses five per cent of its nerve cells with each decade that passes. As we age, the production of acetylcholine also slows down; this is a vital neurotransmitter for memory and learning. 

Based on this knowledge, scientists used to think that a person’s memory and cognitive abilities would peak in middle age, and then slowly go downhill from there. However, more recent research has found that adults of all ages are able to form new neural pathways in their brain, and that anyone, with some effort and dedication, can boost their memory. Here’s how you can too. 

1. Exercise your brain 
A brain workout doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. It’s all about exercising that muscle, helping to build its strength. The important thing here is to do something new. If we always follow the same old neural pathways, the less inclined our brain will be to make new ones. Learn something new, set yourself a challenge and see what a difference it can make. 

2. Exercise your body too 
Aerobic exercise is good for the brain, so anything that gets your heart pumping will help to boost your grey matter too. If you’re not up to jogging or jumping on the exercise bike, a brisk walk or swim is just as good. Even stretching those muscles in chair yoga will help reset your brain and keep it primed for learning. 

3. Get enough sleep 
More than 95 per cent of us require at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night, some up to 9 hours. Skimping on sleep can cause problems with memory, creativity, problem solving and more. When we sleep, our memories are consolidated and organised, so sleep really is crucial to maintaining good memory recall. 

4. Get social 
Research shows that social connections are important to brain health. Having meaningful friendships and a strong support network keep us mentally and emotionally alive. Having an active social life can slow the rate of memory decline, so get out there and have fun with your friends. 

5. Say no to stress 
Chronic stress can cause damage to the hippocampus, and is known to destroy brain cells. People who experience high levels of stress can struggle with early onset memory loss, so managing stress levels is crucial. Know when to say no, take breaks when you need them, and set a healthy balance between work and play to keep stress in check. 

6. Laugh 
Laughter, they say, is the best medicine, and in the case of brain health, it’s absolutely true. Laughter engages with multiple areas across the brain, and encourages the release of happy chemicals which can help form new neural pathways. Spend time with young people, watch funny movies, and remind yourself to lighten up whenever you feel too serious. 

7. Eat right 
Getting your five a day can be just as good for your mental health as it is for your physical. Look for foods rich in brain boosting omega 3, such as seafood, spinach and broccoli. Limit your intake of saturated fats, and replace a cup of coffee a day with a green tea to slow brain aging. 

When people keep their minds active with games, puzzles and other supportive strategies, they could slow down their rate of mental decline. This could help to stave off dementia for longer, although studies are ongoing to prove this link. 

At Blenheim House we regularly offer our residents opportunities to challenge themselves, to engage in new activities and to enjoy new experiences. From excursions to places of interest, to exercise classes and craft activities, we’re all about encouraging engagement to keep our brains active.

Care homes and crèches: How children can benefit older people 
The two book end generations share much in common. Unlike people of working age, who are all about squeezing in as much as they can with the time they have available, the youngest and oldest in our society are time rich and activity poor. They exist in the moment, enjoying the simplicity of tending flowers or building Lego, living in a different rhythm to the rest of us. 

Despite these obvious similarities, the two generations increasingly live segregated lives. Young people at nurseries and school; older people in retirement communities and care homes. However, following several years of experiments and studies, it’s clear there’s a beneficial correlation between the two. 

Intergenerational interactions
The concept of encouraging younger people to spend time with older people is nothing new. In fact, across the pond in the US, shared care facilities are increasingly popular with creches based in nursing homes becoming a common sight. In Singapore too, the nation is spending $3bn on co-locating elder care and childcare facilities, in order to “maximise the opportunities for intergenerational interactions”.  

This type of shared environment has significant economic benefits, as resources can be pooled and staff costs divided. With both the elderly care and early years childcare industries struggling to remain economically viable, this model makes sense to both groups. But what about the children and adults involved? Will they benefit from such interaction? 

The benefits for older adults 
Through various studies and experiments, a number of quantifiable benefits have been identified for the adults involved in these types of intergenerational projects, such as: 

· Learning: Older adults can learn new technology and innovations from their young companions. 

· Energy: Volunteering with children on a regular basis has been shown to burn 20 per cent more calories each week. 

· Health: Older adults who engage with children regularly experience less falls, performed better on memory tests and relied less upon walking sticks and canes than before. 

· Dementia: Those living with dementia had more positive effects from activities engaging with children than with non-intergenerational activities.  

· Happiness: An experiment in Japan found that shared play between the generations brought more smiles, happiness and more conversation into the lives of older people. 

Of course, not all of the benefits were easy to quantify, but were apparent to both older people and carers involved in the projects. Having young people around appeared to make older people feel more youthful and energetic. They were encouraged to live in the moment, instead of just watching time pass. 

The benefits for children 
Interacting with older people has a far-reaching suite of benefits for children too. The precise impacts from these social experiments depended greatly on the ages of the children, as well as the type and frequency of interaction. However, some generalised benefits can be pinpointed, such as: 

· Reading: Children who were read to or enjoyed a book with older adults achieved higher reading scores compared to peers at other schools. 

· Behaviour: Older children who are engaged in intergenerational projects are less likely to use drugs (46 per cent), less likely to drink alcohol (27 per cent) and less inclined to skip school (52 per cent). 

· Learning: There is so much that children can learn from older peers. Simply interacting with someone who is completely disconnected from the text and internet based socialisation of our modern times gives kids a new perspective on relationships. 

· Self-esteem: Research in both Australia and in the UK found that including children and older adults in day care together boosted self-esteem and promoted healthy friendships. 

Young children are found to be far less discriminatory when it comes to forming friendships, enabling them to see past the wrinkles and hearing losses of their elder peers, and to form deep and meaningful relationships with this other generation. This can help to give them a sense of who they are, and where they come from, even if that person is not a blood relation. 

Modern families are increasingly separated by distance and time, and projects such as these are invaluable for bringing the generations together. Here at Blenheim House, although not in a position to open a creche in our home, we absolutely encourage families to bring young people along for visits and interaction. We also regularly invite local schools on to the home. Talk to our team about how you can get the children in your life more engaged with your older relative, and we’ll be pleased to support you.