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Christmas TV repeats could help people with dementia, says NHS

Familiar TV shows and old seasonal songs can provide stimulation for people with Alzheimer’s and help keep the brain active.

(Joe Giddens/PA)
(Joe Giddens/PA)

By Caitlin Doherty, PA

Reruns of Christmas classics such as The Snowman and It’s A Wonderful Life could help the memories of people with dementia, according to the NHS.

Familiar TV repeats and old seasonal songs can provide stimulation for people with Alzheimer’s and help keep the brain active.

According to NHS dementia specialist Professor Alistair Burns, rewatching recognisable films and singing along to old songs can help stimulate emotional memories.

Whether it’s an old song they used to enjoy or a classic Christmas film, reminiscing can be beneficial to someone with dementia Alzheimer’s Society

Emotional details and reaction remain lodged in the mind and can be rekindled, promoting a connection with other people, according to Prof Burns, the national clinical director for dementia and older people’s mental health.

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

“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.”

Prof Burns also offered advice for families helping a relative with dementia at Christmas, suggesting people spread out family visits to keep things familiar, and not overloading on food, as a full plate may prove difficult for a person with dementia who has eating difficulties.

Kathryn Smith, chief operating officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Whether it’s an old song they used to enjoy or a classic Christmas film, 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.”

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