Festive TV repeats and seasonal songs can help people with dementia, according to NHS England’s leading expert on the disease.
Classics like White Christmas and The Snowman can trigger recollections and keep the brain active by stimulating “emotional memories”, Professor Alistair Burns says.
Emotional details remain lodged in our brains, he says, meaning that while someone with dementia may not remember storylines they might recall how they felt at the end of the film.
Prof Burns, who is NHS England’s national clinical director for dementia and older people’s mental health, 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.”
The tips are part of NHS advice issued today to help the UK's 850,000 people living with dementia and their loved ones.
Classic films to be aired in the coming week include Home Alone, The Santa Clause and Scrooge.
He also gave tips for families of those with dementia so the “social whirl” of constant guests does not overwhelm, confuse or unsettle them.
These include spreading out family visits to keep things low key and being flexible with planning.
Prof Burns added: “With the NHS diagnosing a record number of older people with dementia this year, it’s vital we all do what we can to keep our brains active and social networks alive.”
Professor Burns also urged people to look out for signs of dementia among older family members and friends over Christmas.
Emotional changes and forgetfulness can sometimes be the first indication that someone has dementia, he said.