Christmas with the family


Betty’s dream was to have her family around her at Christmas and bake the Christmas cake just the way she had always done, the same way she had learnt to do as a young girl in her mother’s kitchen with her mother and grandmother.


She had warm memories of family Christmases and would often reminisce about those days. She recalled her brothers getting up to mischief in the yard while she had such vivid memories of never leaving her mothers side. Her wonderful mother with such a gorgeous smile. She would light up the room and had the warmest embrace. If she closed her eyes it was almost like she was back there in the old kitchen, mums favourite helper, sharing the extra bits of baking before they went in the tin.


Now in her late 80's Betty had been living with Alzheimer’s disease for the last 8 years. She lived on her own, having lost Albert, her war hero husband some time ago. Although she lived in a retirement village, she rarely got out and spent most of the time on her own with just the radio for company. Her children all lived around NZ and overseas.


Her family had become concerned that Betty was becoming depressed as she was so isolated. Betty had lost weight, she was no longer doing her own shopping, she’d had a couple of falls and was increasingly feeling frail and anxious. The family were discussing options with Betty including the need for her to move into a care home. Betty was upset by this suggestion and did not feel she was ready for this yet. She valued her own familiar space, surrounded with the things she loved.


This is when EnlivenPlus got involved. The EnlivenPlus Specialist Care Manager met with Betty at her home and Betty’s children joined via Skype. As Betty’s ‘team’ they shared their concerns and Betty shared her strong desire to continue living where she was, but also shared that she was lonely and wished she could reconnect with old friends.


Betty’s concerns, goals and aspirations.

Alongside exploring with Betty what her ideal Christmas Day would be, Ruth, Betty’s EnlivenPlus Specialist Care Manager, considered whether Betty was depressed. Ruth broached this with Betty who was relieved that someone had noticed how low her mood was and shared that she had been hiding this from her family. She didn’t want to worry them. Ruth and Betty arranged a visit to her GP, where Ruth was able to support communicating her symptoms and understanding the doctors advice. He prescribed some antidepressants to help lift her mood. Ruth also coached Betty on the importance of exercise, nutrition, good sleep hygiene and reconnecting with her friends. Initially Betty wasn’t too keen to reach out to her friends as they had gradually stopped visiting her once they realised she had dementia. Ruth supported Betty to set up meals on wheels and arrange appointments with her dentist and optician. She also suggested that Betty look at some ‘falls’ bracelets, some assistive technology that might give her family greater comfort, and made some suggestions about how her home could be made more ‘dementia-friendly’.

Reconnecting with friends

Ruth supported Betty to arrange an afternoon tea for her friends, and after a couple of outings with Di, Betty’s EnlivenPlus Living Well Support person, Betty became highly motivated to find recipes and ingredients for the much coveted Christmas Cake. At the afternoon tea, where Betty was ‘in her element’, Ruth chatted with Betty’s friends about dementia and helped to demystify it and get rid of some of the myths surrounding it. This made Betty and her friends more comfortable.

Connecting the family / whānau

Ruth worked closely with Betty’s family helping them to understand their mother’s condition and the positive impact it would have on her quality of life by supporting her to remain at home for as long as she is able to. Ruth also discussed how the family could use Kitcal, an electronic tablet provided by EnlivenPlus as part of the subscription. She explained Kitcal had been developed specifically for people living with dementia and would help them to ‘check in’ with their mum wherever they happened to be. Ruth showed how Kitcal now had photos and videos of their mother’s afternoon tea with her friends on it how these could be used as ‘conversation starters’ when the grandkids make a Kitcal video call to her. Betty’s family were keen to discuss her setting up Enduring powers of Attorney but didn’t know how to broach this with her, so Ruth started a conversation with Betty which the gave the family confidence to discuss these more difficult topics with their mother.


Meaningful activities and new experiences

Betty and Di together worked on Betty's 'This is Me' folder. This helped Betty go through old photos and talk about some of her favourite memories. As they developed the folder, the family became more interested, learning about Betty and Arthurs time teaching overseas, Bettys family farm in a remote area now filled with houses in Papamoa and long walks to school with her brothers. Betty and Di were able to visit Bettys favourite spot where they used to camp in the Mount, have an ice cream at Pilot Bay and watch the ships go out and Betty was able to visit the area of her favourite holiday memories, Marine Land on Moturiki (Leisure Island).


Di really got to know Betty and shared her love of recipes and together they created a folder full of Christmas Cake recipes from around the world. They shopped totether and tried many new recipes out but agreed that Betty’s family recipe was the best. Any cakes that didn’t turn out well were given to the birds in the garden which sparked a new interest for Betty of birdwatching. Betty and Di did a bit of research in the local library and registered for the annual NZ Bird of the Year vote.


Ruth kept Betty’s family updated regularly and they had a central contact if they had any concerns. It was apparent Betty was increasingly active, clearly enjoying life and getting up each day with a purpose. She seemed alive inside again.

To top it all, Di had managed to arrange a surprise ‘mid-winter’ Christmas party for Betty with all her family from across the world joining via Kitcal. Each family the day before received their quarter of Betty's Christmas cake which meant they were all able to share a slice together at their party. The tradition of the family Christmas cake continued.


* The above is a made up story based on a range of true stories to illustrate how the new EnlivenPlus service can work. Everyone’s story is different and that’s what makes EnlivenPlus unique. It is about tailoring a programme to you and your goals and aspirations. All our staff are highly trained, experienced and have a heart for people living with dementia. They are your support helping make the journey through dementia one where you get to live your best lives.


We are driven to see changes to a person centred culture of care in New Zealand that engages, enables and empowers you to live purposeful, fulfilling and connected lives.