Living With Dementia: Organising Birthday Celebrations
For many families, celebrating a loved one’s birthday is perfectly natural and certainly something to look forward to. When someone in the family has dementia, however, it can often present certain challenges.
A loved one might be confused by what is going on or simply no longer understand what a birthday is and why everyone is celebrating. As difficult as it is for the person with dementia, it can also be a huge test for carers too. Making a few adaptations can make a big difference to any birthday celebration.
At Wessex Care, we provide support for dementia sufferers across Salisbury, Wiltshire so we understand how important organising birthday celebrations can be in the first place.
Here are our tips to help everyone enjoy the day even if someone does have a dementia diagnosis.
Organising a Birthday Party
A lot will depend on the severity of the dementia and at what stage an individual is at. Your loved one might be happy with one or two people visiting but may become confused and agitated if there are too many at once. Dementia is not just about memory loss. The ability to control emotions and understand situations that most of us find ordinary can be difficult for those with this condition.
A lot of noise as people sit around chatting, for example, can be suddenly overwhelming where before it was perfectly natural. If you are organising a birthday celebration, the first thing you need to consider is whether to invite so many people.
Friends and family often want to come over and give their best wishes so organising guests into smaller groups throughout the day can be an option. If you are having a small gathering, keep the food simple, including items such as finger sandwiches and small sausage rolls that don’t require using cutlery.
Celebrating a Milestone
If your loved one has reached a milestone birthday, you may want to celebrate in plenty of style. That might mean planning to go to a restaurant as a special treat. Should you want to do this, choose somewhere they are familiar with and keep the guest list down as much as possible.
Loved ones with dementia may have trouble understanding what age is as a concept or have a confused idea of how old they are. This can lead to them getting agitated, for instance, if you are celebrating a 60th and they think they are only 30. While you may be trying to get everything organised for the milestone birthday, you also need to realise that you have to be in tune with your loved one’s reality.
Buying Gifts for Loved Ones
A birthday is the perfect time to try new things to stimulate the memories for your loved one. Rather than a new pair of slippers or a cardigan, invest some time in creating a memory or life story book. This is basically an album of photos and other things that are important to the person with dementia.
This is a chance to be really creative. Apart from photos, you can try to employ all five senses with choices such as favourite perfumes and scents, a recording of a song they really love or a tactile object that they have held dear over the years.
Birthdays with a someone who has dementia can be challenging but they can also be emotional and life-affirming. You may have to do things a little differently this year but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun even if those mental faculties are not quite what they used to be.