How to Organise a Birthday Celebration for Someone With Dementia
Living with someone who has dementia and providing care for them can be challenging. When it comes to celebrating things like birthdays and occasions like Christmas, for instance, those with dementia will often find such situations confusing and stressful.
It’s not just a question that an elderly relative might find it difficult to remember people and what’s happening. Dementia can have an impact on physical and emotional health too. You might think that inviting friends and relatives around for a celebration is going to be good for your loved one but it can cause increased anxiety in some cases.
Here are our tips for organising a birthday celebration for someone with dementia.
Being Aware of the Issues
If you have been caring for someone with dementia for a while, you’ll be aware of the issues that might cause them concern. A sudden influx of people might make someone feel overwhelmed especially if there is a lot of noise. If someone has been used to the quiet and routine of a residential care home, for example, they may have difficulty coping with this new environment.
Simple things that we take for granted often become issues for those with dementia. If you are celebrating a milestone birthday, for example, the individual might be confused because they are living in the past and think they are younger than they are. It’s important to stay in their reality.
If you are organising a celebration for an elderly relative with dementia, it’s important to be flexible and vigilant. Make sure that those attending understand the issues.
Not all people with dementia will find a family celebration stressful, of course, and it can have a hugely positive effect on their immediate wellbeing.
Invite Fewer People
It makes sense to keep your guest list to immediate family if your loved one is likely to find too many people challenging. If things do get too much, having a quiet space where they can settle down and feel safe is also going to be important. A little preparation can make a big difference and help the celebration run smoothly.
Choose Manageable Food
Wrestling with cutlery and difficult dishes can be challenging for someone with dementia so arrange the food for your celebration with that in mind. Finger foods are ideal because they don’t require having to use a knife and fork and are basically just simpler to eat.
Going Out For the Day
You may have decided to go to a favourite restaurant, pub or other location to give your loved one a treat rather than do it at home. For those with early onset dementia, this may not be a problem but does require you to be vigilant.
It’s important to note that someone with later stage dementia may not recognise the location anymore and being in a strange place can be frightening and confusing. You’ve also got to take into account that there will be other people there and not just your immediate circle of friends and family.
If you’ve invited a number of people it can cause confusion if the person with dementia doesn’t recognise anyone. If you are their primary carer and they recognise you, therefore, it makes sense to always be nearby in case they need reassurance.
It can be difficult finding the right gift for someone with dementia but things that help elicit memories are always a good first choice. Memory books, photo albums and favourite songs are all great options. Our memories can be unlocked by all our senses so something like a favourite perfume or the smell of flowers can also be good choices.
While organising a celebration can be challenging, a little preplanning and thought can make sure you’re ready for any eventuality. It can be an uplifting and positive experience for everyone, especially for a loved one dealing with dementia.
If you require any further advice or support when caring for a loved one, friend or neighbour with dementia, please get in touch with the Wessex Care team to see how we can help.