Critter Corner: Celebrating July 4th With a Loved One Who Has Dementia

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Dear Commander Bun Bun,

Every year, our neighborhood has a big July 4th celebration, with a fireworks display and a picnic. This year, my mother moved into our home and she has dementia. Do you have any recommendations for celebrating the 4th with someone with dementia?

Thanks!

Indy Pendens-Daye

Dear Indy,

The July 4th holiday is often a time when friends and families come together to enjoy a picnic and outdoor fun in honor of our nation’s birthday. Below are some tips that can help make the holiday enjoyable for your family, while including your loved one with dementia.

* Create a happy mood: Put your energy into creating a happy, positive mood. For those with dementia, the positive emotions of a good mood usually linger long after the event itself is forgotten.

* Keep the atmosphere low-key and avoid chaos: Try to preserve your loved one’s usual schedule and routines.

* Play up festive touches: The Fourth of July is a wonderful holiday for sparking connections, given the emphasis on flags and patriotic music. These elements can add a festive feeling that creates a feel-good mood.

* Play music: Try playing some John Philip Sousa marches and Americana classics or watching a televised parade with marching bands.

* Keep your companion close: Assign one relative to stay at your loved one’s side throughout. Someone with dementia will feel more relaxed and secure with a familiar face nearby who can provide food, refill refreshments, monitor the noise level and temperature, and so on.

* Don’t break routines: Most fireworks displays don’t start until late, after it gets dark. If your loved one is getting tired or restless, pushing  her to stay up might not be worth the emotional price you pay for breaking routines.

* Be sensitive to noise: If your neighborhood’s version of fireworks is limited to sparklers and firecrackers in the backyard, make sure the person with dementia is comfortable with the noise and commotion. Some people will react positively to the sparklers’ beauty, while others may be upset by the loud noise and smoke.

* Watch it on TV: If it’s not working, you can always go inside and call it a day — or, better yet, enjoy the televised versions.

We hope these tips help you enjoy a safe and relaxing Independence Day with friends and loved ones!

Commander Bun Bun

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