NEW YORK (June 30, 2022)—Fireworks and gatherings are staples of the 4th of July holiday, but these can create unique challenges for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses. As we get ready to celebrate Independence Day, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is offering four tips to help families create a dementia-friendly 4th of July.
“Celebrating Independence Day can still be a fun, enjoyable experience for families impacted by dementia-related illnesses by making the proper adaptations,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, SIFI, AFA’s director of educational and social services. “Being proactive, prepared and adaptable are the best ways caregivers can create a dementia-friendly 4th of July for their loved ones.”
AFA encourages families to follow these tips to help create a dementia-friendly 4th of July:
1. Blow Off the Fireworks
Fireworks and loud explosions can be distressing for someone living with dementia. If your loved one is also a war veteran, be mindful that fireworks noise can be triggering and misinterpreted as gunshots or bombs. Consider keeping the person indoors at times they are likely to hear fireworks. Adapt the fireworks tradition by watching a fireworks display on TV.
2. Be Prepared
Even if you’re inside, the noise and explosions of nearby fireworks can cause anxiety, fear, or agitation for someone living with dementia. Prepare your loved one in advance by explaining to them that there may be loud noises and continue doing so gently at different intervals.
Soothing background sounds such as a white noise machine or an air conditioner can help keep the person relaxed if fireworks are going off near the home. Playing familiar, favorite music can also be helpful. Having favorite comfort items/objects on hand (i.e., blanket, article of clothing, etc.) can help provide additional consolation.
Check in on your loved one during the night if they live with you. If they live alone, consider asking a trusted relative or friend to stay with them, or hire a home caregiver for the night.
3. Keep Gatherings Small
If you plan on a gathering, keep it small—large crowds can be overwhelming, disorienting and anxiety-producing for someone living with dementia. Consider providing name tags for everyone to help the person.
Because of the possibility of sundowning, lunchtime celebrations could be best when there is less anxiety of confusion. Keep the person’s routines as normal as possible, including mealtimes, naptimes and going to sleep at night. Incorporate favorite activities into the day.
4. Celebrate Creatively
Get involved in the holiday spirit by doing things together. Examples include creating patriotic decorations with your loved one, playing or singing familiar patriotic music, baking 4th of July themed desserts, or compiling a family album with pictures of past Independence Day memories. Each of these activities can be cognitively stimulating and help your loved one express themselves creatively.
Families with questions or concerns can speak with a licensed social worker by calling AFA’s Helpline at (866) 232-8484 or visiting alzfdn.org. The helpline is open seven days a week.