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How to have a dementia-friendly celebration

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Whether it’s a birthday party, family gathering, Mother’s Day or Christmas; celebrating with the people close to you is usually a happy and meaningful event that many enjoy.

But for people with dementia and their families, celebrations and the preparations that come with it are often stressful and challenging. And of course having a party in a nursing home is not quite the same as celebrating in your own house. Yet, with some thoughtful preparation, celebrating with loved ones with dementia can still be a special experience for all.

Here are 8 tips for creating a party that everyone enjoys

  1. Inform caregivers in advance about the celebration plans. Discuss what will be best for your loved one with dementia and what makes them happy and relaxed.
  2. Create a comforting and safe environment. This can be a separate room in the nursing home, a quiet area in a shared living room or a resident’s own apartment.
  3. Avoid overstimulation. During the celebration, keep an eye on how your loved one is feeling. They may need a moment to rest. It’s better to have a couple of short activities with a pause in between, than one long session.
  4. Reminiscence together. Share positive memories, for example about past celebrations and family events. You can use old pictures or their favourite music while doing this.
  5. Involve everybody in a fun activity. Going outside for a walk or singing together are some nice group activities. Sometimes it is hard for a person with dementia to speak, but they are often still able to sing or hum to familiar songs.
  6. Create one-to-one moments with your loved one Encourage guests to spend quality time with their loved one with dementia and have some quiet time to talk and connect.
  7. Bring the favourite meal. If your loved one has a favourite thing to eat or if there is a family tradition when it comes to food; go for it!
  8. Don’t forget to enjoy the party yourself Not everything needs to be perfect to have a successful celebration. Try to relax and enjoy this special time.

An additional tip

Let other people know that celebrating in a nursing home with somebody with dementia can be a wonderful and positive experience! Make some pictures and videos of the festivities to keep those memories made. You can share them on social media and inspire others to celebrate with their relatives with dementia.
Follow Marijn Voorhaar:

Researcher and Writer

I’m a researcher and project manager at true doors. While traveling around Europe and Asia, I've learned that many places can feel like home, when you're surrounded by the right people and being able to do what makes you happy. The last couple of years I’ve been working with people with dementia, in a research setting, as well as in a more informal and fun setting. Improvement in quality of life for this group is one of my main interests.