Dementia experts share advice on how Bonfire Night may not be fun for everyone

Dementia advice

Bonfire night is a time for fireworks and bonfires in the chilly autumn air to remember Guy Fawkes’ and his failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

But while these traditions can be fun for many people an expert in older people’s care is reminding everyone that fireworks have the potential to cause considerable distress to someone living with dementia.

 

Suzanne Mumford, Care UK’s dementia expert  said: “Fireworks are a large and noisy part of the November celebrations, and although they might be enjoyed by some people living with dementia, others might find them distressing."

Suzanne advises talking to your loved one before the evening event unfolds. “Talking about fireworks and reassuring them that there is no need to be worried, may help. You might suggest that you watch them together, in a nice warm, comfy seat - not too close to the action.”

 

They may not like fireworks at all.  For anyone who lived through the blitz or who has seen active military service, the noises and flashes may trigger unwanted memories.

Suzanne MumfordCare UK's dementia expert

“Be sensitive to any sign of reluctance or distress and suggest your loved one moves to the comfortable room you have already planned and have the curtains closed in advance.”

A time for reminiscence

Firework night isn’t just about bright lights, bonfires and noisy fireworks.  Traditionally, many families used November 5th to enjoy traditional treats including sausages or hot dogs, toasted marshmallows, jacket potatoes and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. If you are supporting an older person to live at home, why not use these to help with two things? 

Firstly, if your loved one struggles to maintain their healthy weight or to be fully hydrated, these offer opportunities for extra nutrition and hydration. But also, it offers a chance to draw out long forgotten memories of what they ate and drank at this time in the past. Reminiscence is so important for older people – it gives the memory a work-out and draws them into conversations making them feel valued with information that the younger generation might not even know – for example eating half cooked potatoes done in the embers of a bonfire or going door to door with Penny for The Guy. 

Being mindful of the celebrations

The other thing to be mindful of these days is that fireworks are not just let off on the 5th. Suzanne added: “Many families will have parties involving fireworks on Halloween and at various dates between then and the weekend of 6th and 7th so please don’t wait until firework night to check in on your loved ones and make sure that they are going to be okay.”

For more information and advice about how to celebrate safely, visit - https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/bonfire-night-dementia-support

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