Social gatherings are times of enjoyment, laughter, storytelling and sharing food and drink, but what happens when dementia is part of the social plan? Can your loved one still take part? Should s/he?
The answer is: It depends…
Birthday parties, family celebrations and holidays are wonderful times. Family and friends get together and settle in with something to eat and a delicious beverage. There is a lot of noise, multiple conversations, games and children running around. Everyone is having fun and enjoying the atmosphere… but are they?
A person with dementia may not enjoy this chaotic and noisy environment the way they once had. S/He may have difficulty with all of the movement, conversations, and what once was an event s/he would have relished. It may now be stressful and frightening.
So, how do you determine if a person with dementia can still handle these events? In many cases, your answer is found while observing the person both at home and when they attend familiar events (church, going to the store). Consider these three questions:
- What facial expression does the person have during these event(s)?
- How does s/he behave before/during/after the event(s)?
- What does s/he say or how does s/he act about wanting to participate in the event?
Often, we miss asking and listening to the answer for number three. We look at things from our viewpoint and forget the potential difficulty that a person with dementia may have in something that s/he previously loved to do.
In the event that the individual must be included in an event, consider these three tips to make the time spent more pleasant to the individual and to other participants…
- Share the best way to communicate with the person who has dementia (short phrases or single words, or visual options)
- Move the person with dementia away from the center of the event to a location that is less stimulating
- Observe the person with dementia for signs that s/he has had enough and needs to go home or do something different (take a walk, go to the bathroom, look at a book)
By taking time to consider a few changes, social gatherings can be less stressful to the person with dementia and his/her care partners.