There are over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK alone, and more people than ever before are being diagnosed with the condition. When it comes to celebrating important birthdays for your loved one with dementia, your loved ones can often be left feeling confused and unsettled. This isn’t necessarily because your loved one does not want to celebrate their, it could be that they cannot remember when their birthday is or what happens when it is someone’s birthday. It can be difficult for you as the family and friends too, especially if it is you that is celebrating a milestone birthday.
We’ve put together some top tips for celebrating a loved ones birthday regardless of the dementia diagnosis.
Organising a Celebration
Dementia affects the physical and emotional functions of individuals, as well as their memory function. Individuals who in the past were always the centre of attention, holding the fort and been the life and soul of the party, may now feel uncomfortable with crippling anxiety around lots of people, this can be upsetting. Although, it is quite common for individuals who suffer from dementia to feel overwhelmed and anxious by lots of noise, this is due to the condition affecting the hearing and the ability to distinguish between voices in a conversation.
You may feel like inviting friends and family for a low key get together will be an ideal celebration, however, even this could be simply too much for your loved one. It is also difficult for individuals with dementia to focus and concentrate when they are faced with overstimulating environments, this is because of the visuoperceptual difficulties that are associated with dementia. We would recommend, if it is possible to invite a smaller number of friends and family for reduced periods of times, at the same time ensuring that you have a quiet space for your loved one to go to if anxiety kicks in.
Food At The Celebration
When you are arranging a small gathering or a celebration, you will, of course, want to put some food on. Our recommendations for food include finger food such as sandwiches, sausage rolls, breadsticks and chopped up pieces of fruit. The bite-sized food will encourage your loved one to eat and help them to distinguish the different foods, and brightly coloured food which is easily accessible will benefit them if they struggle to use cutlery.
While each and every birthday that you’re loved on celebrates is special, milestone birthdays show your loved one just how much they mean to you, especially if they reach the ripe old age of 100! You may be tempted to spoil your loved one with a celebration at a special restaurant along with gifting them with presents, however, for those who are living with early onset dementia visiting somewhere new with a variety of different people may be too much. If you do want to take your loved one out, we would recommend taking them to visit their favourite restaurant or place, where they are familiar with the layout and the area.
Although the more advanced dementia is, the more difficult it will be to leave the home and more recent memories may be forgotten. Individuals with advanced dementia are more likely to be living in the past, and you may find that they think they are 30 years old not 90. It can be upsetting for individuals with advanced dementia to be told they are older than they think, or that their partner is no longer here. That is why we also recommend to try and live in their reality, don’t remind them of their age and don’t use milestone age momentos, try and be generic.
Choosing The Right Gift
You may struggle to find the perfect gift for your loved one. A life story book, could be an ideal gift, it is a way to reminisce on the good times by including family photos from days gone by, holiday cards they received in the past and you could even include the lyrics to their favourite songs. Perfumes and colognes are also perfect gifts. The scent of their favourite fragrance may enable them to unlock past memories which they are fond of.