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A Dementia Friendly Holiday for Alzheimer's Caretakers

A Dementia Friendly Independence Day for Alzheimer's Caretakers

by Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. 7.3.24

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Attorney RJ Connelly III

"Tomorrow is Independence Day, and it's important to remember that while fireworks are a symbol of America's birthday, they can also have a negative impact on individuals living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia," said professional fiduciary and certified elder law Attorney RJ Connelly III. "Individuals with these conditions may react differently to the loud noise and bright lights associated with fireworks and the crowds who attend the displays."

According to experts, the average firework explosive carries 150 decibels of sound, which is as loud as a jet plane taking off and can cause eardrum rupture. For individuals with Alzheimer's or dementia, who may already have heightened sensitivity to sound, these loud noises can be particularly distressing and cause anxiety and agitation.

Further, the flashing lights and changing colors of fireworks may trigger fear and further increase agitation and anxiety in individuals with Alzheimer's and dementia. What was once an enjoyable experience may now lead to confusion and fear due to the changes in sensory perceptions caused by the disease.

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Fireworks can agitate those with dementia

“Fireworks and large crowds can be distressing and disorienting for someone with dementia, which is why it’s important that families make the proper adaptations to ensure their loved one living with dementia can celebrate and enjoy Independence Day,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, SIFI, Director of Educational and Social Services for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA). “Proactive planning and consideration will go a long way towards making July 4th a happy, joyous occasion for a loved one with dementia.” 

Keeping it Safe

This week, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) provided helpful tips for creating a dementia-friendly environment. These tips are designed to assist caregivers and family members of individuals with dementia and ensure everyone can participate in the festivities.

No Fireworks - Individuals with dementia may experience sensory overload, which can be exacerbated by the sights and sounds of fireworks, the AFA explained. This can potentially cause a person with dementia to become disoriented and wander away. In addition, some war veterans may be triggered by fireworks, experiencing distressing flashbacks and feeling threatened. It is strongly recommended to keep individuals with dementia indoors and away from the noise of fireworks. If they wish to experience fireworks, watching a display on television may be a more manageable alternative.

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Find comfort items to help

Keep Things Calm - If you know that fireworks will be happening in your area, it's important to remind your loved one periodically before and during the event that there may be loud noises. To help them stay calm, consider using a white noise machine, an air conditioner, or playing music that they enjoy to help drown out the firework noise. If your loved one has special "comfort items," such as a favorite blanket, ensure they are easily accessible. If your loved one with dementia lives alone, it may be helpful to ask a trusted relative or friend to stay with them or consider hiring a home caregiver for the night, as suggested by the AFA.

Limit Crowds - If you're planning a July 4 backyard barbecue or any other event and have a loved one with dementia, it's important to keep the gathering small to avoid overwhelming them. Lunchtime gatherings are better than later in the day to prevent "sundowning" issues. Consider having guests wear name tags to help minimize your loved one's confusion when meeting people. Additionally, try to maintain the person's daily routine as much as possible. These considerations can help make the event more comfortable for your loved one with dementia, the AFA pointed out.

Celebrate in Other Ways

To make the day festive and involve your loved ones in the festivities, you can engage in activities such as creating patriotic decorations, playing or singing familiar patriotic music, baking 4th of July-themed desserts, or putting together a family album with pictures of past Independence Day memories. As suggested by the AFA, these activities can be cognitively stimulating and help your loved ones express themselves creatively.

A Final Word

"Caring for seniors with dementia this Independence Day requires careful planning to ensure their safety and comfort while enjoying the festivities," stated Attorney Connelly. "With adequate preparation, caregivers can create a special and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Taking the necessary precautions and making thoughtful arrangements can help seniors with dementia participate in the celebrations and have fun while staying safe."

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Please note that the information provided in this blog is not intended to and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The content, materials, and information presented in this blog are solely for general informational purposes and may not be the most up-to-date information available regarding legal, financial, or medical matters. This blog may also contain links to other third-party websites that are included for the convenience of the reader or user. Please note that Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. does not necessarily recommend or endorse the contents of such third-party sites. If you have any particular legal matters, financial concerns, or medical issues, we strongly advise you to consult your attorney, professional fiduciary advisor, or medical provider.

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