Questions answered – Celebrating Bonfire Night with those affected by Dementia

November 5th, Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes Night.

The festivities that surround this vibrant time of year are often bright, busy and booming. But ‘remember, remember’, providing the right entertainment for someone living with dementia could very well be different to your usual fireworks celebrations. Whilst lots of residents will love the excitement, there are some who will find loud and bright displays frightening or distressing. For this reason it’s vital that care homes tailor their celebrations to their residents. 

At Rosebank Care Home, dedicated dementia care is provided to residents. The staff at Rosebank understand that dementia can have a huge impact on people, often meaning that they won’t act or react the way they used to. There can be changes to peoples’ personalities, emotional responses and even thought processes. So that elderly loved ones, and in particular those who have a dementia diagnosis can get the most out of these celebrations, it’s important that Bonfire Night is well-planned to ensure everyone benefits.

Here are the answers to some questions you may have around celebrating Guy Fawkes Night with those that are living with dementia.

Q: What are the benefits of hosting a Bonfire Night celebration for those living with dementia?

A: There are lots of benefits to hosting a Bonfire Night celebration! Let’s delve into a few of them.

1. Socialising: According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are a number of benefits that come from people living with dementia spending time together in a fun and engaging setting. These include: improving confidence and motivation and allowing residents to actively chat with other people who are in the same situation as them which can be relieving, as well as providing stimulating conversation.

2. Food and nutrition: Often, people who have a dementia diagnosis will find it difficult to eat, or will just seem uninterested in food and drink. When trying to manage someone’s nutritional health, muscle mass and overall wellbeing, ensuring a healthy diet and good hydration levels are vital. If your loved one often doesn’t want to eat, introducing snacks, meals and drinks as part of the celebration can be a great way to make food more fun. This can often be stress-free as the person living with dementia is just enjoying the festivities, not thinking about why they don’t want to eat or drink.

On top of the nutritional benefits, it is great fun to eat something different and provides a lot of enjoyment to residents. For Bonfire Night the residents of Rosebank will be enjoying fancy hot chocolates, and other winter warmers to add to the evening and nostalgia.

3. Nostalgic value: Bonfire Night is a traditional celebration which has been commemorated across the UK since the late 18th century, when the celebrations started to look something similar to the parties and gatherings we are familiar with today. As celebrating Guy Fawkes Day is such a historic event, our elderly loved ones, and those living with dementia will be able to remember a lifetime of fireworks and bonfire celebrations.

Reminiscing about younger years and discussing their memories can be really beneficial. By celebrating with like-minded residents, people can dig deep into their histories which will enable them to focus on positive memories and feelings, and give them more concrete memories to talk about, leaving them feeling less confused and agitated. Who knew a memory could hold so much!

Q: Can Bonfire Night be a difficult time for someone living with dementia, even if they are in residential care?

A: Unfortunately, living with dementia can often be a distressing time for the individual, and those close to them. It’s important to remember what people have been through to best help you plan and manage how someone will react to Bonfire Night Celebrations. The most difficult elements of fireworks to manage for people with dementia are the loud bangs and whizzes. Some noises and bright lights can cause severe agitation and upset which is due to sensory changes and deterioration caused by dementia and ageing. Fireworks can also bring back memories of war-time, in particular The Blitz which can be traumatising as the person struggles to make sense of what is going on.

The advantage of hosting fireworks celebrations within a homely environment is that you have experienced staff on hand to support the residents, as well as safe places to retreat to, or ignore the fireworks altogether.

Although fireworks and their bright lights and loud sounds can be distressing for some, this absolutely isn’t always the case. Lots of residents enjoy the celebrations, the bold colours and the opportunity to do something different with friends, family and other residents. 

Q: What are your top tips to ensure a stress-free firework celebration for someone living with dementia?

A: There are lots of things that can be done to help residents get the most from their Bonfire Night celebrations. 

Make sure to plan in advance – planning your festivities means that you can inform residents well ahead of schedule so that they can be prepared for what’s coming up, be that a large gathering or loud noises that will soon be coming their way. If residents are excited for the celebrations then it’s something great for them to talk about and look forward to, and if it’s not, it gives you and them plenty of time to decide on what else you can do instead.

Wrap up warm – November nights are chilly, so ensuring that residents are wrapped up well if they are going to be celebrating outside is vital. Hats, gloves, scarves and blankets will help keep staff and residents nice and toasty whilst they are watching their firework display, admiring the burning fire or twizzling and twirling of their sparklers. 

Be prepared – It’s important to remember that everyone could react differently to fireworks and bonfires. Don’t forget, it’s okay that some residents will not enjoy themselves whilst some will have the times of their lives! Making sure there is something for everyone, alongside a trained care team who can support will ensure that everything goes smoothly. 

Bonfire Night is a wonderful celebration which can really bring fellow residents, staff and relatives together for an evening of hearty food, roaring fires and beautiful firework displays. At Rosebank, the residents will this year be sharing the evening with residents from sister care home Churchfields. This will be a lovely opportunity for residents to interact with other people, talk about their lives and have a cause to celebrate.

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