Father’s Day is the perfect opportunity to spend time together as a family, but the celebration can be stressful for people living with dementia.
Too much noise, unfamiliar situations, and hustle and bustle can all be a source of anxiety to someone coping with Alzheimer’s or one of the other forms of dementia, and can spoil what should be enjoyable time together.
The key to success is to keep things as relaxed and stress-free as possible, so keep in mind our 5 tips to keep things simple and fun...
Plan family meals carefully
Noisy environments and formal meals which often entail long periods of sitting still and waiting can be a source of restlessness and anxiety.
If you’re planning to go out, notify the restaurant in advance and request a table out of the way where you are not going to be squashed in and there is room to move about. Choose a quiet time when they are less busy so you’re not kept waiting too long.
If you’re having a family meal at home, try to keep things informal with opportunities to get up and walk about between courses and a chance for your Dad to get away from the hustle and bustle momentarily- particularly if the gathering is large, in unfamiliar surroundings or there are young children around.
Organise activities at home
If going out may prove stressful either for your Dad, or you and the rest of the family, why not organise some activities in your Dad’s own home.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy for everyone just to enjoy time spent together.
If it’s nice weather you can try a bit of gardening. This can be relaxing and may bring back happy memories for him of playing outside as a child. Or prepare a simple meal together which you can all then enjoy at leisure.
Choose activities that involve everyone
Another great idea that can be enjoyed by everyone is organising old photographs. A fun afternoon can be spent creating a family album together reminiscing about happy times.
Create a playlist of favourite music
Music is one of the last memories to be affected by dementia so listening to favourite tracks from the person’s younger days can really enhance mood , provide opportunities for reminiscence and even a sing-along.
To get the maximum impact it’s important to find the exact songs/tunes your Dad likes, not just the general genre. Create a playlist that collects these favourite tracks together in one place so it’s easy to listen to them again on future occasions.
Stay within your Dad’s comfort zone
Try not to choose anything new or unexpected for Father’s Day as this could inadvertently increase everyone’s stress levels and end up not being enjoyable for you or your Dad.
Stick to known activities you can easily adapt to suit your circumstances. Avoid anything inflexible like the theatre or cinema, or anywhere where there are likely to be large crowds. A walk in the park or a picnic where you can choose how long you stay according to your Dad’s mood may work well.
What’s important is not what you do, but how well included your Dad feels. Be prepared to adjust how you normally do things to respond to his mood and keep the day as calm and stress free as possible.
Simply spending time together is what’s important. A pleasant afternoon spent together enjoying a simple home cooked meal, a short walk, or listening to music can really enhance your Dad’s mood and create memories of happy time spent together for you.
First published www.dementiacarestroud.co.uk