This year's Dementia Awareness Week centres around the theme of doing something new for people with dementia, under the mantra that ‘Life doesn’t have to end when dementia begins’. For many people living with dementia in care homes, however, a lack of opportunities to have meaningful occupation and activity, or even just enjoy the simple pleasures that many of us take for granted, can lead to life feeling like it really has ended.
Over this Dementia Awareness Week (DAW2015) I want to look at some of the positive things relatives and staff can do to enhance the lived experience of people with dementia in care homes. They may be new things, or they may be old favourites, but they all share in the ability to turn a boring day into something a little bit more special.
Day 7: Celebrations
Most care homes I’ve been involved with, either personally through my dad or other family and friends or professionally through my work, are good at helping residents to celebrate their birthdays. The joy of a decorated cake with candles and a cuppa was a yearly event for my dad, but there is so much more that we can do with celebrations.
Birthdays and Christmases are the obvious examples of celebrations, but wedding anniversaries or new grandchildren (or great grandchildren) are also reasons for people with dementia in care homes to want to celebrate. We can go a lot further too, because celebrations aren’t just about the personal, they can be national celebrations too.
Dates like Valentine’s Day and Easter are easy to celebrate, but what about following national events like general elections, royal occasions, commemorations, major sporting events (examples include the Grand National, Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix, the Ashes, the Six Nations Rugby and football's showpieces like the FA Cup or the World Cup Final). Many of these events are freely available on terrestrial TV, but even if there is something on SKY TV that you don’t have access to, why not look out for a late-night terrestrial TV highlights package to record or get the papers the next day and make a collage of the coverage?
How many people, for example, would love to watch Match of the Day, the Last Night of the Proms or the Festival of Remembrance but are already in bed by the time they are televised? It wouldn’t take much effort to record them and make them available the next day for anyone wanting to see them.
Time often passes slowly in a care home, and without constant orientation to the day and time many people lose track of what day, week, month or year they are in. Most of us in that situation would do likewise. But by marking celebrations and major events, it provides the milestones that help to keep the sense of time and place that so many of us take for granted.
More information, tips and advice on celebrations can be found in the following D4Dementia blog posts:
Keeping it relevant: http://d4dementia.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/keeping-it-relevant.html
Christmases past and present: http://d4dementia.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/christmases-past-and-present.html
Happy birthday to my dad: http://d4dementia.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/happy-birthday-to-my-dad.html
Until next time...
Until next time...
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