Fireworks and Sundowning – Not a Happy Fourth of July

fear of light

As if sundowning weren’t a challenge for those with dementia and their caregivers we add fireworks to the mix on July 4th each year. A person who once loved fireworks may respond differently now. For someone with dementia, the loud pops and explosions can trigger memories of wartime experiences causing a return or worsening of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Even someone who never went to war can be deeply affected by these annual displays. The flashing lights and changing colors in the sky can trigger fear leading to aggressive behavior that can be dangerous for the caregiver and their family member. Between the community events and backyard enthusiasts, the noise and confusion can often go on for hours. While some are calling for the ban of fireworks all together others are reluctant to do away with the long held tradition that they grew up with. It’s not an issue that will likely be resolved soon. However there is some good news. Many communities are becoming more aware of the impact fireworks have on those with dementia and are taking steps to minimize the impact by using quiet fireworks that focus on colors and effects rather than sound. It may not be a complete fix but it’s a step in the right direction for many.

If that is not the case in your area, here are a few suggestions that may help make things less stressful for you and your family.

  1. Talk to the person in your care about the holiday and what it means to him or her. Listen to their stories of picnics past and how they showed their pride in their country.
  2. Encourage them to talk about fireworks. Were they exciting and fun or too loud and scary?
  3. If you live near a place where you see and hear fireworks from your home, you should prepare them for what will happen. They may not remember later but you never know what will help on day like this and it’s worth a try.
  4. Early in the day may be a good time to show them a video of fireworks. There are a number links of the displays available for viewing on social media. Turn the sound off before showing it to the person in your care. Explain that they may see these lights in the sky later that night and you will sit with them until it’s over.
  5. If even the silent display is upsetting, close the blinds and drapes in their room before sunset to block out the flashing lights. Play music he or she likes using earbuds or head phones if possible to mask the noise. If these devices are not available or practical in your situation, play the music anyway and sing or dance along with it to distract them, they may even join you.

Behavior is communication and their actions always include clues as to where they are and how they feel. It is when we enter their world rather than insisting they live in our reality that true understanding comes to us, the caregivers.

Bobbi Carducci was a caregiver for her father-in-law with dementia for seven years. She is a caregiver support group leader, blogger, author of the book, Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver, and national speaker on caregiver issues. www.bobbicarducci.com www.theimperfectcaregiver.com Twitter:@BobbiCarducci2 Facebook: https://bit.ly/2FXw3JP

 

 

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