Five Tips for a Stress-free Fourth of July in Memory Care
By: Brooke DeNisco
Many holidays are a mixed blessing in memory care communities. Plenty of people with memory loss still remember holidays and enjoy the special events and decorations that go with them. Others can feel overwhelmed and displaced. Social distancing and other safety measures will likely be in place on this July 4, so it is likely to be more “low-key” than usual. Here are some other things to keep in mind for the holiday.
Put up red, white, and blue streamers and flags no earlier than July 3, and take them down no later than July 5. People with memory loss are often looking to the environment for clues. If they see American flags and red, white, and blue bunting, there is a good chance they’ll recognize it’s the Fourth of July. If it’s actually only July 1, you’ll spend many days explaining that July 4 is in a few days. Correcting people and telling them that what they are observing in their environment is not accurate is easy to avoid by keeping decorations brief.
Anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:
Approximately one in five veterans have PTSD. As more veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars enter old age, the percentage will likely get higher. Whether someone has PTSD or not, the loud, gun-like sound of fireworks can be very startling, especially when they are at random intervals. Keep the windows closed and play some music if people are lighting firecrackers in the neighborhood. Put images of fireworks or live firework shows on your community television(s). A visual allows people to associate the sounds they hear with a picture of something that is non-threatening, and even enjoyable to watch. PBSbroadcasts and streams fireworks from several locations. Their website also includes quizzes, trivia, and behind-the-scenes extras from fireworks displays. The Macy’s fireworks in New York City(they are still taking place this year) are on TV at 8 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. PDT on the fourth. There are plenty of DVDs featuring fireworks and musicand free streaming sources.
Don’t ditch all your usual activities because it’s a holiday. Routine is an anchor that will enable people to enjoy the holiday more. This year, the Fourth falls on a Saturday. Keep some of your regular Saturday activities on the calendar so people feel safe and grounded. For example, if you usually start the day with exercise and a ball toss, start the holiday that way, too.
Water and sunscreen! Kind of a no-brainer, but even after working in activities for years, it’s easy to get busy and forget the basics. Hats, sunglasses, and snacks help, too. Pack a bag with the essentials ahead of time.
Take people outdoors in small groups (especially this year) and be flexible. If people are overheated, overwhelmed, or tired, gracefully cut the outdoor activity short.
Print copies of Fourth of July trivia, puzzles, coloring pages, and discussions to have on hand for the holiday. They’ll help you and other staff members keep people stimulated and entertained. Families, who often visit on holidays, will appreciate these offerings, too. If you’re an Activity Connection subscriber, you already have access to more than 25 ready-to-go Independence Day activities. If you’re not a subscriber, check out the offerings on our free Coronavirus Care Package Page.