How to support a person with dementia during fireworks on bonfire night

A spectacle for many, bonfire night can be challenging for people affected by dementia. Read our top tips for staying safe and scare-free when celebrating with fireworks.

Bonfire night ​

Bonfire night is fast approaching. On the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’s failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, people across the UK will be marking the occasion with firework displays and burning bonfires.

Celebrations and get-togethers are also being held for Diwali and other festivals.  

A spectacle for many, fireworks may be challenging for people affected by dementia. So whether you attend an autumn event or decide to give it a miss this year, here are our tips for staying safe and enjoying yourself.

Our tips for enjoying bonfire night

1. Plan ahead

Ahead of fireworks night, let the person with dementia know it’s coming up. You may be able to gauge how they feel about the festivities and whether they’d like to be involved.

Some people with dementia may not want to be alone on fireworks night or take part, so finding something you can do together may help.

Speak to neighbours about their plans too. If they’re setting off fireworks nearby, this may be distressing for someone with dementia. You can choose to go to a friend’s house instead or watch from home if they’d prefer to.

2. Attend a professional event

Toffee apples, hot chocolate and bonfires - firework events can be great fun for all the family.

If you do plan on going to a local display, be sure it’s professionally run and check that all coronavirus guidelines will be met. Official events adhere to strict fire and safety regulations to keep everyone safe on the night. Guided walkways and designated viewings areas are also there to help everyone enjoy themselves.

3. Stay comfortable

To help the person with dementia feel more comfortable, check that there aren’t too many people, too much activity, loud noises, sudden movements or an uncomfortable environment. For example, a set of fireworks is too close or bright.

If it does get too much, it’s good to have someone on hand to take them inside or to a quieter area (near the back).

The person you’re caring for may feel the cold far more than you do, but may not realise it or may be unable to tell you. Encourage wearing layers of clothing, ideally with natural fibres such as cotton and wool. Drinking hot beverages can also help people stay warm.

Many people also choose to wear ear defenders.

4. Create an alternative fireworks night​

There are lots of ways a person with dementia can enjoy fireworks if they do not wish to go to an event.

You may want to use sparklers at home. Or you could watch the displays from a distance or inside – giving you the opportunity to enjoy the spectacle of colours without the loud noises or big crowds.

A bonfire night dinner is also a fun way to celebrate the occasion. Cooking familiar foods, like jacket potatoes and hotdogs, can help evoke memories (and taste delicious!).

5. Avoid fireworks altogether

Fireworks are not for everyone and that’s OK. If the person is distressed by the noise, think about alternative activities you can enjoy together such as films, audiobooks or music.

Our Talking Point members also suggest providing reassurance by talking calmly and providing touch or hugging, if the person is distressed.

Dementia Connect support line
Our dementia advisers are here for you.
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