With its spectacular light displays and food, Diwali is a joyous occasion for South Asian communities. Alzheimer’s Society ambassador Dr Kamel Hothi shares her advice for including people living with dementia.
This article was first published in 2018. Be sure to follow the guidance on coronavirus whatever you do.
Diwali is a wonderful celebration for people, like me, from the South Asian community. The colours, the fireworks, the delicious food, make it all the more enjoyable. But what you may not realise is the difficulties the celebrations can bring to those living with dementia.
My uncle had dementia and I saw first-hand the effects it had on him, as well as the stigma we faced. We must challenge this stigma and raise awareness about dementia within our community.
One person develops dementia every three minutes in the UK and these people have the right to continue to be part of Diwali celebrations. There are lots of ways to support a person with dementia this Diwali.
Diwali: The dementia-friendly way
Create a quiet room
Having lots of people in your home can become overwhelming to someone living with dementia. The noise from fireworks, loud music and multiple conversations can be confusing, and may cause anxiety. Try introducing a ‘quiet room’ in your home where your loved one can take a break.
Traditional activities associated with Diwali can stir fond memories for those living with dementia and can help prompt conversations, such as how they used to celebrate Diwali. Help your loved one get involved celebrating the festivity by looking at photo albums or books about Diwali together, or playing some traditional music.
Food and drink
A huge plate of food might be daunting for someone with dementia. A buffet of smaller options or ‘finger’ food, such as Samosas, might be easier. People with dementia may need gentle reminders to eat or drink, especially if there are other distractions such as people to talk with, music and partying.
It can be confusing and distressing if furniture is moved around so that things are not where a person expects them. Rather than change things all at once, put up decorations gradually.
Dementia can affect a person’s vision and perception, so make sure your home is well lit and you use good colour contrast. Avoid patterns that might be misunderstood – for example pictures of fruit might be mistaken for actual fruit, and other patterns might be confusing or frightening to a person living with dementia.
In our community there isn’t a word for dementia, but starting the conversation around it is the first step in raising awareness.
I’m confident that whatever you are going through, there are ways to take part in Diwali celebrations.
Good luck and wishing you all a safe and fun Diwali - united we can all make a difference!