Celebrating Birthdays with Dementia


Special occasions are opportunities for family and friends to come together, exchange gifts, celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. Celebrating birthdays with a dementia patient could pose a challenge, as they may not remember it’s theirs or a loved one’s birthday, and the environment of a large party could become distressing. There’s no reason to exclude your loved one from celebrations, though. By making some small adjustments, you can all enjoy precious moments together that will stay with you for a lifetime. 


Make them feel involved


Regardless whether your loved one still remembers important birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions, it could be a great idea to still keep up the tradition. For example, if they used to give their loved one presents on Valentine’s day, you could help pick them out for the dementia patient. Alternatively, if they used to receive presents from a loved one who has passed away, try filling that void by making them feel just as appreciated on their special day. People in dementia care are not often given enough credit for how much they are able to perceive. Although they might not recognise their favourite celebrations, they are still able to feel love and appreciation from their friends and family. Maintaining cherished traditions could also be rewarding for the dementia patient’s nearest and dearest. 


Dementia-friendly parties


Celebrating milestone birthdays likely makes you want to throw a big gathering with lots of presents to show you’re looking after your loved one and how much you appreciate them. This well-intended surprise may not be the best option for someone who suffers with dementia. Instead, try to keep the party low-key, avoid having too many people or too much unnecessary noise. Take your loved one out to a pub or restaurant they are familiar with or celebrate in their home to avoid confusion. You can even set up a quiet room in case the party gets too overwhelming for them. While fancy dinners are lovely, make sure there’s some finger food for them if they struggle to use cutlery. Colourful, contrasting foods will also help ensure they eat enough throughout the day. Keep in mind that your loved one may be unaware how old they actually are, so avoid age-related cards and gifts, as they could cause additional upset. 


Dementia gift guide


In the early stages of dementia, gifts you would normally offer your loved one could still be suitable. As their disease progresses, sensory gifts and items that stimulate their memory become more useful and appropriate. Early stage gifts could include their favourite movies, a phone with their loved one’s contact information, photo albums and more. Middle stage gifts could include practical items such as a large typed clock displaying both date and time, automatic nightlights as well as fun and easy crafts. During later stages of dementia, opt for comfortable clothes with stretchy waistbands and shoes with Velcro fastenings, location devices, stuffed animals and their favourite movies and music. 


Looking After website offers gifts suitable for dementia patients. These include: 

  • Tactile visual dominoes – enjoy this popular game, adapted for people in dementia care. Pieces are big, textured and colourful, helping with visual and tactile perception, memory and motor skills. They also stimulate interaction with others. 

  • Sensory Scenes Garden Days – a great gift for patients in late stage dementia. Playing the soundscape and spraying the room spray will provide a soothing and relaxing atmosphere by simulating a natural environment. Perfect for those spending their life indoors. 

  • Twist Fidget Widget – this lovely gift is one of 5 widgets and it is designed to relax and calm an individual by keeping their hands busy or supporting repetitive actions. 

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