Traditional diya lamps lit during diwali celebration
Religious festivals like Diwali are typically a time for family, feasting, dancing and celebration, however it can be difficult to know how to support a loved one with dementia.
Alzheimer’s Society research shows that 900,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, three per cent of that number are from BAME communities (about 25,000). By 2025, one million people will be living with the condition in the UK, and many millions more carers, partners, families and friends are affected.
Dementia deaths are rising year-on-year and 225,000 will develop dementia this year, that’s one every three minutes.
Diwali is celebrated over five days and this year starts on Monday (24). Keeping a few things in mind when organising gatherings or celebrations can help everyone to feel included and enjoy the occasion, Alzheimer’s Society said in a statement.
Five tips for a dementia-friendly Diwali
Create a ‘quiet room’ – Having a house full of people can be overwhelming for people with dementia. Noises from loud music, fireworks and multiple conversations can be confusing, and may cause anxiety. A ‘quiet room’ where they can spend quality time with family members, includes them in the celebrations in a calming way.
Plan some Diwali themed activities – Think of the ways they may have celebrated Diwali in the past and ask them if there is anything they might like to do to celebrate this year. Share photo albums, music and songs that conjure up special memories for them.
Celebratory food and drink – People with dementia may need gentle reminders to eat and drink, particularly if there are other distractions. Think about a small finger buffet of their favourite treats, as a large plate of food can be daunting for a person living with dementia.
Decorating for Diwali – if you are planning to decorate or to move things around for Diwali, try to introduce any changes gradually. Dementia can affect a person’s visual perception, so try to keep your home brightly lit and 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 to a person living with dementia.
Seek out support – Everyone experiences dementia differently and what works for one person might not work for someone else. Whoever you are and whatever you are going through, you can turn to Alzheimer’s Society for confidential support and advice all year round.
According to the charity, Including people with dementia in the Diwali celebrations can evoke happy memories and create new ones and can really enhance their wellbeing.
Alzheimer’s Society’s dementia connect support line (0333 150 3456) provides a translation for callers who do not have English as their language of choice. They also provide a number of dementia publications and films in other languages, including Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi.