Dementia Friendly Father’s Day Celebrations!

This year Father’s Day falls on Sunday, June 18th! Often a day when families gather, games are played and grills are fired up!

For those who have Fathers, Grand Fathers, or Father figures living with Dementia; you may wonder if celebrations are still appropriate. You may be hesitant to throw a party or invite the entire family over,  for fear that it would be overwhelming for your loved one with cognitive decline.

Dementia Doesn’t Define the Person

One thing to keep in mind is that having cognitive issues due to Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that impact cognitive wellness, doesn’t DEFINE who your loved one is. Having difficulty remembering someone’s name or not being able to recall certain life-details, shouldn’t stop us from still laughing, loving, and enjoying each other’s time.

In fact, maintaining normal daily routines and familiar traditions can actually have lasting positive effects on those struggling with memory issues. It’s hard enough to be aware that your brain is changing. Often, it’s a nice change-of-pace for those living with cognitive decline, to be involved in light-hearted & festive ways with others.

Celebrate in Supportive Ways!

Grilling out, golfing, playing baseball, or potluck meals with friends and family are all VERY possible and highly encouraged options as you honor those Fathers & Father figures that you love. Making some minor tweaks and small adjustments is all you may need to do; in order to have an event that is Dementia friendly and fun for all.

Overstimulation and excessive noise are two triggers that all people should be mindful of; when planning social gatherings where folks living with cognitive decline will be present.

Even in the early stages of the journey, folks can be negatively impacted in both small and larger ways by environmental triggers. Therefore, the first step in creating a Dementia Friendly celebration is to manage the party-area and avoid excessive noise and distractions to the best of your ability.

  • Backyard Barbeque: instead of grilling out at a large park where hundreds of others may be gathering too; keep your celebration smaller and in a contained (and familiar) backyard area. This sets you up for success!
    • Instead of many multiple conversations happening simultaneously amongst the invited guests; consider asking folks to sit in a circle or small clusters around/near the grilling area.
    • Encourage reminiscent conversation that engages the Father you are celebrating. Include him in the conversation while asking him prompting questions to engage his memories.
    • For those men in the later stages of their decline wherein conversation is impacted; keep your conversation jovial and light-hearted so as to ensure the mood of the entire group remains upbeat and uplifting.
    • The sights, sounds, and smells of being outdoors near the food cooking on the grill are comforting and the time spent outside with others talking and reminiscing has a high impact on overall wellness.
  • Golfing: There may come a time wherein hosting an 18-hole golf outing followed by a boisterous meal at the clubhouse; won’t be enjoyable for those living with Dementia any longer. However, with some minor modifications; you are still able to create a golf-themed experience that could be fun for everyone!
    • Again, head to the backyard and consider creating a putting area that’s more contained than a wide-open golf course would be.
    • Use brightly colored large plastic cups (think Red Solo cups!) or small buckets, (like the colored ones often used at the beach) and strategically place them in a manageable area in the backyard. Invite guests to join Dad in a putting contest!
    • For those men in the later stages of their decline, where a traditional white golf ball may be difficult to see and/or manage; then use a brightly colored racquet ball option or even a tennis ball!

Modify Other Games

  1. Instead of taking Dad to a noisy and overstimulating baseball stadium; you can certainly modify the experience for your backyard celebration!
  • Use an oversized plastic bat found in most big box toy departments. Dad can sit or stand, depending on his capability, with the bat at ‘home plate’. Give the pitcher a tennis ball and once Dad hits the ball; have the grandkids or other youngsters at your celebration run the bases!
  1. Instead of traditional cornhole or horseshoe games
  • Place brightly colored hula hoops on the grass and give your guests bean bags or small stuffed animals, to see how many they can get into each hoop. This too can be done from either a sit or stand position
  1. You don’t need a lake or river for fishing!
  • Fill a children’s portable wading pool with water and float yellow rubber duckies in the pool. Give guests a small minnow net to see how many rubber duckies they can catch
  • Spice this up by having the ‘fishers’ wear a blindfold. If Dad is in later stages; skip this step.

 Creating a Dementia-friendly atmosphere for the Fathers and Father figures you’ll be celebrating this year is a fantastic way to honor and support those men you love.