Four July 4th tips for families caring for loved ones with dementia

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Fireworks and gatherings are staples of the 4th of July holiday, but these can create unique challenges for someone living with dementia. In preparation for Independence Day, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing four tips to help family caregivers create a dementia-friendly 4th of July for their loved ones living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses.

“Celebrating Independence Day can still be a fun, enjoyable experience for families impacted by dementia-related illnesses by making the proper adaptations such as being cautious about watching fireworks due to loud noises. It requires thoughtful planning to ensure their safety, comfort, and enjoyment,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, SIFI, AFA’s director of educational and social services. “Being proactive, prepared, adaptable and creating a safe space, are the best ways caregivers can create a dementia-friendly 4th of July for their loved ones.”

AFA encourages family caregivers to follow these four tips for the 4th of July:

Forgo the fireworks

Fireworks and loud explosions can agitate or frighten someone living with dementia, cause sensory overload and confusion, and potentially cause the person to wander away from safety. They can also be triggering if the person is also a war veteran and thinks they are hearing gunshots or bombs. Consider keeping the person in a quiet, indoor area at times when they might hear fireworks. Adapt the fireworks tradition by watching fireworks displays on TV.

Create a calm environment

Noisy, exploding fireworks nearby can still cause anxiety, fear or agitation for someone living with dementia even if they are indoors. Prepare your loved one in advance by explaining to them that there may be loud noises and continue doing so gently at different intervals. Create a calm environment with soothing background sounds, such as a white noise machine or an air conditioner, or play familiar or favorite music to block the noise of nearby fireworks. Having favorite comfort items/objects on hand (i.e., blanket, article of clothing, etc.) can help provide additional comfort. Check in on your loved one during the night if they live with you. If they live alone, consider asking a trusted relative or friend to stay with them, or hire a home caregiver for the night.

Minimize gathering size

If you plan on a gathering, keep it small — large crowds can be overwhelming, disorienting and anxiety-producing for someone living with dementia. Consider providing name tags for everyone to help the person. Because of the possibility of sundowning, lunchtime celebrations could be best when there is less anxiety or confusion. Keep the person’s routines as normal as possible, including mealtimes, naptimes and going to sleep at night. Incorporate favorite activities into the day.

Celebrate creatively

Get involved in the holiday spirit by doing things together. Examples include creating patriotic decorations with your loved one, playing or singing familiar patriotic music, baking 4th of July-themed desserts, or compiling a family album with pictures of past Independence Day memories. Each of these activities can be cognitively stimulating and help your loved one express themselves creatively.

Families with questions or concerns can speak with a licensed social worker through AFA’s Helpline by calling 866-232-8484, sending a text message to 646-586-5283, or web chatting at The helpline is open seven days a week.