Tips to Manage Fireworks and Dementia

Whether celebrating Canada Day or the Fourth of July, the season for fireworks has officially begun and most people are eager to enjoy the show.  But for elderly adults and seniors with dementia, the noise and crowds can cause distress.  

Older adults who experience sundowning, agitation common among dementia patients in the evening hours, are most susceptible to fireworks distress which may increase anxiety and confusion. 

The average firework explosion delivers about 150 decibels of sound, comparable to a jet plane taking off, which is loud enough to rupture an eardrum and causes vibrations that can be felt.  People with dementia may not understand that these sounds and tremors are not meant to harm them. And older adults with memory loss may need many reminders of upcoming fireworks leading up to the event.  Leaving a note with the date and time for scheduled fireworks can be helpful for seniors who live alone. 

Crowds at fireworks displays can also cause agitation and it’s wise to stay close by a loved one with dementia at large gatherings.  If the noise and crowds are too much, try a more subdued approach to celebrating the holiday by decorating the house or selecting clothing in their patriotic colors.  Watching fireworks on television where the volume can be controlled may also be an enjoyable way for older adults to be included in the festivities. 

If fireworks have been a cause of stress in the past, it may be a better strategy to stay indoors in a well-lit home until the fireworks have ceased.  Playing soft music or white noise may also provide comfort; the use of ear protection can also help calm agitation.  If anxiety has been significant in the past, caregivers can talk with their loved one’s doctors to better understand what symptoms might require medical attention. 

Whether it’s a family reunion, a concert or a fireworks display, taking time this summer to make sure loved-ones of all ages are included and safe helps elderly seniors say socially engaged and enjoy a better quality of life.