I recently attended a Christmas party for the residents of a memory support unit where I work.
The day was like any other Christmas party with a festive live music band, decorations on the walls and tables set for the special meal. The kitchen was a hive of activity, where food platters were being produced.
For all intents and purposes, any outsider would perceive that this was a group of elders enjoying a Christmas gathering. All behaviours had ceased, residents were engaging, smiling and generally having fun like any other gathering of friends and family. No signs of pain or discomfort no signs of not wanting to be in the moment.
So what is it about a party that changes the way people living with dementia respond, is it reminiscence of Christmas’s past, is it the change in surroundings and activity, or is it a change in the patterns within the neuropathways of the brain which make a person act and respond differently.
For the outsider dementia and all its symptoms appear to have slipped away swept away in the fun and laughter of the moment, even a relative commented to me, “You would not think anyone had dementia here”, which just reiterated what I was thinking.
Once the party and people disappeared and ‘normality’ prevails so do the behaviours and the wandering commences. Life for the person living with dementia and the care staff returns to the task of responding to the person to help navigate and provide comfort and calm.
Possibly the social interaction of a party atmosphere has a euphoric effect upon the personhood. So maybe we should look at creating similar more frequent activities to provide comfort and care in a social style as opposed to increasing medications to calm the person.
I am not sure what the answer is but in the meantime let us join together singing Christmas songs and raise a glass to ask for health and happiness.