Five Tips to Throw a Successful Party for Someone with Dementia


It’s your grandmother’s 80th birthday, or perhaps her 60th wedding anniversary. Though she has dementia or Alzheimer’s, that doesn’t mean you should skip this big milestone. Throwing a special event for someone with dementia can be a fun and fulfilling experience if you plan appropriately. A person with dementia has special needs and won’t always respond well to a loud, crowded, and overly stimulating party. As long as you plan the event within your family member’s comfort zone, it should be a good time for all. Here are five party tips to help you plan a great event:

  1. Host the Party in a Familiar Place
    Individuals with dementia can easily become disoriented, especially in new settings. Instead of taking Grandma to a fancy restaurant for her birthday, consider hosting the party at home or at her care facility where she will feel more comfortable. At Sunshine Care, we can provide a room for special events if a family gives us appropriate notice.
  1. Allow Plenty of Time to Get Ready
    This is a special day, so you’ll want to help Grandma, pick out a nice outfit, and spruce up for the big event. This may even include a pretty hair style and a touch of makeup. Helping a person with dementia go through these extra care steps can take much longer than it does when you throw on some eye shadow and curl your hair. You’ll need to show a lot of patience and start getting Grandma ready at least an hour or two before the start of the party. If your loved one is at a memory care facility, you can ask the attendants to help her dress extra special. At Sunshine Care we are happy to help our residents look their best for a fun event.
  1. Limit Guests
    Calm and relaxing is the name of the game when holding an event for someone with dementia. If you can, limit the guest list only to close family members and friends. This will help maintain a calmer environment and reduce the amount of people your loved one has to track. You can always post images and videos on social networks for extended family and friends to view.
  1. Keep It Simple
    The party itself should be simple and fun. Consider a meal together where you share stories or even just a birthday cake and a toast. No need to add in lots of unnecessary party games, extended dancing, or complicated seating arrangements. A person with dementia does better with clear, simple instructions and familiar routines.
  1. Keep it Short
    Individuals with dementia, especially as they move into the intermediate stage of the disease, experience shortened attention spans. It may be difficult for them to enjoy an event that is longer than a few hours. It may not seem like much, but even just sharing cake and telling stories for an hour can be a lovely and fun experience for your loved one. If you want to continue the party, you can always invite family members for drinks or coffee at a separate location.

When you celebrate a big event with someone who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s it’s important not to get too hung up on the way things “used to be.” Instead, celebrate Grandma as she is now and cherish her special day in a way that will allow her to enjoy the experience.

For more great guidance on living with and taking care of a family member with dementia, visit Sunshine Care’s free monthly support group for caregivers and family members.

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