New Year’s Eve For People With Dementia

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people with dementia

Another New Year is upon us. Another year of making resolutions. This year my list includes but is not limited to: exercising on the days I say I don’t feel like it, making an actual physical picture album of my children’s early years, planning meals more than a day in advance and last but not least, eating less timbits. I will hopefully and optimistically reach a quarter of those goals by December 31, 2016 at which point, I will start the whole thing all over again with the same renewed hope that led me there the year before.

There is something magical and mystical about the December 31st – January 1st “24 hour period” for that very notion of being able to look ahead and “do it better” the next time around. For our children it may be their first, or perhaps their tenth. A right of passage, as a child reaches the point where they’re “allowed” to stay up long enough to watch the clock strike 12 and then brag about it the next day. For us it may be our fortieth and for our parents, their 75th time watching the ball drop.

For many years, particularly in our youth, we may find New Year’s Eve the occasion in which all night parties abound and we wake up in a foggy haze wondering why we are wearing a tiara and a bad hairdo. But eventually, as we age, our New Year celebrations are often spent with family and good friends enjoying one another’s company as we welcome the start of another year.

But what does it mean for people with dementia who have lost their sense of time? What if someone can’t remember the date let alone the last day of the year? What does it mean for those with advanced dementia who can no longer appreciate the nuance of New Year’s Eve? Does it mean that they are forgotten? And those who are too physically frail to come together with family and friends, how is their New Year’s spent? Currently, there are hundreds of thousands of people in Canada living with dementia and many others who are physically frail.

When Robert Burns wrote his famous Auld Lang Syne poem in the 1700’s, he apparently never intended for this to be associated with New Year’s Eve. However, it is widely celebrated as the song to ring in the New Year. Despite this, people the world over still struggle to know what it really means.

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind ? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup ! and surely Ill buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne.
And theres a hand my trusty friend ! And give us a hand o thine !
And well take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?

Perhaps Mr. Burns did not realize at the time how prolific his words would become for a rapidly aging population, some of whom no longer have the ability to come together to say goodbye to the year behind and welcome the year ahead. For others who can no longer remember, there is no privilege in making New Year’s Resolutions. However, the need to be connected and cared for transcends age and dates. For this reason, we should all remember on this New Year’s Eve to reach out to those family and friends who may be forgotten, and include them as we may.

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About Author

Raynia is a social worker who has spent most of her career working in acute care hospitals with aging patients and their families. She believes in the strength of connections, particularly fostering the valuable relationship of children with their grandparents, great grandparents or other older people in their communities. Raynia is a mom of two and an avid writer of all stories related to aging. You can find out more by visiting her website.

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