Because Holy Week has such strong meaning for me, it has been difficult to come up with ideas for our elder’s assisted living unit. Even though the people living there have dementia to varying degrees it is still important to honor their freedom of (and/or from) religion. Some of the activities can be done across cultures. Others are specific for the week.
Get Approval: This is the most important step. Make sure that whatever activities are planned are approved by the facility. This is a religious holiday, which makes it far different than most of the other holidays I’ve written about.
Food: Easter has always been celebrated with a feast in our family. The reason doesn’t have to be the same; everyone enjoys a feast. While the chefs in the kitchen will do the main meals, appetizers and desserts can still be a part of the day. Deviled eggs, vegetables with dip and a cake or cupcakes are nice, and can be designed around different dietary needs.
Movies: Easter Parade may be an appropriate movie. Most of the people in our elder’s unit probably saw it when it came out in 1948. I may have to do some searching to find it, but I will try to do so. The first place I’ll try is our elder’s facility. They have a lot of older movies.
Talk about communion: Maundy Thursday is the day we celebrate the institution of communion. Some facilities may have services on this day and it’s a good idea to check. A discussion of what it means could be beneficial for those who are high functioning.
Bible Verses: There are a lot of great Bible verses related to Easter (naturally). Many of our elders have them memorized. Even with dementia these memories may still be there. Reading the accounts of Easter will stir those memories and help them observe the holiday.
Finding Services: Easter Sunday in some churches have more than one service time. If you’re planning on taking your elder to a church, choosing the right service is important. Even in Southern California it is very cold for sunrise services. Whether or not your elder has dementia, this isn’t a really good choice of service unless they insist.
For a dementia patient it’s best to choose a service that isn’t as jam packed as the others. In our church, the 9 a.m. service overflows into the parish hall. Another service is held at 11 and usually isn’t as filled with people. This would be the wiser option for our elder. You may need to talk to your church’s staff to find out which is best in your case.
I do know that there will be at least one church service at our elder’s facility. That is the one we will probably attend. This may pose difficulties for some denominations, but for us it won’t be a problem.
Holy Week is important to our family. It’s a good time for us to reflect on our faith and celebrate its meaning. Easter is a good day for family togetherness. Even though not all of us are Christians, we will get together that day. I hope you and yours have a happy, blessed Easter.