For many, Bonfire Night is a key event in the autumnal calendar that helps keep spirits high during the cold, dark lead-up to the start of Christmas. It commemorates the failed attempt of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament and is usually marked by fireworks, bonfires and tasty things to eat and drink. Above all, it is a great excuse to get together with friends and family to enjoy a fun night out.
For care home residents, it may not be possible to physically build a massive bonfire in the grounds. However, there is still much that can be organised to help residents join in the fun.
If you are able to arrange it, having a few fireworks in the care home grounds could be a lovely way to help residents feel involved and enjoy watching a small display. Make sure that you have enough space to light the fireworks and let them go safely and have buckets of water or other dousing sources close by in case anything goes wrong. Ensure, too, that people know to stand well back and exercise caution when approaching fireworks and open flames, including lighting and holding sparklers, if you choose to include them in your evening’s entertainment. Always make sure that you dispose of spent fireworks and sparklers safely – and never return to a firework that has been lit but did not go off.
Out and about
If you cannot hold your own fireworks event, or are concerned about thew safety of doing so, see if you can find a local event that would be suitable to attend instead. Help those who want to go wrap up warm and enjoy the fun. Plan transport carefully, in advance, including where you can park to make sure people don’t have too far to walk. If you can find a high vantage point to sit and watch a fireworks display from further away, this can help with parking, as well as avoid having to negotiate busy crowds. Take flasks of hot tea or coffee to help people keep warm and plenty of torches to help light the way, especially if the event is being held in a field or at the other end of a rocky or unstable footpath.
Firework foods and themed activities
Traditionally, foods like hot dogs, burgers and jacket potatoes are served at Bonfire Night celebrations. These are easy to prepare and serve in the care home, along with toasted marshmallows, toffee apples, hot chocolate and Bonfire cake, made with apples and spices. Continue the theme with suitably ‘fiery’ crafts and other activities. You could hold an arts and crafts afternoon with fireworks as the theme, or run a creative writing session, inviting those who attend to compose some topical verses or a short story.
Reassurance and support
For some people, fireworks do not represent fun. The loud bangs and bright flashes can bring back bad memories of witnessing active conflict, for example, or being involved in an explosion or attack. Other people may be living with dementia and may well find the change in routine and unexpected noises and lights distressing. It is vital that you support those affected by issues like these and help them feel as reassured as possible. Find a quiet area, away from the fireworks and fuss, for them to sit and relax. Close the curtains and offer alternative entertainment, such as a film, board game, craft activity or simply reading while listening to some calming music. If any pets live at the care home, take steps to make sure they have a safe, quiet place to hide as well.
Often, older people like to look back on how the celebrated special times like Bonfire Night in the past. Spend time talking to anyone who wishes to share stories. You could encourage people to dig out old photo albums, or talk about what they ate and drank. Others might be interested in exploring the history of Bonfire Night and the Gunpowder Plot. Find a TV documentary or film to show and discuss the events together afterwards. How differently might English history have looked, had the Gunpowder Plot succeeded?