Is It a Good Idea to Take a Dementia Patient to a Fireworks Display?

For Americans, the Fourth of July is a day to celebrate freedom and independence. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that what we now call Independence Day “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.” It is a day of joyous, raucous celebration. However, for loved ones suffering from dementia, there is little freedom and independence.

In fact, loud noises and a flurry of activity can trigger negative emotions and reactions. Motorcycles, loud cars, airplanes, barking dogs, fireworks — many common sounds can cause the patient to become distressed and agitated.

So, is it a good idea to take your loved one to a fireworks display? It depends, and the results can be unpredictable. If he or she has shown signs of distress at loud noises, it might be best to forego the festivities, or at least the noisy parts.


If you decide to attend a fireworks display or other spectacle, there are some precautions you can take to ease the stress.

Some time before going, let the person know what you are planning to do and what is involved. There may be waiting on line or looking for a seat. For sure, there will be lots of people, activity, and noise. See if they would rather watch from home or skip the event altogether. Check with neighbors to see if they will be setting off fireworks so you can plan accordingly, and maybe go to another location.

If you do attend an event, make sure it is staged professionally. Professionals work hard to ensure spectator safety and well-being.
Make sure your loved one is as comfortable as possible. If he or she is uncomfortable around people, perhaps you can move to a more isolated location. Have food, drinks, and clothing on hand, and be prepared to move or leave if they become agitated or distressed.
If going out to celebrate is out of the question, then try for a home display, using sparklers or whatever is legal and safe in your area. You might be able to find an online video or DVD of an event to watch at home.

In any and every case, always be calm and reassuring, providing love and comfort with plenty of nice words and touches and hugs as appropriate. Make your loved one feel safe!

For more information, visit External and Environmental Causes of Challenging Behaviors in Dementia, from

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