Going out series: going to the cinema with a person with dementia

June 28, 2021

By Jo Freeman, dementia specialist on the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline.

In the second part of our going out series, Admiral Nurse Jo Freeman looks at the practical steps families can take to make the most out of a trip to the cinema.

Choosing the film

You might like to have a think about if it’s a type or genre of film the person has seen before and enjoyed, which you can use as a reminiscence tool. Perhaps a classic film or one with a famous actor to keep their interest. You could ask them whether they remember when the last time they went to see the film was, which can encourage positive memories.

Going out series: cinema

You can have a look at our list of film suggestions for people with dementia for some inspiration.

Many cinemas do still show classic films such as these. Bear in mind however what would be suitable for the person with dementia; you may notice how drawn they are to music while at home – in which case a musical would be a good fit – or you may realise that their concentration levels aren’t the same, so something with any easy to follow plot would be advised.

Choosing the cinema

Do some research into the size of the cinema, whether there are suitable amenities for vulnerable people which includes ready access to disabled toilets, and if you can park close to the entrance to reduce the risk of the person with dementia getting tired and confused before the start of the film.

It doesn’t always have to be a larger cinema which you attend. In fact, many smaller venues and local theatres allow people to see classic films and more recent ones; their size can help you navigate the venue with the person you’re supporting.

Some cinemas have relaxed screenings for people living with dementia or autism, so check with your local cinema. These would have brighter lighting and reduced volume, so as not to overwhelm the person with dementia.

Enjoying the film

Have a careful think about the choice of seating in the cinema as well – too close to a big screen could be overwhelming. The person with dementia may also need to leave during the film because they need the bathroom or want to leave the cinema. In these instances, the end of the row may be best, so that they can leave discreetly. Outdoor screenings can provide flexibility if you need to leave suddenly, particularly when sitting at the back row, and they can provide an entirely new sensory experience for the person with dementia.

Sometimes the time that is on the ticket is not the time the film actually starts and there can be a series of loud adverts. You could consider missing these and arrive maybe five minutes before the actual start of the film. This may help to keep the person with dementia focused, so that they haven’t used up their concentration levels by watching these adverts.

Be as relaxed as possible during the screening. You could hold the person with dementia’s hand so they feel more comfortable, and be mindful of any sudden changes in reaction which may highlight that the person is distressed by what they are seeing.

Chatting about the film afterwards

Asking the person with dementia how they found the film can help to stimulate them, and gives them a sense of belonging. If you attended a screening as a wider family, then you could think about referring to this memory to encourage reminiscence (however please note social distancing guidelines which state that people can’t be in a group of more than six people). If you noticed that there was a part of the film’s soundtrack the person enjoyed, then you may like to put that on at home to again foster connection and memories. Music can engage parts of the brain which are unaffected by dementia, and film music can be particularly evocative.

Please remember that it is a requirement to wear face coverings in indoor venues across the UK. Have a think about whether your loved one will be able to manage watching the film with a covering on, or whether you’d need to apply for a hidden disabilities lanyard as outlined in the museum edition of this series.

If you have any further questions about the practicalities of going out with someone with dementia, or have questions about managing the condition generally, then please do get in touch with our Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 or email helpline@dementiauk.org.

Going out series: galleries, museums and exhibitions with a person with dementia

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