Caregivers to loved ones with any of the many forms of dementia deal with their loss quite poignantly on special holidays like the one on our calendars for this Friday. While a loved one who is suffering from dementia may not remember what calendar date it is, they likely will have at least some distinct memories of past Valentine’s Days just the same. So, if you are a caregiver to a loved one with one of the forms of dementia, there are ways to still share a special moment…even special memories with your older loved one.
You doubtless have photo albums of moments shared with your loved one, and some of those photos may evoke a genuinely positive emotional response from your loved one. A walk down that memory lane can be surprisingly positive for both of you.
Staying in the moment also can have its rewards. You can make it a point to bake festive cupcakes or cookies with a Valentine’s look, or if your loved one is willing and able, you can even arrange flowers for the date. And maybe the flavor of chocolate will evoke “taste bud memories” in your loved one?
Because more distant memories will be clearer than what has happened even earlier today with some patients, you can make Valentine’s Day an opportunity to talk about first meetings, first kisses or first dates.
And if you have special memories of a specific romantic movie that you had enjoyed with your loved one, you may find that a viewing now will evoke some of those good feelings again. Or at the very least, even if they do not remember the film, it may elicit similar positive feelings now just as it had back when you both first viewed it.
In a similar vein, you and your loved one may have had “your song” or a number of songs that you enjoyed in an earlier time. If the song is one that you all learned the words and tune, you may find that your older loved one still remembers enough to sing along with certain refrains.
Finally, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, hugs and gentle touch are every bit as important to an Alzheimer’s patient now as they would have been before the onset of the condition. Alzheimer’s patients also will respond to gentle talk as well as good humor…just as long as they do not feel they are the object of a joke.
And while we are talking about caring for your loved one who may be wrestling with a fading memory, please remember my cardinal rule. You will do a better job of caring for your loved one if you also are caring for you, the caregiver.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.