Creating a Special Mother’s Day Moment for a Mom Facing Dementia

Reading to mom with Dementia. Best Mothers Day Gift!

As an adult child, caring for a parent, Mother’s Day takes on some new meaning. When you were a child it was the time of teacher assigned poetry writing, picking her flowers, or serving breakfast in bed. In the ensuing years, you have probably gone to brunch, a spa day, or picked out that perfect little greeting card. It is possible you’ve traded cards, because you too became a Mother. Now you are in this new and somewhat unfamiliar phase of life where roles have begun to reverse. You are helping your Mom at medical appointments and handling the grocery shopping, or even helping with showering, dressing, eating and taking medications. In reflecting on this moment, these changes, please take a minute, (right now, maybe?), to pause, and acknowledge, you are a Family Caregiver. You are doing the most loving and important work someone can do for another person. You are celebrating Mother’s Day each and every day by honoring your Mom’s role in your family and supporting her through a time of life-altering illness and changes.

Taking all of that into account, with someone who is facing dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, It is best to keep celebrations simple and reasonably short in duration. Create special moments vs. a whole special day that might just exhaust both of you. In truth, these special moments could be created anytime of the year, but it is important to keep our celebrations and traditions. Life gets pretty hectic and serious without our holidays.  Here are five simple, short and special options:

  1. Read to her a favorite book that she read to you as a child. Perhaps it was a fairy tale, or The Velveteen Rabbit, Curious George, or the story of Noah’s Ark. Something that is meaningful to both of you. Then allow her to read it to you. Consider recording her reading it and share the video with your family. If you can’t find the family favorite, a few good alternate book titles include: Guess How Much I Love You?, I Love You Forever, or Oh the Places You’ll Go. 
  2. If your Mom knew her Grandmother, ask her to describe her, describe her hands or her hair or her kitchen. This question is a tried and true, proven conversation starter. It seems to unlock other long-term childhood memories and create a very special discussion.
  3.  Create a special Dine-In experience. Going out to a restaurant can be tricky. Set up a special table for two or four people, and order in her favorite restaurant dinner. If Mom lives in a memory care community, you can ask the staff to help set up a special spot and simply bring in the meal with a few balloons or flowers. Some care communities will even hang a sign that says the name of the Restaurant, or something personalized like, “Smith Family –Private Party,” to add to the ambiance. 
  4. Frost and decorate some cookies together. Keep it simple, they can be pre-packaged sugar free oatmeal, or the Pillsbury canned kind if you want the smell of fresh-baked cookies. Then enjoy a cup of tea with some cookies out of the patio or backyard. Talk about the things you see—from flowers, to blue skies, to trees or a butterfly. You’ll both have a chance to slow down for a moment and feel relaxed.
  5. Grab a piece of paper and take five minutes to jot down your most favorite and funny family stories. We all have them: That time your brother got grounded for a year, or when the whole family went camping, or when Mom {gasp} was caught cheating at cards! Take the list with you and talk about those stories. See if you both get to a belly laugh. Nothing is more powerful at relieving the stress of everyday life than laughter.

The biggest take-away for creating a Special Mother’s Day Moment for a Mom Facing Dementia, is this: Try to build in little snippets of ‘non-caregiving’ time together. If you make a moment meaningful to you, where you can slow down and be present, it will be meaningful and endearing (even momentarily—simple, short) for your Mom.

You know first-hand, caring for a loved one with memory loss often requires racing around and making things happen quickly so that they can move slowly, safely and have all their basic needs met. If you are feeling like you can’t slow down and find a little snippet of ‘non-caregiving’ time with Mom, then please give yourself a Mother’s Day gift!  Vow to join a Caregiver support group, and more specifically, an Alzheimer/Dementia Caregiver support group. Paraphrasing here, there is an adage that says, “I don’t have 10 minutes to meditate, so I will take an hour.” Support groups can be helpful in many ways, including gaining relevant resources, training, tips and tools, and feeling less isolated. Shared experience is powerful. A support group can help you form friendships with people navigating this same awkward, reversal stage of life.

For more information on a local, monthly San Diego Memory Care support group visit www.sunshinecare.com , or call their toll-free number at 1-800-811-9595.

Best wishes to you and Happy Mother’s Day!


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