Creating Meaningful Moments for Veterans Living with Dementia

San Diego County has the third highest number of Military Veterans in the nation. Chances are your elderly loved one living with memory loss has been in the service, or is a proud military family member. Their service and sacrifice, rules, lessons and friends generally will stand out in their long-term memory. Past-tense discussions, of long-term, shared experiences are what create the most meaningful conversations for people living with memory loss. To help facilitate conversation and honor their service, consider creating a special patriotic or service branch themed outing. Maybe pack a picnic to further enjoy a lovely San Diego day in sun!

Here are some local San Diego County Ideas to celebrate a Veteran in dementia friendly environments:

  • For a little Patriotic Fun, without the crowds, visit the Poway Veteran’s Memorial across from Old Poway Park. They have a nice tribute to each branch of service. You can listen to the history of that branch and hear their hymn (Navy, Marines, Army, Airforce and Coast Guard). It is also a great place to have a little snack or picnic. If you are feeling like a little more activity, the steam engine train and blacksmith are just across the street in Old Poway Park.
  • Honoring both Marines and Airforce, The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in Mira Mar is a free and fun spot to stop and look at planes and see the history of the Marine Pilots. (Closed Mondays)
  • Visit the USS Midway Floating Aircraft Carrier Museum honors Naval service. Or on a more general level, simply visit the free outdoor Memorial to The Military and Bob Hope and the USO, which is just next door, by the Fish Market. Bring along a picnic for this one. The Midway also has some treats for sale. You may want to go on a day they have a special presentation or film. Consider staying on the top deck, there is a risk of bumping your head on doorways/having to climb ladders in lower decks.
  • Take a San Diego Harbor Tour. There are several companies that do daily harbor tours. They pass by the Midway, the Naval Hospital ship and other areas from Coronado to Pt. Loma and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. The bonus is seeing all the cute seals and sea lions lounging in the sunshine along the way. The boats are large enough, and the harbor is calm enough, so there is not a lot of rocking or turbulence. You can sit indoors with big windows to avoid the wind. Inside you can also listen to a guide sharing facts about each ship you pass and stories of San Diego. (Tip: Be sure to order a 1 or 2 hour harbor tour. The longer trips that include whale watching go into the open sea where the waters are very choppy–sea sickness and unsteady feet is common for us land lovers.)
  • Visit your local VFW Post (Veterans of Foreign Wars). Some of them have pool halls, pubs for lunch and all kinds of benefits and services that might be of use to a Veteran and their family. You might even find out that you qualify for respite care or a benefit to help with long term housing and care for Veterans or their spouses, living with progressive memory loss.

If it is difficult to get out of the house with your Veteran, consider a fun afternoon at home:

  • Make a special dessert or a healthy snack in the theme of red, white and blue:
  • Patriotic Cheesecake: Buy a small cheesecake, fresh strawberries and blueberries. Decorate the top in a pretty design to look like the flag or fireworks.
  • Yogurt Parfait: Using yogurt and red/blue fruits, create layers in a clear bowl or drinking glass. Healthy, delicious and festive!

Fortunately, San Diego is dubbed a military town, so there is no shortage of fun and patriotic things to do this summer. If you are looking for other safe and fun, short outings to do with your loved one who is living with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, contact Sunshine Care, a community of memory care homes. They will be glad to help you brainstorm some ideas. They can be reached at their toll-free number, 1-800-811-9595. You can also see some special outing and event ideas on their website:  Have fun, be safe, keep stress low, take water, snacks, hats, closed toed shoes and sunblock!  Have a happy San Diego summer!!  


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


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