Through the picture-perfect lens of a Hallmark movie, Mother’s Day may look something like this: The car pulls into the driveway after returning home from Sunday Mass. The kids excitedly jump out of the car, still dressed in their Sunday’s best, and run straight upstairs to quickly change into their swimsuits. Mom is helping Grandma out of the car, admiring the beautiful blue skies, while Dad makes his way into the house to pour mimosas for all of the ladies. Moments later, the doorbell rings and cousins, aunts, and uncles come bustling in to join in the festivities. After a few minutes of visiting, (the kids all too excited to wait any longer) everyone heads outside to continue the merriment. The dads bring out a bucket of chilled champagne to top off the mimosas, while the moms settle in, poolside. The rest of the day continues on with kids giggling and splashing, dads grilling, and moms relaxing.
While this may be an ideal celebration, we all know too well that this is far from reality for many. Some families may be estranged from their mothers or may not have mothers, while others can’t have children or have lost children. These are just a few of the scenarios that can put a strain on the holiday, turning a Happy Mother’s Day into a confused, lonely, painful, or even dreaded day.
A less talked about scenario is one where Mother’s Day is celebrated in the face of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 11 million women in the United States live with or care for someone with Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, greater than two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women. These statistics suggest that many women are adapting their Mother’s Day celebrations, among many other things. Here are some helpful tips to make Mother’s Day special, and even memorable, for your family.
Keep it Simple
Large family gatherings, busy restaurants, loud noises, and unfamiliar faces are likely to cause your loved one to feel overwhelmed, confused, and upset. Consider a quiet lunch at your home or a meaningful visit in the comfort of her own home. Staying as close to her routine as possible and celebrating in a way that best fits her abilities will allow her to feel the most comfortable and at peace. If your loved one lives in an assisted living facility, they generally take great care to make this feel like a special day. Activities, such as a Mother’s Day Tea, along with fresh flowers in the dining room are a few things you may see. Take note of what’s on the event calendar and make your plans accordingly to join in for the special celebration.
Plan a Low-Key Activity
If outings are still an option for your loved one, consider taking them somewhere that’s not overcrowded. Getting them out of their home for a bit can be refreshing and exciting, as long as they are not overwhelmed. Enjoy a cup of coffee together at a quaint coffee shop, pamper yourselves with a manicure and/or pedicure, visit a local flower shop to create a cheerful bouquet, or go see a matinee show at a local theater. If staying in the comfort of your loved one’s surroundings is a more suitable option, go for a nice walk around their home, indulge in a favorite snack together, work on a picturesque puzzle, or color an enchanting picture.
Gift them with Something Useful
You may have to get a bit creative with your gift giving, but there are many practical gift ideas for individuals with dementia. A digital, bluetooth picture frame is a wonderful way for family members to share pictures of familiar faces. Items of comfort, like weighted blankets or cozy slippers are both useful and enjoyable. Select a few stylish pieces to add to your loved ones wardrobe; clothing with elastic waistbands, easy-to-use Velcro, snaps, or zippers make it easier for them to get dressed. At the end of the day, the most precious gift you can give is your time.
Reminisce about the Past
If long-term memory is still present for your mom, talk about some of your sweet memories from earlier years. Reminisce about times you shared together, trips you went on, and special occasions or traditions. Bring pictures or photo albums to spark conversation and guide the memories. Encourage her to tell the stories as she remembers. If things seem a bit hazy and she’s having a difficult time putting it together, don’t get discouraged. Know that you carry her memories for her and she cannot control how her brain perceives them. Enjoy the time with her, just being together, and don’t dwell on how times were or “should be”. Try your best to enjoy the here and now.