He’s One of the Good Ones

Celebrating Father’s Day When Dad Has Dementia

Father’s Day activities may look a bit different when you’re the caregiver, but it doesn’t mean Dad can’t be honored and celebrated in a meaningful way, even if he isn’t aware of what is going on.  When planning your special day, it is important to keep in mind your father’s abilities and level of understanding.  

Each stage of dementia looks significantly different, and your plans should too.  Those with early stages of dementia may have trouble with short term memory, can become confused with daily tasks, or may experience mild changes in mood or behavior, along with other early signs and symptoms as outlined by alz.org. If your loved one has moderate dementia, then chances are you’re well aware of their need for greater assistance, such as needing help to get dressed and use the restroom or recalling information about themselves.  Those with late-stage Alzheimer’s need around the clock care and attention.  At this stage, they’ve lost awareness of their surroundings  and recent events, their physical abilities have been affected, and they are more susceptible to illness.  If your dad has severe dementia, then Father’s Day is best spent with him in the comfort of his own home.  

When planning your day, with your dad’s needs in mind, it’s a great idea to first reflect on your dad’s legacy before dementia altered his cognitive and physical abilities.  While constantly dwelling on the past is not healthy, reflecting upon it is beneficial to your approach in caring for the man that he is now.  Remembering the man who raised you, the significant impact he has had on your life, the wonderful memories you have made together, and the activities you liked to share can help to remind you of the soul that’s deep within him.  Some of these memories may serve as the perfect inspiration on how to spend the day honoring and celebrating your old man.

Here are some suggestions on how to make the day special and heartwarming for both of you.  Remember to tailor these ideas to your specific situation, with your dad’s needs in the forefront of your plans. 

Enjoy a Favorite Treat

Everyone loves to splurge every now and again.  Use this special occasion as an opportunity to relive yesteryears with a favorite treat the two of you have always enjoyed together.  Perhaps root beer floats are your thing!  If Dad is up to it, find an old time soda shop nearby and indulge in the nostalgic treat together.  Heck, even spin around on the shiny chrome and red leather barstools, feeling just like a kid again!  Bring the ice cream and soda to him if it’s best to celebrate in the comfort of his own home.  Keep in mind, some foods can actually fight against memory loss.

Share Your Favorite Activity 

Did you and your dad spend countless days at the ballpark together?  Were your Saturdays spent on the golf course or cruising down the coast admiring classic cars?  Maybe the two of you liked to rise with the morning sun and throw a line in the water at your favorite fishing hole.  Make plans to spend the day together doing one of your favorite activities, or gift Dad a pair of tickets for an upcoming event.  If this is no longer a feasible option for your pops, bring him a beautiful coffee table book centered around your favorite pastime, and spend the day flipping through the glossy pages.  Tell him about your fond memories and how appreciative you are of the time he spent doing these activities with you.  

Family Time

Father’s Day is often celebrated with the extended family.  Invite your dad over to spend the day with the grandkids if he’s up for it.  Throw some steaks on the grill and share a delicious meal together!  Just remember, those with dementia can quickly become overstimulated if they’re in an unfamiliar location or trying to keep up with conversation.  Limit your time spent together in a big group, before bringing Dad back home to his quiet and familiar surroundings.  

Go for an Evening Stroll/Roll

Map out a few spots to go and visit.  This can be a simple walk around an assisted living facility, or a drive together if you’d like to explore a greater area.  If your dad is capable of walking, use it as an opportunity to mix in a bit of light activity while admiring the landscape around you or telling stories of the past.  Push your pops around in his wheelchair if this is a more suitable mode of transportation.  

Favorite Music

Drop the needle on your favorite vinyl record and let the music set the tone for your visit.  Music is a great way to connect with your loved one, as well as a beneficial form of therapy for dementia patients. If your dad has severe dementia, let the music entertain while you help with chores around his home.  Just being there with him on this special day is still a meaningful way to celebrate.  

No matter how you spend the day, make sure you hug him, squeeze him, love on him, and enjoy being in his presence.  He may forget the day happened the second you leave, but remember to live for the moment and enjoy the time together.  Most importantly, don’t forget to thank your lucky stars that you’ve been blessed with one of the good ones!