Mother's Day When Mom is Living with Dementia

"My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time."   - Steve Jobs

As Mother’s Day approaches, we are inundated with ads for gifts to buy Mom. If your mother is living with dementia, you might find that living in the moment becomes more important than a trinket or token gesture.

Spending time together and making memories might be the best way to celebrate Mother’s Day. If you wonder whether Mom will even remember what you did, it’s okay… you will remember it, and she will savor that moment when it is happening. All Moms want to hear is, “I’m here. Let’s spend the day together.”

People living with dementia still have access to certain memories that they would love to share with you. They crave emotional connections and a desire to express themselves. Here are some ideas for activities that could foster a relaxing and meaningful Mother’s Day:

1.      Ask questions about her childhood. Did she have a best friend? What subject did she like at school?

2.      Get ice cream and go for a walk in the park. Make observations about things happening in the moment – children playing, flowers blooming.

3.      Read aloud to her from a book of poetry. Katie Clark, who runs the Reader group in the UK, says that poetry is often more meaningful than prose for people living with dementia. "When you read poetry aloud, you slow down. Every line is full of meaning, condensed down.” 

4.      Sit and have coffee or tea together. Ask your Mom if you can record some of your chat and let her know how much it would mean to have that recording saved.

5.      Think about the tasks she’s enjoyed for a feeling of productivity or accomplishment. Fold some laundry together or re-organize a desk area. Share your own memories of her doing those jobs when you were a child.

6.      Tend to a garden, taking notice of the scents and textures that might trigger happy memories.

7.      Consider bringing a well-behaved pet to visit. The comfort and distraction of petting a happy dog can reduce anxiety.

8.      If you have children, arm them with art supplies so that all three generations can create something together.

9.       Listen to the music from her youth. Music is a powerful tool for unlocking memories and positive energy.

10.      Brush her hair, polish her nails, give her a hand massage. Sometimes a caring touch is even more meaningful than spoken words.

Whatever you do together, remember to focus on the process and not the results. Watch Mom for cues that say she is tired or unhappy. Take breaks or try something else.

The greatest present is presence. We wish you a joyful Mother’s Day.

Heather Hickey