Celebrating holidays during a pandemic is not easy for anyone, but add dementia to the mix and you may be left wondering how to celebrate in a meaningful way. You are not alone . About 15.7 million family caregivers care for someone who has dementia. [Alzheimer’s Association. (2015). 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.] Father’s Day is a time to honor your father and celebrate all that he has done. Even with dementia, your Dad can still find enjoyment in you and the time you spend together.
Human nature drives us to continually seek new experiences throughout our lives. One of the most prevalent, false stigmas of dementia is that it signifies the end of learning. The reality is people with dementia can create new memories and develop new skills, especially when they are introduced meaningfully within a habilitative environment. Science suggests that the human brain is wired for connection and, even with dementia, that does not change. Simply spending time with your Dad can have a positive neurological impact. For example, holding his hand stimulates several sensory and neurological response centers in the brain. Reminiscing with him about the past stimulates emotional centers in the neocortex. Providing intellectual stimulation fosters neurogenesis and may often lead to cognitive improvement. So, how can you celebrate together?
First, start with a plan – who will be visiting; what gifts might they bring; where will you gather; how would you like to spend the time? Your plan doesn’t need to be elaborate, but having a vision for how the day will look will aid in your success. Remember, when working with dementia, keeping things simple is key. Here are some suggestions as you consider your options.
Create the plan for your visit as a team with your spouse, children, siblings, Mom, healthcare professional – whoever will be there -- so that you all are on the same page. Remember, you are not in this alone. Caring for a loved one with dementia takes a village, so do not hesitate to ask for help.
Next, consider how you can make this Father’s Day celebration special. Yes, people with dementia have a difficult time remembering; however, in most cases their emotional memory stays intact. Simple actions like giving Dad a hug, telling him a joke, or kissing him on the cheek are very powerful and impactful. Reminiscing can be as simple as talking about the things he used to enjoy doing. Having trouble figuring out what to talk about? Photos, beloved objects, and stories (also known as somatic cues) are excellent ways to spark a conversation.
If you want to bring Dad a gift, think of an object that will inspire conversation or something with which he identifies. How about a fishing pole – even if he may not use it for fishing, a safeguarded tool set , or a model of his favorite car? You may also want to consider bringing something that you can do together like a small birdhouse-building kit, a crossword puzzle book, or a model car kit – remember, keep it simple .
Lastly and most importantly, enjoy your time with your father. Yes, it may be different than how you have celebrated in the past, and it might not go precisely as you plan; but if you remember to stay present and focus on feelings of gratitude for your time together, then you and your Dad will cherish every moment. Happy Father’s Day!
For more tips on how to celebrate with a loved one who is living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, or for further information about our unique Memory Care Communities please contact CERTUS Premier Memory Care Living at marketing@CERTUSseniorliving.com or by calling (407) 757-7597.