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Celebrating Mother’s Day when Mom has Dementia

Mother’s Day is a time to reflect and honor the mother figures in your life. However, it can be challenging to figure out how to best celebrate with your Mom if she has dementia. I’ve compiled a few tips for creating a good day together (or apart, if you can’t be nearby).

  • Enjoy a meal together! This can be done either over a video call or in-person, depending on your circumstances. 
      • If you’re long-distance, order Mom’s favorite for delivery at her home or living community, and coordinate with someone there who can help unpack it, plate it, and set up a laptop for your video call. Serve yourself a similar meal and enjoy reminiscing about the familiar flavors, favorite recipes, and wherever the conversation takes you. Ensure she’s wearing her hearing aids and glasses, if applicable. 
      • If you’re celebrating together, you might be tempted to go out for brunch at a restaurant together. However, extensive menus and loud chatter might be a little overwhelming or overstimulating for someone with dementia, so it’s all about planning ahead. 
        • One way to help mom avoid being overwhelmed is to look up the menu beforehand. Using your knowledge of your mom’s favorite foods, type up just a few of the options in a large font that she can read, for her own personalized menu that’s already narrowed down for her. You can even show her this specialized menu before you arrive at the restaurant so she can start looking forward to your meal together and thinking about what she’d like to eat. 
        • In order to set yourself up for successful conversations, call the restaurant ahead of time to request a quieter seating area, away from main walkways. 
        • Ensure your mom is comfortable during the excursion by prompting her to use the restroom beforehand, bringing a sweater in case she’s chilly, and anything else that will help decrease distractions caused by discomfort.
  • Give her a gift of cherished memories. While dementia might reduce your mom’s short-term memory, often long-term memories remain. When your mom taps into long-term memories that she cherishes, they can provide comfort and positive emotions. 
      • If you’re searching for a good gift for her, start looking through old photo albums. If you find some special memories that your mom will love reminiscing about, you can use a simple photo scanning app on your phone to create digital copies of the photos. Then, you can use any number of websites to easily create a beautiful photo book that she’ll love flipping through. (Here’s a helpful list that summarizes a number of photobook options: 9 Best Photo Book Services for Quick, Personalized, Photo Albums  
      • When creating a photo book, consider adding names of those pictured, and possibly the context (“Sandra’s graduation from The University of Kansas in 1978.”)  Use a font size that your mom can read. When considering fonts, many dementia experts suggest using sans-serif fonts, which may be easier for someone with dementia to read. (Sans-serif is a font that doesn’t use tails on the end of the letters. For example, Arial is a common sans-serif font.)
    • Send some love. What sorts of activities does your mom enjoy, or did she enjoy in the past? If she loved the opera or a certain type of performance, see if there are online tickets for a virtual concert you could watch together. If she loved gardening (or cooking!), an indoor herb garden might be a good match. If she loves a certain type of food, you could sign her up for a monthly food delivery subscription service. Since we’ve all been stuck inside during the pandemic, there are many more in-home engagement offerings for all types of interests, so you can really think outside of the box this year!

We hope you and your mother have a beautiful Mother’s Day! 

Posted by Grace Townley-Lott, LMSW in Alzheimer's & Dementia

Written by Grace Townley-Lott, LMSW Grace Townley-Lott, LMSW

Grace Townley-Lott, LMSW is the Director of the True Bridge program at True Care, which provides additional support for those with memory loss. True Bridge provides strengths-based care to empower, encourage, and engage our clients. With almost 15 years of experience working specifically with clients with dementia-related conditions and their families, she enjoys building connections and opportunities for expression through creative engagement. After work, you can find Grace reading, writing, painting, or creating artistic specialty cakes.