This Mother’s Day, over 100 million phone calls will be made. In the US alone, more than $23 billion will be spent celebrating moms.
But for families who are accompanying their mother on the dementia journey, holidays like Mother’s Day are too often fraught with worry and indecision. The traditional gifts of cards, flowers, jewelry, spa trips, and dining out can feel like burdens instead of blessings.
In loving my mother through Alzheimer’s, I had to learn to change the game and meet her exactly where she was at—particularly on a holiday like Mother’s Day. I took my cue from Maya Angelou, who said, “People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”
Stay flexible, focused, and hopeful—tender loving care is an experience your mother’s heart will always remember.
Me and my mom at the beach a few years back.
Here are five memory care ideas to help make your mom feel loved this Mother’s Day—and every day.
1. Forgo the fancy bouquet that will soon be wilted. Go outside together and stroll through a flower garden, naming your favorite brilliant colors. Take a drive to a nearby botanical garden, and view their living, seasonal collection of flowers and plants. If you’re in the early stages of the dementia journey, make sure that you take time to stop and smell the roses together!
2. Reconsider the delicate jewelry that might soon be misplaced. Get some colorful pop beads that the two of you can click together and take apart again and again as a relaxing and creative activity!
3. Take a pass on the spa trip.
It's likely to involve a new place, new faces, and new tasks – these can all frustrate a loved one with dementia. Pamper your mother by gently massaging her hands with essential oils or hydrating scented lotion. Wrap your mother in a favorite blanket, and recount favorite stories or sing favorite songs
4. Skip the restaurant with too many choices, too many people, and too much background noise. Invite your mother into the kitchen to stir, talk, listen to music, or just be present as you prepare and share the gift of a favorite home-cooked meal.
5. Avoid the hustle and bustle of this event-oriented holiday.
If your mom is still able to get out safely, browse online menus to plan the meal ahead of time, and talk to the manager in advance about coming and going through a door closest to the table awaiting you. Every distraction that you can minimize and every moment that you can save is a blessing beyond measure.
This Mother’s Day, take an opportunity to give the greatest gift of all—time. As caregivers, we often forget to breathe deeply, slow down, and stay in the present moment.
In our hurry, we may miss some of the most precious jewels our mother can give us—the exchange of heartfelt smiles, the kind of hugs that you don’t want to pull away from, and the words of love she one day may no longer be able to say out loud.
Find a way to be present even if you can’t physically be in the same room. FaceTime or Skype calls allow your mother to more easily follow a short and sweet conversation by seeing your facial expressions.
Again—stay flexible, focus on the timeless gifts of the heart, and always sway towards hope.
Maryann Makekau is dedicated to spreading love and hope to people coping with cancer, deployment in war, dementia, and other difficult life situations through writing, speaking, and advocacy. Where memory loss is concerned, it’s personal—her mother lived with Alzheimer’s for 14 years, and she is currently her father’s caregiver. She is the author of When Your Grandma Forgets, among other books, and you can learn more about her work at her website, Hope Matters.