With a little patience, creativity and understanding, you can find ways to celebrate your mother and honor her special place in your life, even as dementia makes its presence felt.
Here are some ideas to help make Mother’s Day pleasant if your mom is experiencing dementia symptoms.
Keep things simple
When dealing with dementia symptoms, simple activities can be an incredibly important tool for promoting relaxation, decreasing anxiety and promoting engagement. Often, people with dementia symptoms may struggle with complex tasks and situations, leading to frustration and distress. One important consideration when planning activities for someone with dementia is that memory loss and confusion can make even once-familiar activities feel challenging or overwhelming. Simplifying activities can be key to successful engagement and enjoyment.
Some simple activities that can be beneficial for someone with dementia include:
- Listening to music: Music can have a calming effect on people with dementia symptoms, and can be a powerful tool for promoting relaxation and happiness. Play familiar and soothing music, or explore new genres together!
- Baking or cooking together: Simple recipes and easy-to-follow instructions can be a fun and engaging way to spend time together. Consider making a favorite family recipe or trying something new. (Remember to try to do the thinking for them and show them how to do simple tasks.)
- Walking outside: Taking a stroll can be a wonderful way to get some fresh air and sunshine, and can promote physical activity and engagement with the environment.
The simplicity of these activities is part of what makes them so effective in promoting comfort, relaxation and engagement.
It’s important to be mindful of the potential for overstimulation when making plans or engaging in activities with someone who has dementia symptoms. This can mean avoiding loud noises, bright lights and crowded places that can be overwhelming.
One of the most important ways to avoid overstimulation is to plan activities that are appropriate for the person’s abilities and interests. For example, a crowded shopping mall may be overwhelming, but a quiet stroll in a park or a simple craft project can be enjoyable and less stressful.
Similarly, it’s important to pay attention to the physical environment. Bright, flashing lights or loud, chaotic sounds can be overstimulating, while calm, soothing music or soft, gentle lighting can be comforting and relaxing. Take note of what seems to work best for the person, and try to adapt the environment to their needs as much as possible.
Another important consideration is timing. People with dementia often have good and bad times of day, and may be more alert and engaged at certain times. Plan activities for the times that work best for the person, and avoid activities that may be too much of a strain during low-energy periods.
It can also be helpful to communicate clearly and calmly, using a soft and soothing tone of voice. Avoid talking too quickly or using complex language that may be difficult for the person with dementia to understand. Speak clearly and face-to-face, and allow plenty of time for a response.
The person with dementia is not intentionally trying to be difficult or hard to understand. Remaining patient and calm can go a long way in helping to facilitate clear communication and avoid frustration for both parties.
Using simple language and avoiding complex sentences can make it easier for the person to understand what you are saying. It can also be helpful to make eye contact and use nonverbal cues, such as nods and smiles, to help convey your message.
Rushing them or finishing their sentences for them can be frustrating and counterproductive.
If you find that you are becoming frustrated or losing your patience, it can be helpful to take a step back and take a deep breath. It can also be helpful to seek out support from friends, family or professional caregivers who can offer guidance and assistance.
Avoid asking questions
For someone with dementia symptoms, the ability to process and understand questions can be significantly impaired.
To avoid this, it’s important to minimize the use of questions as much as possible. Instead, try to make statements or observations that prompt a response. For example, instead of asking “Are you hungry?” you could say, “It’s time for lunch now, let’s eat something together.” This can prompt a reaction without requiring the person to process and respond to a direct question.
If you do need to ask a question, try to keep it as simple and direct as possible.
It’s also important to avoid asking too many questions in rapid succession.
And remember, just because someone has dementia symptoms doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings. With a little effort you can create special moments with your mom, which will be rewarding for both of you.
If you need to speak to someone one-on-one about how dementia has impacted your family, check out my dementia care family counseling.