Creating a Memorable Mother’s Day When Mom Has Dementia

Happy senior woman holding flowers with her loving daughter and granddaughter on Mother's Day

Holidays can be a challenging time for families who are caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Beloved traditions may have to be adjusted to accommodate new realities. On Mother’s Day, many adult children wonder how to celebrate a day that may no longer hold any meaning for the honoree. But regardless of your mother’s particular circumstances, most all mothers appreciate spending time with someone who appreciates and pays attention to them. Here are some ways to ensure that celebrating your Mom will be an enjoyable time for both of you:

Go out for brunch

Taking Mom out on Mother’s Day is a tradition as old as the day itself. The original idea behind it was to give Mom a day off from cooking – an idea that may no longer hold much meaning if your Mom lives in a memory care community or has her meals made for her each day. If you do decide to go out, make sure she is comfortable with crowds and does well in a different setting than what she’s used to. If she’s amenable to the idea, consider ordering for her. If your mom prefers eating in, consider making some of her favorite dishes. If she doesn’t live with you, bring the meal to her. You can even reminisce about favorite foods and the memories you share surrounding special meals. People with dementia typically like a routine. If you do share a meal together, do so at a time when she usually eats.

Share fond memories

Conversations can sometimes be difficult with someone living with dementia, which often presents a challenge on how to create a special moment. Because many people with dementia still have their long-term memories intact, reminiscing about a past you share is a good way to connect. Consider sharing a photo album of a past trip you’ve taken together or some childhood events. Enter her world and share her reality. If she talks about President Eisenhower, ask her what she likes about him. If she doesn’t recognize who you are, but has memories of a son or daughter, invite her to share those memories without explaining who you are. If conversations are challenging, try to find an activity that the two of you can do together and be successful at, such as doing a jigsaw puzzle, gardening, reading a story or listening to music.

Give a gift that stimulates the senses

Everyone enjoys getting gifts and this may be a natural segue into reminiscing about some of your mom’s favorite presents from the past. Good gifts are those that stimulate the senses, such as a soft blanket, scented lotions, a CD of her favorite music, or a photo of the two of you together. Or you may consider taking some fresh cut flowers that the two of you can arrange in a vase together.

Celebrate the relationship you have now

While seeing someone you’ve loved all your life slowly slip away from you is understandably traumatic, try to acknowledge that the person who does exist is still a lovable human being in need of compassion. Recognize that whatever its form, you still have a relationship and that it deserves to be nurtured just like any other relationship.