Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Your Loved One who has dementia

As the winter holiday season gives way to the promise of Spring, Valentine’s Day offers a sweet bridge to the new year. And it’s a wonderful time to renew your love for those who have Alzheimer’s Disease. Writer Lutgarda Mariano of Canada’s Home Care Assistance in Victoria, British Columbia offers some tried and true activities you can do with your loved one to mark the famous lovers holiday.

“The same interests that gave your loved one pleasure in the past could stir memories and reduce anxiety in the present,” she writes. If he or she has always enjoyed celebrating Valentine’s Day, encourage him or her to continue that tradition, she explains.

  1. Create Flower Arrangements – This is not just fun, but it also fosters a sense of accomplishment. You can use freshly picked flowers from your home garden, or stop by the florist and buy a nice assortment and a vase or two to make your own bouquet.
  2. Make Sweet Treats Together – If you have access to a kitchen (either at home or in a care community), cooking can activate the senses and promote social bonding and self-expression for those with dementia. If you are concerned about adding too much sugar to their healthy diet, choose heart-shaped, whole grain pancakes or chocolate-dipped bananas or strawberries.
  3. Watch old Videos or look through old Photo Albums – Looking at old photos or videos, especially those featuring past Valentine’s Days, can help trigger pleasant memories for seniors with dementia, and help them foster emotional connections with others.
  4. Play Romantic Songs – “Key brain areas are often linked to musical memory and often go undamaged,” writes Mariano. Playing their favorite love songs can evoke happy memories and “listening to music can boost your loved one’s mental and emotional wellbeing,” she explains, “and it also reduces stress, anxiety, agitation, and violent behavior.”
  5. Make Homemade Valentine’s Cards – Collect all the materials you’ll need: red construction paper, white lacy trim, scissors, tape, pens etc and make them together. “Making homemade cards can help seniors with Alzheimer’s increase their concentration while connecting with past memories,” says Mariano. “And passing them out to friends and family members may help your loved one with dementia feel more engaged with life.”

I really love this quote from the great Katharine Hepburn about love:

“Love has nothing to do with what you expect to get – only with what you expect to give – which is everything.” 

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