While some days may feel like an exercise in patience for caregivers to those with dementia, showing love to your loved one is important for both of you. And there’s no better time than Valentine’s Day to follow these suggestions for loving, caring interaction with your seniors.
7 Ways to Show Your Senior Love this Valentine’s Day
When your loved one seems far away, it can be difficult to stay in the moment with them. Perhaps you can’t help but think of a time when things were different, but meeting him or her where they are now, instead of trying to bring them back to who they were, can yield some surprising rewards. According to new research, spending less than 10 minutes a day chatting with those who have dementia can substantially improve their quality of life. By engaging mindfully and fully, you honor your loved one in the best way possible.
Remember the Past
For those in the early or mid-stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, sharing reminders of the past may help them recall warm memories. Photos, music, scrapbooks or even the scent of perfume or aftershave can lead to great conversation.
Make time for the activities you and your loved one can still enjoy, too, even if it’s on a smaller scale. Go for a walk outdoors, play a game, or take a drive past places that hold a special place in your hearts.
Make New Memories
Although a person with advanced dementia may not remember what you do together, he or she can remember the emotions associated with those activities. Create new “emotional memories” through art, music, photos, touch, and conversation—any form of communication that engages your loved one in a positive way.
Physical contact can communicate your interest and provide reassurance. Don’t underestimate the comfort you can give by simply holding your loved one’s hand, or by putting your arm around them if it feels appropriate.
Speak their Language
Find ways to reinterpret the five languages of love: Words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and giving gifts. You know best what your loved one responds to. Use that knowledge to create a love language all your own!
Letting your loved one know how you feel is just as important for you as is for them. Speak sincerely, express what’s in your heart, and your emotions will shine through the words. Cards, gifts, and love poems can serve as a reminder to you of all you love about that special person, and your efforts are sure to be appreciated by your Valentine, too!
Give the Gift of a Better You
Your loved one deserves the best you can give. But you can’t get water from an empty well, and one of the best things you can do for the person in your care is to refill that well as often as you can. Find ways to relax and release the stress of caregiving. Accept help. Create a care network. Join a support group. Set realistic expectations of what you’re able to do. And most importantly, take care of your own health. Remember, you are loved and needed!