4 Rs to create a dementia-friendly Valentine's Day
Valentine’s Day can bring unique challenges to relationships where someone has dementia and cannot express themselves or remember things as they did before the onset of the illness. To help families affected by dementia, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) offers four tips on how to celebrate Valentine’s Day with someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia-related illness.
“Valentine’s Day is all about honoring the love and bond between loved ones. Dementia may impact a person’s ability to celebrate Valentine’s Day as they once did, but there are ways families can adapt the holiday to express love, connect with one another, and show that person how much they mean to you,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, AFA’s Director of Educational and Social Services.
Follow these four Rs to create a dementia-friendly Valentine’s Day:
- Reminisce. Go through old photos together with your loved one and describe them—who the people are, where it was taken, what the occasion was, etc. Simply talking about shared moments, whether it’s a vacation, celebration or another occasion that you happily enjoyed together, is a great way to celebrate the love and special bond you share.
- Reconnect. The impacts of dementia can make it challenging to do everything exactly as you once did, but there are numerous ways to maintain, restore or create intimacy, love and connection. Sharing a meal, watching a familiar movie, enjoying favorite music or just taking a walk together are all ways to help stay connected. Nonverbal cues, such as gentle touching, smiles and eye contact, can also maintain or strengthen connections with someone who may no longer be able to verbalize their emotions as they had before.
- Relate. Physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts and acts of service are all types of “love languages” that people use to give or receive love. Know what types of gestures your loved one responds positively to and try to “speak to them” in that love language. Be mindful that these may change over time as the dementia-related illness progresses.
- Reaffirm. Write a Valentine’s card and read it out loud to your loved one. Even if they can no longer grasp the full meaning, the act of writing it and communicating your love can help lift your own spirits. The time-honored Valentine’s Day gift of flowers is another way to enjoy the holiday together. Purchase a bouquet of fresh flowers, set it on a table and enjoy the fragrances—the scent can help improve mood, promote positive feelings and stimulate the brain.
AFA’s Helpline, staffed entirely by licensed social workers who are specifically trained in dementia care, can provide additional information and support for families. The helpline is available seven days a week by phone (866-232-8484), text message (646-586-5283), and web chat (www.alzfdn.org).
About Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA)
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide support, services and education to individuals, families and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias nationwide and to fund research for better treatment and a cure. For more information about AFA, call 866-232-8484, visit www.alzfdn.org, follow us on Twitter or connect with on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. AFA holds Charity Navigator’s top 4-star rating.