As our mothers age, quality time together becomes even more precious. Mother’s Day is an opportunity to get that quality time and let your mom know how much you care.
Cards, flowers, and gifts are a wonderful way to let mom know you are thinking about her. At the very least, a phone call will be appreciated. If you live nearby, a Mother’s Day visit can mean even more.
If your mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, this visit can be challenging depending on the stage of the disease. Here are 5 tips for making the day work for all involved.
5 Tips for a Great Mother's Day
- Engage in her favorite activities. Do what she enjoys most. It might be visiting with grandchildren, a picnic in the garden or listening to her favorite music. Conversation is not always easy for those with Alzheimer’s. They may struggle with constructing their own sentences or understanding what others are saying so you may want to consider activities that don’t require a lot of verbal interaction.
- Continue traditions. If there was something special you always did on Mother’s Day for your mom when you were younger, keep up that tradition. We always brought my Mom her favorite breakfast in bed and had her wear a rhinestone crown, calling her Queen for the day. My Dad always cooked dinner for her and it was always a barbecue. As my Dad's health began to fail, my brothers and I took over the barbecue duties or gave my mom the option of going to her favorite restaurant for dinner. Be sure to make advance reservations since it’s the busiest day of the year for restaurants! If you do go out to eat, make sure it’s a quiet, calm restaurant.
- Be flexible. Make sure to manage your expectations. Mom may be excited about her Mother’s Day BBQ with family, but as the day wears on, she may lose energy and interest and will just want to watch television. Go with the flow. If there are more people than just you visiting, keep the group small. Social interaction is so important, but we need to remember it can also be challenging.
- Bring back happy memories. Your mom may not remember or may be confused about what she did the day before, but Alzheimer’s patients will often remember people and places from their past. I used to put together a framed photo gallery of all the great mothers in our family – grandmothers, aunts, sisters, nieces. I staged it on the dining room table or another clear surface. I also brought out other scrapbooks or memorabilia of happy times. Pictures of family holidays and travel holidays can stir fond memories and trigger a conversation. Revisiting these events that you loved as a child also shows your mom the importance of her influence on your life.
- Let the day revolve around her. Put aside everything you might have to do; tuck your cell phone away and give your mom your full attention. Older people – with or without Alzheimer’s – may often feel invisible, overlooked, disempowered, so do whatever she wants. Ask her opinion on current affairs or for advice on a personal matter. See if she will share that special recipe you love and want to learn to cook. All of these are ways to make her feel useful, valuable and special.
5 Fun Mother's Day Activities
In case you are at a loss for what to do with your mom on Mother’s Day, here are some ideas to consider. These suggestions involve activities that are thought to help dementia and Alzheimer’s patients cope with their cognitive condition.
- Get some fresh air and exercise. Even mild exercise has proven to help keep our brains healthy. Healthy body, healthy mind. If your mother is ambulatory and the weather permits, go for a stroll through a park, enjoy a public garden, or take the dog for a walk. Even if she needs to be in a wheelchair or using a walker, the fresh air and outdoor vistas can be a welcome and enjoyable change of pace.
- Play games that she enjoys. My mom loved to do jigsaw puzzles. Even with her dementia, she had a keen eye and was able to master a simple puzzle. Not only did it delight her, but I am convinced it helped keep her mind sharp. Card games are another fun way to boost brain health, as are board games like Scrabble.
- Music, singing and dancing. Play some of her favorite music. Do a little singing and maybe even some dancing! Music can promote wellness and healing to help manage stress and dementia. Music and memory go together in what specialists call “sound health”. Many music and dancing therapies have even been incorporated into memory care programs. Most importantly, they are joyful, fun activities.
- Plan an easy field trip. Visit a museum that won’t be too crowded or noisy. Go to the zoo! Tour a famous local heritage site or monument.
- Arts and crafts. If your mother enjoys this sort of thing, get out the paper, scissors and glue gun. My favorite craft to make is a Mother’s Day bonnet/hat. Buy a couple of inexpensive straw hats with big brims. You can stock up on faux flowers, ribbons and other decorative trim at a craft store. Mom will have fun modeling her creation and you can snap a memorable photo or two.
Here’s to a happy Mother’s Day!