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Honoring Dad on Father's Day

Holidays can pose a special challenge for caregivers of people with dementia. Loved ones may not remember the reason for the day or why you’re making such a fuss. This may be particularly hard on Father’s Day, when your dad may not even recognize you as their child. While this can be an emotional blow, making the effort still matters.

Even if your father can’t remember your name or exactly how you fit into their lives, your face may still be familiar, making your presence a great source of comfort and pleasure. To a person with dementia, the world is often confusing. Seeing a familiar face, even if they can’t place it into a particular context, provides a sense of normalcy and stability.

Here are some ideas to help make your experience with you dad more enjoyable:

  • Bring him one of his favorite foods, like some BBQ ribs or foods that evoke a specific memory, like watermelon or corn on the cob. This will not only bring pleasure, it may stir some memories and provide him an opportunity to talk about the good times he still remembers.
  • Spend time doing something he has always enjoyed. Encouraging your father to continue to pursue lifelong passions and hobbies is a great way to provide a sense of fulfillment while also connecting.
  • Understand that your dad may not enjoy engaging in conversations that he can no longer follow. So, bring along a DVD of one of his favorite TV programs or movies or a CD of his favorite music. Visual and audio stimuli remain a powerful communications mechanism for the memory-impaired even as speech fades.
  • Give him a gift that he will be able to enjoy on a daily basis, like a framed picture of the two of you together, whether it’s the mountains, the sea, or a shot taken during a memorable family vacation or sporting event. It will be a source of constant enjoyment.

You can still honor your father on his special day, even if he has dementia. In fact, your simple act of spending time with him may be the greatest gift you’ve ever given.

All Caregiver Resource Center staff conversations are confidential.

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