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Keeping Mothers Day Special In The Face of Dementia

With the rise in Alzheimer’s disease and its special impact on women, more families are celebrating Mother’s Day with moms who have dementia. Nearly two-thirds of the Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. It’s not their gender that makes them more susceptible, it’s their greater life expectancy. Because women live longer and dementia tends to be a condition of the aged, they simply have more opportunity to get the disease.

While brunch is a much-beloved Mother’s Day tradition, dementia can make dining difficult. Smell and taste often diminish, making meals less enjoyable and many times leading to loss of interest in food. As dementia progresses, it can also become physically difficult to eat. Remember that the Mother’s Day brunch has its roots in “giving Mom a break from cooking.” If your mother no longer does her own cooking, the idea of taking a “break” from it may no longer makes sense. So celebrate the day doing something your Mother truly enjoys. If she still enjoys eating, here are some tips to make brunch (or dinner) more enjoyable.

  • Make your mother’s favorite dishes, even if it’s not what you would normally prepare at that time of day, and remind her that she has always loved whatever it is you’re serving.
  • Bring the meal out one item at a time so it’s easier to focus on it: first the fruit salad, then the French toast, and then the bacon.
  • If you dine out, choose a restaurant that is familiar to her.
  • Go at an off-peak time and even consider celebrating on a different day to reduce the noise and distractions.
  • Create and bring a menu for your mother to look at that offers just two meal choices, rather than overwhelm her with selecting from the restaurant’s menu.

If dining doesn’t seem like the right way to celebrate, here are some other ideas for the day:

  • Take a photo album of your family and engage her in a conversation about the people pictured there. Long-term recollection is more enduring than short-term for the memory-impaired, which means she may still have memories that you can share together.
  • Realize that talking isn’t the only way to enjoy your relationship with your mother, especially if she has trouble communicating. Bring a CD of music that you know she likes and listen to it together. Music remains a powerful and pleasurable mechanism for the memory impaired even as speech fades.
  • Give her a gift that provides visual or tactile comfort. A soft sweater in a bright color will give pleasure on a daily basis. So will a framed picture of you and your mom together. Even if she won’t always remember who it is in the picture, It will be a source of constant enjoyment.

You can still celebrate your mother on her special day, even if she has dementia. In fact, your simple act of spending time with her may be the greatest gift you’ve ever given.


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