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Ways to Celebrate Mother’s Day When Your Mom Has Dementia

BY DEBORAH SHOUSE

“I don’t know what to do about Mother’s Day,” a friend recently told me. “I used to celebrate with my mother, but Mom doesn’t really recognize me now and the holiday won’t mean anything to her.” I had experienced the same feelings when my mother had dementia and I knew my friend was not alone in her dilemma.

Here are ways I honored this holiday during my mom’s dementia journey:

Feel Your Frustration and Grief: The happy-family-candy-and-flowers Mother’s Day television commercials seemed to shout at me: “Your mother is no longer who she used to be!” A spike of sorrow stabbed at me as I mourned my “former mom.”

  • Solution: Before Mother’s Day, talk about your feelings with empathetic friends. Ask for extra support around the holiday, if you need it.
  • Activities: To celebrate the holidays, do something new together, such as water coloring, taking photographs, or looking at art together. Invite a talented friend or family member to entertain the two of you with music, dance, or a cooking demonstration.

Accentuate the Positive: My mother could not cook a simple meal,or dress herself. She did not know my name or remember any of my accomplishments or stellar qualities.

  • Solution: I learned to look on the positive side. Even though Mom didn’t remember my name, she also didn’t recall my shortcomings. She was no longer critical of my parenting skills and no longer shy to show affection. She had a dazzling smile, a whimsical giggle, and an ability to look into my eyes. These were qualities to celebrate.
  • Activities: Listen to and sing along with her favorite tunes. Serve her favorite comfort foods. Arrange flowers together, enjoying the aromas, textures, and the process.

Activate your Appreciations:  My mom could not advocate for herself or express her needs.

  • Solution: Since my mom could not speak for herself, I became her advocate, spokeswoman, cheerleader, and historian
    Activities: Tell her favorite life stories, stories where she is the star. Share what you’ve learned from your journey with her, highlighting her opinions, maxims, and her accomplishments.

Give Yourself a Hurrah! On Mother’s Day, I celebrated my flexibility, sense of humor, and my steadfast feelings of responsibility. Though my relationship with Mom had changed, I still celebrated the on-going gifts and teachings I received as a daughter and I cherished the wonder of having a mother.

 

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