Mother’s Day is just a few days away and while some of you are pondering what to give mom it made me think about A. how I still miss mom and B. what can someone whose mother has dementia/Alzheimer’s do for them for Mother’s Day. It really all depends on what stage they are in. In the very early stages you can go about celebrating with mom as you always did; perhaps with a bit more patience if she has gotten foggy in the memory bits. But this is the time to treasure with her because it will only go downhill from here. Sorry to say that but we all know this is a disease that while we may keep it at bay for awhile in the end it creeps in and over.
As she progresses you might have to be very careful if you are a family that celebrates by taking mom out. She may have reached a stage where anxiety about being out in a crowd can be daunting or she may be aware of her “shortcomings” and prefer to celebrate at home instead of being out some place. I truly believe that those with dementia who are self aware have moments where they know what they are and aren’t capable of and would rather not have to have a moment out in public. I know my mom was embarrassed about not being able to do something as simple as look up a phone number in her own handwritten phone book so instead of dealing with the frustration she would call me and frustrate me instead to look up the number for her.
If you normally celebrate at home or have to do it there (or in a nursing or assisted living home) then keep things simple. As time and the disease progress, having too many people around and a lot of stimulation can be a double edge sword. On one hand it is good to be around those who you love and love you and in some cases it brings the loved one “out” again but over stimulation can also lead to anxiety and potential behavioral issues. As the disease gets into the later stages your celebrations may be limited to just a few people or just you and mom. Which leads us into what to give a mom with dementia?
Again, it depends on what stage she is in. Flowers are always nice as are balloons and cards but don’t be shocked if the woman who once loved these things looks at them with disdain. Behaviors and likes and dislikes change with the disease. I will say that candy is always a winner no matter what the stage unless of course they are in the late stages and cannot have candy or they never liked it in the first place. Up until mom was no longer able to chew and swallow, she loved chocolate! So I always brought her chocolate and fed it to her in small little bits. Seeing her smile and chew away happily always made me smile even though I knew she hadn’t a clue about who was feeding her. I also would buy her the wildest t-shirts I could find when I went traveling. She had no idea what they said but the staff knew her daughter cared about her and had a weird sense of humor. Your mom might like a favorite meal or to hear music she’s always loved instead. Thoughtful creativity may have to come into play.
In mom’s early stages I gave her cards and – surprise – chocolates. She would smile and thank me and dive right into the chocolate. Once she was in a nursing home I brought her cards and balloons but they were mainly for me; to show others that she was not left in the home and that she was still cared for. They made me happy even though she never noticed them. Of course we know the chocolate was still a winner until… That last Mother’s Day when she was on hospice I still brought her some balloons to tie to the foot of her bed. I needed something cheerful in her room at that time and I wished so much I could feed her chocolate one more time. She died a few weeks after Mother’s Day and I packed away all of the cards we had taped to her wall and put them in a safe place – sigh.
Whatever you do for your mother for this day depends on you and where your mom is with the disease but I can say this with 100% assurance – the best gift for her is for you to be there for her and with her and to show her love. Even if she doesn’t or can’t respond I firmly believe that in there somewhere she feels it.