Celebrating Mother's Day When Mom has Dementia


Mother’s day is all about honoring those influential people in our lives who have sacrificed for us, shaped our identity, and supported us on our journeys. Each year we celebrate and breathe a word of gratitude for our mothers. However, for millions of Americans, it can be difficult to know how to celebrate when their mother has dementia. Sound Options believes that quality of life includes deep human connection with our loved ones. With a little creativity and intentional communication, we can still foster that vital connection despite the disease. If your mother has dementia, here are a few tips for engaging, connecting and celebrating with her this year.     


Meet Mom in Her Reality :: Though it may be tempting to correct her when she gives incorrect information or memories, this can lead to frustration for both of you and ultimately, it just doesn’t matter. Engage in her world by asking questions about what she is saying such as, “Wow, that is amazing. How did that make you feel?”

Time & Place :: A set schedule and daily rhythm is important continuity for a loved one with dementia. It is helpful to visit at a time when they are most fresh in the day. This may be different for each person. Meet on their turf surrounded by familiar surroundings. If you choose to do an activity, such as going on a walk or drive in the sun, keep it short and remind them of the activity throughout the day. Be flexible in your schedule so you can respond to their mood and energy level that day.  

Use Gestures ::  When talking with a loved one with dementia, they read non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions, body language and tone of voice, much more strongly than words. Use gestures when you speak to cue the person and always keep a positive attitude and tone of voice. For example, if a loved one is wandering off in the wrong direction, you can say with a smile, “Mom, come join me” while motioning toward yourself. This is much more effective and honoring than saying, “No, don’t go that way.”

Physical Touch :: So much human connection is fostered in positive physical touch from a held hand, to a back stroke, to a good old-fashion hug. When you are listening to a loved one communicate, let them take their time and consider laying a hand on their arm and looking them in the eyes. This lets them know that you care about what they have to say and they are worthy of your full attention. 

Gifts :: Choosing something that can be used up instead of hanging around the house is a great choice for an aging loved one. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pick up some fresh pre-cut flowers and a vase. Sorting can be very therapeutic for someone with dementia. Allow your mom to sort the flowers and arrange them in the vase. This can be a simple and engaging activity to do together.
  • Read her an excerpt from one of her favorite books or poems.
  • Create a playlist of a few songs that your mother used to love growing up and throughout her life. Music is both soothing and can offer a back door to the mind. Many individuals with dementia will respond to songs that they connect with (such as religious or patriotic songs) and can sing along with loved ones.  
  • If the grandchildren are involved in the visit, allow them time to play their musical instrument, sing a song, tell a story, or share in an art project together with grandma.
  • If your mom could use practical items, such as new sheets, or garments, pick items that are in vibrant shades of their favorite colors as color can have a positive impact on mood. 

Patience :: While visits may be difficult and even painful for you as an adult child, remember to be patient, engage, and accept your loved one for who they are in this moment, without comparing them to who they used to be. In  Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book, Gift from the Sea, she writes these wise words, “When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand…Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.”   


For more resources on dementia, visit the “Dementia & Alzheimer's topical section of our blog. Sound Options offers in-home dementia support to families in the Puget Sound through Geriatric Care Management and Home Care. It’s our pleasure to help you navigate the steep learning curve of elder care and get you the care you need today! Give us a call at 800.628.7649.   




Published on May 9, 2014.