When your mum has Alzheimer’s, Mother’s Day can be cruel.
She reminds you of the woman you used to know, but she might not be able to communicate with you now; she may sometimes forget your name or even who you are, and that can be heartbreaking.
What’s more, symptoms can make it hard for her to engage, participate and respond to brunches and other outings. The further along the disease progresses, the more difficult it will be for your loved one to open gifts, or manipulate ribbon and tape.
That doesn’t mean this day should pass without being recognized, though.
This list of activities will help you focus on creating experiences and reviving memories with your mum. You may be able to make an afternoon out of a handful of them; or your mum may have the energy for only a few minutes.
Either way, you’ll mark the day for both of you. (Don’t forget to take pictures and video — going over them together will be part of your celebration next year.)
Things to do with your mum
Puzzles — Alzheimer’s patients often are drawn to puzzles and tactile experiences. Choose puzzles with larger pieces (to avoid frustration) and consider personalizing them: many companies can convert your photos to puzzles of various sizes.
Art — Buy a selection of textured paper, brightly colored water paints, markers or pencils. Draw your mum a picture and see what she wants to offer in return.
Garden — Gardening is soothing for many Alzheimer’s patients and since most big-box stores sell starter greenhouses, you don’t need a yard to do it. These plastic trays are filled with individual pods (about 2 inches in diameter) each filled with a mixture of soil, fertilizer and mulch. Mist the pods a bit, to loosen the dirt, and then place a vegetable seed inside each pod. Put the whole tray in the window or under a light, and wait for them to sprout. (You can plant them in the ground then, or transfer them to pots.)
Dancing — Alzheimer’s patients often have bursts of energy, and often respond to music. Buy a DVD of dance lessons (Amazon has different genres) and move along with them. Maybe mum didn’t like to dance, but liked to watch? Download or buy ballet (Swan Lake maybe), modern dance (Alvin Ailey is riveting) and make a “movie night” of it.
Music — Fill an MP3 player with music from her past. Not sure what she listened to? Think back to when you lived at home: what music was played while you were growing up?
Movie night / afternoon — Choose a favorite of hers, or one you think will bring back memories. Don’t expect that mum will necessarily sit through the entire thing, but even a few moments of laughter or recognition of a familiar face will be enjoyable for you both.
Cook for her — Make a special meal for mum and serve it as if you were at a restaurant. Set the table with nice linens and cutlery and fresh flowers. Even if her appetite is gone, preparing a special food she used to like, perhaps something she made for you as a child, will make the experience special.
Bake something together — Especially fruit loaves, breads and other things you can kneed and touch.
Things to give your mum
Large wall calendar — with family photos. You can make them yourself, order them online and most print shops can also create them quickly.
Stuffed toys — Alzheimer’s patients are comforted by touching soft, plush objects. Toys with multiple kinds of fabrics will engage mum’s interest.
Flowers — Choose blooms of varying size, kind and color. Altered perception is common with Alzheimer’s, especially in the later stages of the disease. Monochromatic colors can make it harder for mum to distinguish.
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