February 13, 2020

Valentine’s Day is all about expressing appreciation for the ones we love. If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you might be wondering how to celebrate the holiday together. As the disease progresses, individuals with dementia may not be able to remember certain details about their life. However, they are still able to feel and express important emotions, especially love.

According to recent research, our emotions last long after memories fade. This means that people with memory loss can still feel warm, positive feelings when loved ones visit, even if they no longer recognize them. If you are visiting a loved one in a memory care community this Valentine’s Day, here are some suggestions to make their day extra special.

Engage their senses

Stimulating the five senses (hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell) is a powerful way to help people with dementia reconnect with fond memories. This Valentine’s Day, consider giving gifts that engage each of your loved one’s senses. For example, bring a bouquet of fragrant flowers or sweet treats (if dietary restrictions allow). Watch a favorite movie or listen to familiar songs together. Your loved one might also enjoy a soft, tactile object like a stuffed animal or blanket to bring feelings of comfort and security.

Make handmade Valentine’s Day cards

Art therapy is another proven way to create joyful experiences for individuals with dementia. Completing a project provides a feeling of purpose, pride, and accomplishment. Not to mention, creative activities provide healthy cognitive stimulation and encourage self-expression. When you visit your loved one this Valentine’s Day, bring arts and craft supplies like stickers, paper doilies, ribbon, stamps, and markers to create handmade valentines together. Share the cards with family members, friends, or caregivers in the memory care community.

Reminisce with stories and memories

Individuals with dementia sometimes have an easier time remembering personal events from many years ago, even if they’re unable to recall recent memories. Instead of asking your loved one specific questions about the past—which can be harder for them to answer—try looking at old photographs or watching home videos to encourage storytelling. Allow memories to surface naturally, and be a good listener. You might also consider writing down or recording your loved one’s stories to preserve them for the next generation.

Dementia can change many aspects of your loved one’s life, but it doesn’t change their need for love and affection. Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion to spend quality, one-on-one time together. It doesn’t matter what you do when you visit; what matters most is the love you share. Happy Valentine’s Day!