Valentine’s Day can be heartbreaking for those whose spouses are living with dementia. It’s painful when your partner can’t remember your first date or wedding day, or when they don’t even recognize you. Your vow of “in sickness or in health” can feel especially heavy on Valentine’s Day, a day when couples are expected to demonstrate their mutual love and adoration. Valentine’s activities for dementia patients can help caregivers demonstrate their love.
Still, it’s important that caregivers have permission to acknowledge their frustration and sorrow. Feeling grief before your loved one has passed is completely normal. This anticipatory grief often surfaces around Valentine’s Day and other commemorative days.
To make it through Valentine’s Day, it helps if the caregiver spouse lowers expectations and focuses on what their loved one is able to do. If your partner always sent you flowers or bought you a gift, understand that that might not happen this year. Instead, plan activities that will make you feel close to your loved one.
Valentine’s activities for dementia patients include:
- Making cards together. A craft project can help keep you in the present moment and appreciate the small things you can do with your partner.
- Looking at old photos of your adventures as a couple. Depending on the stage of dementia, your loved one’s long-term memories may still be accessible. If not, you can tell your partner stories about the family milestones, hobbies, and travel depicted in the photos.
- Cook their favorite meal. Stimulating all of your loved one’s senses is important, and food is a way of communicating your love.
- Hold hands and hug. It’s difficult to lose access to sexual intimacy – and that loss is especially keen around Valentine’s Day. Sharing the physical closeness that’s possible for your spouse can enable a different, deeper kind of intimacy.
- Say to yourself what you won’t hear. Your partner may not be able to express their love or appreciation for all that you do. Write down or say aloud what you wish they would say.
- Tap into your support network. If you’re in a dementia caregivers support group, plan a meetup or a Zoom call with those in your circle who are experiencing the same emotions. Or, you can rely on supportive family members or friends for whom Valentine’s Day is also difficult.
Dementia caregivers should prioritize their own health and well-being while navigating Valentine’s Day’s emotional challenges. Even if your loved one doesn’t know what day it is, you do. Dementia caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint, so it’s important to be gentle with yourself during this time of year.
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