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Valentine’s Day and Dementia Care

Posted on: Feb 02, 2021

Valentine’s Day can be a challenging day for family care partners, particularly those caring for a spouse or partner. As one member of an Alzheimer’s support group told me last year, “I remember so many good times with my wife, but Valentine’s Day can be a rough one for me.”

While the feelings of loss can be profound, particularly during this pandemic time, people living with dementia are often more focused on the here and now. The husband I met at the support group went on to say that he feels so much better when he can laugh with his wife, spend time with their dog, and do simple projects together – especially on Valentine’s Day.

With that in mind, here are some activity ideas you can enjoy with a family member on this day celebrating romance, chocolate, roses and love.

Read about the history of Valentine’s Day - Use the Internet to learn more about this interesting holiday with ancient roots. You can also use Google/Images to enjoy images of vintage Valentine’s Day cards including many colorful and detailed ones from Victorian England.

Bake together – Today is no day to count calories. Start a project to bake some delicious chocolate cake or brownies – it’s okay to use a mix. In any case, pick something that is a favorite of your family member (dietary restrictions considered). If need be, stop by an old-fashioned bakery or get something from the grocery store.

Enjoy some chocolate – Your hometown may have a local chocolate maker. If so, today is a day to buy some chocolates to share. Tip: One of my favorites is sugar free dark chocolate covered almonds!

Discuss roses – Roses are a classic Valentine’s Day gift, but instead of spending $75 on a dozen, again return to the Internet to read about the fascinating history of roses – did you know there are over 300 varieties? Enjoy some online images of rose gardens. Plan to visit a local rose garden if it is safe today (or in the near future).

Do some brain aerobics around the theme of Valentine’s Day – Make a list of everything that you can think of that is red (e.g. a firetruck, lipstick, cherries, etc.). Work on the list throughout the week. 

Create some hand made collages or Valentine’s Day cards – People living with dementia enjoy collages since they are tactile and easy to do. Create a Valentine’s Day collage or some home-made Valentine’s card. Tip: If your family member doesn’t generally like to do this kind of thing, you can often turn a “no” into a “yes” by announcing that your art project or cards are a gift for a friend or family member. 

Reminisce – Long term memories often survive dementia more than short-term memories. Discuss some old memories like first dates, first dances, places lived or even a first kiss to enjoy some loving moments from the past. 

While Valentine’s Day can be a challenging day for some emotionally, take today to reach out to friends and family via phone or Zoom. A call from you to a friend or family member to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” will often make someone’s day special, and contribute to your own well-being.

David Troxel, MPH, co-author of The Best Friends Approach to Dementia Care and Consultant to Christian Horizons Pathway Memory Support Program

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