Why Valentines' Day Can Be So Special for the Person with Alzheimer's Disease
- Valentine's Day has many traditional symbols associated with it that have been seen over and over throughout the years. For instance, a Valentines' Day card, red heart decorations, chocolate candies, red roses, "XOXO", and cupid. Symbols like these that have been seen and experienced many times and that are tied strongly to emotions - in this case love - stick in our long-term memory banks. People with dementia have poor short-term memory but hold onto their long-term memories long into the disease. So they will very likely understand and connect with the symbols of Valentine's Day - especially when you add in an excited and loving "Happy Valentine's Day" when giving your gift!
- People with dementia may forget what they have just done and may not know what is coming next - But they do not forget love. The person with dementia will get mixed up or forget the details of the day. That is the short-term memory loss causing havoc. But the person still does know emotions - being scared, happy, bored, loved. It really does not even matter if the person truly understands that it is Valentine's Day. What is important is the love the person can feel being freely given, as he or she receives a red heart, a big hug, and an exclamatory "Happy Valentine's Day!".
- And even more important - the feelings stay with the person with dementia even if the details of the event are not remembered. The person later may not remember exactly what gift was received, what was said, and may not even remember who it was that visited. That is all okay. If the person had moments of joy, happiness, and feeling loved, that peaceful feeling will remain long after the details are forgotten. And this can make the person's whole day go smoother. This is why it is so important to purposefully plan and give moments of joy to the person throughout the day.
So whether you are a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or paid caregiver of someone with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia, take a moment to purposefully give a moment of joy to that person this Valentine's Day. Give a card, a sweet treat (if diet restrictions allow), a flower, a paper heart, or just a hug. We would love to hear what you do!