For the young and young at heart, Valentine’s fun can last all week, but a national dementia expert is advising people to be on hand for those who are living with dementia, as the wall-to-wall hearts and flowers can be a reminder of loved ones lost.
Suzanne Mumford, Care UK’s dementia expert, explained: “Supporting someone living with dementia means being sensitive to what has happened in your loved one’s life, including the bereavement of a loved one, however long ago.
“Dementia and re-awakened memories affect people very differently. While some people are at their happiest reminiscing about their husband or wife, sometimes it can cause pain and distress. The crucial thing is to support your loved one in whatever makes them happy.”
Suzanne says that the most important thing is to ensure a loved one with dementia feels loved and valued. At Care UK’s 120 homes, nationwide lifestyle coordinators have developed events that support residents’ individual needs. Suzanne says the same techniques can be used with loved ones as homes.
“For those who have a partner they want to share the day with, we create a romantic restaurant environment where they can enjoy a meal together, reminiscing about the wonderful times they have shared.
“But, for others, our teams use Valentine’s Day as a theme for activities around creative art such as pottery, art, poetry and music which, extensive research reveals, improves people’s ability to engage and communicate with others.”
Suzanne’s top tips for supporting loved ones:
- Never underestimate the power of home - simply popping in for a chat and a cuppa. It can help to give a sense of feeling loved and valued;
- Bringing a bunch of flowers or a favourite cake with you can stimulate conversation and memories;
- If your loved one is with their partner, ask if they would like a romantic meal at home. Many supermarkets offer convenient meal deals and, teamed with their favourite music, you can create a very special occasion that strengthens bonds and sparks memories;
- If you know that your loved one gets low at this time, or at other point in the year – such as anniversaries, birthdays or other significant days - consider an outing or getting in a favourite film in order to occupy them in a happier way. Care UK has developed a guide to help you plan days out with a loved one: download it free from: http://www.careuk.com/care-homes/good-to-go/guide
- If your loved one becomes distressed or confused when talking about a loved one who has died help the person to reminisce about the good times they had together.