When mom lives with Alzheimer’s: Mother’s Day, a devoted son, tips for celebration
By Marisol Bulacio-Watier
Celebrating Mother’s Day can be challenging when mom is living with Alzheimer’s. What happens when the women who gave you life, raised you, and taught you how to love doesn’t remember that you’re their child? noted the Alzheimer’s Association, Southeast Florida Chapter, in their most recent Mother’s Day Press Release.
I remember visiting my now late grandfather when I was a teenager and encountering that repeated question which I always answered with a smile despite that little sadness lodged in my heart. “So, who are you?” he’d say.
He still didn’t seem to remember me after I responded, but the stories that followed his question, however, made every visit all the better: random recollections of lived experiences during his youth, some about my dad even if he didn’t recognize him, all as if they happened yesterday—a big mixture of tales for me to decipher, it felt like.
Now, when the person affected by Alzheimer’s is a mom, the challenge is even closer home. In fact, said the Alzheimer’s Association, “it’s not surprising to hear the story of a daughter [or son] quitting her job to take care of mom.”
Roc Anderson has the best of gifts for his mentally ill mother who has been living with Alzheimer’s for the past 8 years. Because the disease has now progressed “to the point where he is not sure if she’ll understand that the [Mother’s Day] cards, dinner, and flowers are a celebration of the strong-willed, loving mother she is,” he decided to quit his job to dedicate himself to caring for her full-time.
Anderson was professionally “at the top of his game,” explained the association. He was the general sales manager at one of the largest radio groups in the market. When asked about the decision he made in order to care for his mother, he simply said: “She taught me how to love.”
“They may lose their reasoning, but they don’t lose their personality. She’s still my mommy,” noted Anderson. “You do it out of love.”
He does not let the disease come between their bond. Her feisty personality is still in there, he told the association, and it is his goal to allow her every day to feel that she is still his mother.
According to Yuleika De Castro, Director of Marketing and Communications at Alzheimer’s Association Southeast Florida, women are significantly more prone to developing the disease than men with approximately two-thirds of females living with Alzheimer’s:
- An estimated 3.4 million women aged 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s.
- Nearly two-thirds of women are living with Alzheimer’s and two-thirds of women are caregivers.
- Among those aged 71 and older, 16 percent of women have Alzheimer’s and other dementias, compared with 11 percent of men.
- At age 65, women without Alzheimer’s have more than a 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer’s during the remainder of their lives, compared with a 1 in 9 chance for men.
- Women in their 60s are more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over the rest of their lives as they are to develop breast cancer.
Provided those statistics, it is not surprising that Mother’s Day is a sensitive holiday for many families. Yet, love and devotion, as Anderson has shown, are the key to living with Alzheimer’s.
The following tips from the Alzheimer’s Association are designed to help families celebrate Mother’s Day so that both mom and children can share an enjoyable time:
- Take a person-centered approach. Focus on what is enjoyable for the person with Alzheimer’s, such as looking at family pictures or enjoying the person’s favorite food. If they get overwhelmed in large groups, a small quiet gathering may be preferable.
- Keep it simple. Consider a celebration over a lunch or brunch at home or where the person is most comfortable. Ask family or friends to bring dishes for a potluck meal or have food delivered by a local restaurant or grocery store.
- Join In. If the person with Alzheimer’s lives in a care facility, consider joining in any facility-planned activities.
- Don’t overdo it. Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the day from becoming disruptive or confusing. Depending on the person’s stamina, plan time for breaks so the person can rest in a quiet area away from noise and crowds.
- Adapt Gift Giving. Encourage safe and useful gifts for the person with Alzheimer’s. Diminishing capacity may make some gifts unusable or even dangerous to a person with dementia. If someone asks for gift ideas, suggest items the person with dementia needs or can easily enjoy. Ideas include an identification bracelet, comfortable clothing, favorite foods and photo albums.
- Educate yourself/find support. Learn more about Alzheimer’s in the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Center at org/care. There you can also find more tips on supporting a family member with Alzheimer’s, join the ALZConnectedonline community, and find more information about your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter services and programs.
About the Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. For more information, visit the Alzheimer’s Association at alz.orgor call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.