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Published May 12, 2012, 11:30 PM

Bursack: Celebrating Mother’s Day any way we can

DEAR READERS: Many of you have mothers who are in assisted living centers or nursing homes.

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

DEAR READERS: Many of you have mothers who are in assisted living centers or nursing homes. You may be able to bring them to your home or take them out for dinner for Mother’s Day. However, a significant number of you realize that taking your own mother out of her environment will only distress her. If your mother has dementia, she may not even understand what you are doing or why this day is different from all the others.

Under any circumstances, there’s real anguish in watching the slow mental and/or physical decline of a beloved elder. Special occasions only seem to highlight the losses they – and we – have suffered. How do we all get through these “special” days that offer more emotional pain than joy?

I can offer some suggestions but you will need to adjust them to fit your own circumstances:

Prepare yourself by thinking of the good things from your childhood and early adult years when your mother was healthy and vital. Be aware of those memories when you visit your mother today. Remember the good times.

With this in mind, you may want to bring photo albums along with you to share with her, if she is able. If possible, bring old albums, probably from when you were a child, as she’s more likely to remember events from the past than from more recent times.

Show her visually, through the pictures, that she was a good mother and that you had fun with her.

Tell her now that you love her. Tell her that she was a good mother. Tell her she still is a good mother. Hold her hand and look into her eyes while you say this. Say it even if you think she may not, or cannot, comprehend what you are telling her.

By all means bring her flowers and/or a gift whether or not she can understand that they are meant to celebrate Mother’s Day. However, if she isn’t likely to remember what the flowers represent, try giving her a corsage she can wear. Corsages are nice because people passing by will often comment on them. She will likely enjoy the extra attention.

Include other women who are alone for the day. If you know they are mothers but their family can’t or won’t visit, try to fill the gap somewhat by showing care and affection. No matter what stage of dementia or other illness a person is in, people like to be noticed and remembered.

If hugs are welcome, deliver them with joy. Human touch can often say more than words.

Mother’s Day will probably carry as much pain as pleasure for you as you witness your mother’s decline in health. Celebrate anyway. She needs that marker in time and so do you. You’ll never regret that you made the effort.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com.

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