With Father’s Day just gone, Sam’s blog below is a timely reminder that sometimes celebrating these events can be challenging for people who are caring for a loved one with dementia.
“Happy Mother’s Day” … I swear the next shop assistant that says this to me is going to get a mouthful. Really? Happy Mother’s Day? My mum has dementia! She doesn’t recognise anyone, let alone that it’s Mother’s Day. And you know what? Not all of us have mothers that are with us for one reason or another. I’ll send my mum some flowers and then I’ll cry. Happy Mother’s Day.
Of course I can’t expect people not to say “happy Mother’s Day or Father’s Day”, they don’t know what people are experiencing in their lives. But the pressure … the pressure to just smile and say thanks, when you really want to say, “No actually, it’s not a happy day”. But that’s the problem with advertising and promotion. It’s all to do with happy mums doing fun things with families.
So this year again the happy Mother’s Day, happy Easter, happy whatever the next holiday it is makes you grit your teeth and plaster a smile on your face. Maybe more of us need to stop smiling and say “Actually it’s not a happy day for us, it’s a sad day or a bittersweet day sharing memories”.
And wouldn’t it be good if all those advertising agencies and card producers made cards and had promotions that acknowledged our mums in different ways? Remembering the death of a mum … or struggling with challenges but still loving a mum that is dying or ill or has dementia.
I think the hardest part of these days was how much we used to celebrate and how important they were. Lunches out for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, family and friends gathering for Easter and Christmas, and mum bringing us together for other celebrations. But this all slowly disappears as the dementia worsens.
Lunches out became hard for mum to navigate and hard for us to help her cope with the change in environment. She struggled to be part of the discussions, and we struggled to see her anxiety and worry. And of course, dad does not want to leave her alone on these celebratory days, so we muddle through, but it’s not the same no matter how hard you try.
For me, these days have become a celebration of our love for mum. A time to remember who she was and how she was. A time to remember the laughs, tears, frustrations; a time to share stories and a time to hold her hand, snuggle on the bed with her and simply say “we love you”.
So yes, maybe these days can be happy days, but they are always tinged with sadness and even the brightest of smiles can hide tears. So instead of saying to someone happy Mother’s/Father’s Day or whatever your celebration is, perhaps just say we’re sending you love and we’re sending your mum love, because at the end of the day that is what gives us the strength to continue.