The mention of Valentine’s Day evokes thoughts of love, candy, romantic love and friendship. Expressions of love and kindness are exchanged through gifts and cards. For some people, Valentine’s Day is a special, sentimental occasion. For persons who are caring for a loved one with dementia, Valentine’s Day might feel like another reminder of the challenges in loving a person with dementia.
Caregivers of persons with dementia preserve the memories of their loved ones and help fill in the gaps when memories or words can’t be found. They provide support when emotions surface and when their care receivers are not so lovable. Personality changes in dementia can cause a loving, caring person to exhibit anger and combative behaviors. It is hard enough to cope with a loved one’s changes in memory and the loss of the ability to do things that were second nature to them. When a loved one with dementia makes accusations, becomes paranoid, or wanders away from their home, it is difficult to show love and patience. Caregiving for a loved one with dementia is time-consuming and can last for years.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that, in 2019, caregivers provided 18.5 billion hours of care for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The CDC also notes that more than half (57%) of the persons caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will be in that caregiving role for at least four years or longer.
Caregivers show their love in the everyday activities of caring for their loved one. Taking care of others shows love and devotion. Caregivers routinely find ways to do things that they didn’t know they were capable of doing. They don’t think about it – they just do what needs to be done. It is love that helps carry them through, and love that can keep them going.
Kathy Dreyer, Ph.D., is the Director of Strategic Projects at AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, which develops and delivers innovative research-based aging and dementia training programs such as Dementia Live® and Compassionate Touch®, for professional and family caregivers; firstname.lastname@example.org