Heather O’Neil, who has been caring for her mother since 2012, shares her experiences and ideas for meaningful activities at home…
I am constantly researching and trying new ideas and finding meaningful activities to stimulate my mum’s mind. I have come across several therapies that I use in our daily care routine – art and music being two of the key ones.
I schedule quality time with mum every day, which is very important to both of us; time to sit together and relax with crafts or music, or go out into nature for a walk or to a petting farm – these times are so special. Art therapy is now well recognised for enhancing the quality of life for dementia patients and I have embraced it wholeheartedly over the last three years. My mum is never happier than when she is being creative, and I have found that she is now more relaxed and less agitated.
Crafts have given my mum a way of expressing herself, and provided her with a real sense of accomplishment. When she is immersed in crafts, her artistic flair re-emerges and she has noticeable moments of clarity. We enjoy some great creative projects together – making crepe-paper flowers, hand-made cards, sewing lavender sachets, colouring. I’ve even been painting images from the 1940’s and 50’s, which bring back many happy memories to my mum. I believe it’s very important that the activities are meaningful, something that she can give to people so she still feels useful and proud of what she has achieved.
Making crepe-paper flowers is one of her favourite hobbies. Her beautiful flowers are loved by everyone and she is very proud of them. The doctor’s office, memory clinic, friend’s houses are all brightened up with her flowers and they bring joy to so many people!
Reminiscence is extremely important for people with memory problems – so we always craft with my mum’s favourite music on in the background. She loves songs from the 40’s & 50’s and it’s wonderful hearing her sing along remembering all the words! This music stimulates many happy memories and adds to her happy frame of mind. We talk a lot about the past when we craft together – it’s a special time every day for us both.
I have also created a ‘Memory Lane’ of photographs in mum’s hallway. Beautiful photos from her past, these old memories are very comforting to her and create a wonderful timeline of her life that is on display for her to look at whenever she passes.
My mum and I have always been incredibly close. I’m her only child and I love her dearly. Finally, I have accepted that I can’t change the diagnosis, or progression of the disease, and have shifted my energy now to make sure that the Alzheimer’s does not rob her of her happiness as well as her memory.
I feel we are completing a full circle of life and love and I truly believe that to care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honours.