Sharing Smoothies: Celebrating My Birthday with Mom

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I’ve found that in many cases when organizing family celebrations, I have to plan the event based on the stage of Alzheimer’s disease that my mother is experiencing. That may mean simplifying activities or even scheduling two events which would include one “nuts and bolts” celebration with Mom and a more festive party with everyone else.

    I’ve found that family members and friends who do not often interact with Mom want to create an elaborate event that they think she will remember and cherish. However, I’ve found that the event is not only quickly forgotten, but that the change in routine often causes an unintended consequence, such as an emotional outburst or agitation. And that unintended consequence quickly can dampen the special event for everyone else or – even worse - can become the actual thing that everyone else remembers on what should have been a special occasion.
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    Recently, I celebrated my birthday, and of course I wanted to spend time with Mom in celebration. We brought Mom to my house for Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities in 2005, but quickly found that after returning her to the nursing home, she became discombobulated and lashed out verbally at people. So last year for my birthday, I decided to bring dinner to the nursing home so I could share a special meal with Mom, but not disturb her routine. That worked really well, but we couldn’t plan a similar event this year due to Mom’s issues with swallowing solid food.

    So we had to decide how to celebrate appropriately, if we were going to include Mom. After some thought, I decided that we’d share smoothies together (which Mom loves). Dad and I picked up smoothies for all, including Mom’s favorite flavor (peach), before we headed for the afternoon visit. We wheeled Mom up to a separate table in the nursing home foyer where each of us enjoyed our smoothies.

    Fortunately, Mom had a good day that day; she was relatively with it. If she hadn’t been, I would have made sure the conversation stayed away from my birthday so as not to trigger any reactions. But because she was in a good humor, I joked around about my age, which made her think about how old she was. We also reminded her about how she claimed she would always be 29 years old when I was a child.

    Dad brought a birthday card for me which he handed to Mom to hand to me. He had brought it over earlier in the week for Mom to sign. So when she started to have an outburst about not having signed it, I could show her the card with her signature on it (which relieved her worry about forgetting my birthday).

    So my birthday ended up being really nice. The visit with Mom proved to be very special because we made plans that worked well for her level of dementia. We kept her within her comfort zone in both the setting (the nursing home) and the food (a smoothie). That made the birthday visit priceless and a positive experience that I’ll forever cherish.

Published On: April 05, 2007