FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — There are many unique challenges that come from having a loved one who suffers from dementia and cannot express themselves or remember things as they once could.

To assist families with loved ones affected by dementia, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is offering four tips on how to make the most of this Valentine’s Day.

“Valentine’s Day is all about honoring the love and bond between loved ones. Dementia may impact a person’s ability to celebrate Valentine’s Day as they once did, but there are ways families can adapt the holiday to express love, connect with one another, and show that person how much they mean to you,” said Jennifer Reeder, LCSW, AFA’s Director of Educational and Social Services.

Affected families can follow these four rules to create a loving Valentine’s Day:

  • Reminisce: Go through old photo albums together with your loved one. Describe to them who was there, where the pictures were taken and for what occasion. Share moments, such as vacations and celebrations, are a great way to celebrate the loving bond between you and your family.
  • Reconnect: There are numerous ways to maintain, restore or create intimacy, love and connection despite the impacts of dementia. Sharing a meal, watching a movie, listening to music and taking a walk together can all help you stay connected.  Physical cues, such as gentle touching, smiles, and eye contact, can maintain or even strengthen connections with someone who cannot showcase their emotions as they had before. 
  • Relate: Love language is made up of not only physical touch and words of affirmation, but also through gifts, acts of service and spending quality time together. Try to speak to your loved one in the languages that make them happy. Be mindful that these are subject to change as the dementia-related illness progresses.
  • Reaffirm: Write out a Valentine’s Day card and read it to your loved one. Writing and communicating your love can help lift not only their spirits, but also your own. Purchase a bouquet of fresh flowers, set it on a table, and enjoy the fragrances with your loved one. The scent can help improve mood, promote positive feelings and stimulate the brain. 

AFA’s Helpline is specifically trained in dementia care and can provide additional information for families.