It is February already and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. No matter your personal view of Valentine’s Day: whether it is an opportunity for you to express your feelings for another person, or whether you view it as excessive commercialisation, Valentine’s Day is a reminder to think about the relationships in your life and how you connect with the people you love.
Everyone craves connection. It’s an essential part of being human. No matter your age or background, people find solace in seeking the companionship of other people. The idea behind celebrating a day to show you care for another human being has a lot of merit to it. Think of it as a prompt for you to connect with the people you value the most. Not just on this one day but on every day of the year.
Finding the time to make genuine connections with others can often take a back seat to other more urgent distractions in everyday life. However, connecting regularly with other people has been proven to be good for your health – all the more reason to put some time and effort into how you connect with the people around you.
One way to improve your connections with those closest to you is to pay attention to what is important to them, and show you value your relationship by acknowledging and celebrating this regularly – not just on occasions just as Valentine’s Day, anniversaries or birthdays.
This is also a valuable way to connect with a family member or friend who is living with dementia. Although it can be difficult to see, a person with dementia can still feel a full range of emotions. Often the part of the brain that processes emotions is one of the last to be affected by dementia. Even if the person is unable to communicate those emotions to you, they can still experience feeling happy, sad, content, concerned, scared or in love.
A person with dementia and their family members will often experience a loss of connection with others after a diagnosis. Dementia can be confronting to friends or other family members who don’t understand what it means and how it impacts the person living with it. Consequently the person with dementia and their family can end up losing friendships and social connections at a time when they need that support the most.
Connecting with a person with dementia can seem difficult but it does not have to be. Connection does not always require verbal communication. It can be as simple as spending some time sitting together, holding hands or looking at photographs. Listening to music is also an enjoyable way to spend time together. If the person doesn’t have easy access to music, a wonderful way to show how much you care for them is to put together a playlist with their favourite songs. If you know a family member or friend with dementia who enjoys going out for coffee, but finds regular cafés too noisy or is concerned how others may perceive them, you could try visiting a Memory Café – a safe space especially for people living with dementia and their family and friends.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, make connecting with your loved ones a priority this month.