Engaging Someone with Dementia on Memorial Day
My grandfather was a World War II Navy Veteran. It was perhaps the proudest years of his life. This Memorial day, a day to remember those who died in active military service, it is also an opportunity to engage with those with Dementia. This is an important day and like many veterans, my grandfather lost close friends during his service. It is important to give our Veterans with Dementia the opportunity to remember those that lost their lives during active service.
Here are a few ways you can use this Memorial day to connect with someone with dementia:
- Reminisce: Go through documents and pictures from their time in the military. Allow them to share stories and speak about the hardships and the good times. They may or may not recall specific people who died during duty, but it gives them the opportunity to discuss it if it arises.
- Engage in Music Activities: Sing or listen to the songs of the military. This will also encourage reminiscing. You never know what memories may come up. Music is also very powerful for someone with Dementia. Those who are not articulate may be able to sing their Military anthem or the National Anthem. It can be very engaging and rewarding.
- Take an outing: For those who are more mobile, you can visit your local memorials, lay wreaths, or flags. Here in the DC area, you can visit Arlington Cemetery or any of the memorials. Some are also drivable. You can also find local celebrations in the smaller community.
- Create your own memorial: Perhaps you are unable to get to an event or a memorial, so create your own! If you are religious, you can say a prayer or just say kind words if you’re not, while you light a candle for the lives lost. Or perhaps asking the person with dementia “How would you like to remember your friends, fellow marines (etc.), other servicemen, etc.?” They may have a ritual they recall.
- Share stories: My grandfather told me a ton of stories. Sharing a story you remember with the person can also help to spark some of their memories or encourage them to discuss it further. This can turn into reminiscing.
Remember that while there are many Veterans still living today, there are also widows of servicemen who are still alive today. They will want to commemorate their loved ones just as much. If they didn’t die during active duty, the spouse may still recall husbands of friends or friends who did. Therefore, the above suggestions would apply to them as well!
To all those who have served and lost their lives, as well as those who continue to serve and risk their lives: Thank you!