40 Ways to Say “I Love You

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Research suggests there are 20 “pleasant activities” people with dementia enjoy. Click To Tweet We’ve combined these activities with a list from Creating Moments of Joy by Jolene Brackey, added some additional ideas, and grouped them within the framework of Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages.

If you have a spouse struggling with dementia, let this list guide you in creatively expressing love. Remember, the further along a person is in their disease, the simpler your expressions of love must be.

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Acts of Kindness (Acts of Service)

  • Look them in the eye when they speak to you, no matter what they say or how they say it.
  • Include them in conversations (rather than talk about them as if they are not present).
  • Let them help in the kitchen, around the house, wherever and whenever they want to contribute.
  • Help them groom (makeup, shave, comb hair, pick out clothing).
  • Advocate for them.
  • Smile at them as you come and go.
  • People with Alzheimer’s disease have trouble making decisions, yet feel devalued if not allowed to participate in decisions that affect them. So let them choose between two options you have pre-approved (red shirt/blue shirt).
  • When they complain or are delusional, empathize (“I am so sorry that happened”), then gently distract them with something pleasant.
  • Let them be right.

Words of Affirmation

  • Tell them, “I love you.”
  • Answer each repeated question as if it were being asked for the first time.
  • Talk to them (even if they can’t talk back)—about their life growing up, marriage, children, grandchildren, work, and hobbies.
  • Tell them they look handsome/beautiful (even if it’s the same outfit they wore yesterday and it’s dirty).
  • Help them write a card or letter and sign it.
  • Sing them to sleep.
  • Tell them that you have taken care of everything.
  • Tell them you are proud of all the things they accomplished in life.
  • Brag about them to others when they are present.

Talk to them (even if they can’t talk back)—about their life growing up, marriage, children, grandchildren, work, and hobbies

Receiving Gifts

  • Give them a piece of chocolate, ice cream cone, chocolate chip cookie, or whatever they love.
  • Give them a surprise package to open.
  • Send a card to them in the mail.
  • Give them an iPod loaded with music from their teen and young adult years.
  • Bring them a coloring book with some markers or crayons.
  • Be generous with the gift of your time.

Quality Moments (Quality Time)

  • Read to them or, if they can, have them read to you or a grandchild.
  • Reminisce about old times and important events of history as you look at a photo album or family movies.
  • Watch a favorite movie over and over.
  • Go for a ride in the car.
  • Bake some cookies.
  • Laugh and giggle—they may join in.
  • Color in a coloring book with them.
  • Tell stories.

Physical Touch

  • Hold hands and take a walk.
  • Give a hug (and kiss, if appropriate).
  • Sit close by or hold them if they’re afraid, angry, or agitated.
  • Rub their feet or their back or gently stroke their cheek.
  • Let them hold a baby, puppy, or doll.
  • File and/or put polish on their fingernails and toenails.
  • Dance, or move to music with them.
  • Massage their hands and arms with lotion.

Taken from Keeping Love Alive as Memories Fade: The 5 Love Languages® and the Alzheimers Journey by Deborah Barr, Edward G. Shaw, and Gary Chapman (©2016 by Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc., Deborah Barr, and Edward G. Shaw), Moody Publishers. Used by permission. www.moodypublishers.com.

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