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Loving the Memory-Impaired: A New Perspective on Valentine's Day

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif., Feb. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- As the day that we celebrate love approaches, many people with memory-impaired spouses or parents contend with an emotional issue. How do you sustain a loving relationship with someone who no longer knows who you are? Memory care experts say the key lies in embracing a new understanding of love itself.

"It's important to realize that at this stage in your loved one's life, what matters most is doing things that make him or her happy," said Carole Shaw, administrator of Silverado Senior Living-San Juan Capistrano. It's a community that provides care for people with Alzheimer's and other memory- impairing diseases. "One of the greatest forms of love is to now focus on your spouse or parent's happiness and not on whether he or she recognizes you. This is different from the loving relationship you shared earlier in your lives, but it is very meaningful, too."

Creating joy for your loved one now involves simple pleasures and long- cherished traditions, said Sheila Fike, director of resident and family services at Silverado Senior Living-San Juan Capistrano.

"Valentine's Day is a wonderful example of this. All of us remember collecting Valentine's cards as children and we recognize hearts and flowers as symbols of the day," she said. "For your parent or spouse, these are long- term memories that are retained better than short-term memories. Bring them cards and a bouquet and these small gifts may stimulate the pleasurable feelings associated with the holiday. They may understand that it's a special day and this will create joy, even if they aren't sure who is giving them these gifts."

Reshaping your expectations of your loved one is essential to this new understanding of love, Ms. Fike said.

"Keep an open mind about what will happen during the time you spend with them and you may very well be surprised by what they remember and say to you. And realize that the most loving gift of all is your attention and companionship. There may even be no need to talk. You could bring a CD of music they've always loved and just sit together and listen to it."

Ms. Shaw said: "Often, it's when you give a gift most selflessly that you get the most in return. This philosophy is the best way to understand how to sustain a loving relationship with the memory-impaired. Take it to heart and you might be surprised by how much joy you will receive."

Silverado Senior Living-San Juan Capistrano is one of 16 memory care communities operated by Silverado Senior Living in California, Texas, and Utah. Silverado also has 11 service line branch offices for Silverado at Home and Silverado Hospice, which respectively offer home care and care management and hospice care. The company's web site is:

SOURCE Silverado Senior Living
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