Sometimes all it takes is a tune, or a familiar food smell, or a silly thing like a dog chasing his tail to bring a smile to your loved one’s face. And, a smile or a laugh can remind you of the person you remember before dementia took its toll. Days when your loved one shares laughter or smiles are often the days you remember as successful days—your rewards for taking on the burden of dementia care with its responsibilities and its challenges. 

Joy is transformative. 

A joyful moment can completely transform your loved one and counterbalance the difficult times. However, how can you accomplish this and manage to bake in joy? It begins with your understanding of your loved one’s needs, personality, skills, and habits. At St. John’s we find that even among dementia cases that are in an advanced stage, these personality traits still define a personality. A person who loved to read may enjoy turning the pages of a picture book. A former mechanic may like to watch an automobile race and enjoy the sounds of the crowd. A woman who made complex sweater patterns may still enjoy knitting a simple scarf. 

Simple pleasures are often all it takes.

The smells of a barbecue or the bells of an ice cream truck may be what brings a smile to your loved one’s face. For some it might take a hot dog loaded with the works, while others might prefer spicy chicken wings. If you know your loved one well enough, you will have an idea of what to try to bring out the joy.

What about you, the caregiver? Where is your JOY?

As you care for your loved one with dementia, you have much on your mind. Their safety. Their health, from medication to exercise. Their physical needs, the demands of their family, and their daily nutrition. Without a plan, it’s easy to let a day go by without a moment of joy. And just as moments of humor, delight, and enjoyment are important for your loved one, they’re at least as important for your own well-being as a caregiver. As you think about the loved one in your care, it’s critical to find your own moments of joy and build them into your day. Sometimes you can include an activity that brings you both pleasure. At other times, you may need to distance yourself from your loved one for moments or longer every day and listen to your favorite band, or tune in to an opera on demand, or plan an elaborate dinner around your own needs. It is not selfish to require moments of joy for yourself to be part of the care plan for your loved one. 

St. John’s has a JOY Plan for dementia caregivers at home. Send for your free copy. 

Is there a way to build these moments of joy into your care plan so they are part of every day? At St. John’s we believe it is possible. Introducing the JOY plan. JOY stands for Journey of You. Our JOY plan is designed to help you add joy to your loved one’s life—as well as to your own. We have developed a worksheet for caregivers at home to use—an easy worksheet you can complete at any time—to help you build joy into your schedule so that you and your loved one never miss a day without the opportunity for a moment of pleasure, happiness, or joy. We call it a JOY Plan.

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