Whether you’re celebrating the day as your dad’s caregiver, or honoring his memory, consider these special ways to return and share his love.
Posted in , Jun 15, 2021
If you are a caregiver to your dad or have been one in the past, every day is, in a sense, Father’s Day. When your dad lives with a chronic condition like dementia or a disability, you are accustomed to pouring love into all that you do for him—365 days of the year. It could be that your dad has passed, and the caregiving journey you shared with him has ended, yet giving is something you still understand keenly.
With this annual day set aside to honor your dad, however, you may be searching for particularly special ways to return the love he’s given you, either in light of his current needs or in order to keep his flame alive. Whether your dad is still with you or has passed, the following ideas may help you to give back in ways that are right for right now:
Raise the vibration
Try to stay positive throughout the day. If your dad has dementia, communicating in an upbeat speaking tone, expressions and body language can go a long way toward keeping him at ease. Regardless of your dad’s condition, think back to things you’ve done together that made you both happy and bring some version of them into the day. Make a homecooked dinner with foods you’ve enjoyed in the past. If he has trouble swallowing, bring his favorite ice cream instead. Maybe you used to enjoy walks in the woods together. Sit under a tree with him and dip your toes into the grass. Take a drive by places that hold meaning for him. Watch a funny movie together or play music and dance a little bit. Hold hands. Despite the undeniable stresses of caregiving, pledge to try to hold to this tone throughout the year by caring for yourself as a caregiver. Do whatever it takes to stay as balanced and positive as possible.
Tell him why you love and appreciate him
Straightforward words or a handwritten note can go straight to the heart. Look directly into your dad’s eyes and tell him you love him. Say thank you and be specific about what it is you’re thanking him for. Maybe he gave you a giant Easter basket every year, even after you’d grown up. Maybe he took you hiking in the mountains. Maybe he was simply always there for you. If he has dementia, you may want to create a memory box with captioned photos and documents like letters, newspaper clippings, cards and personal stories to prompt his recollections. As a memento of the day, you could even make an audio or video recording of things he remembers about family history, important life events and favorite pets, books, music or hobbies.
Give gifts that make sense for now
Stay in the present. Focus on what your dad needs right now. Depending on his condition, he may love a stuffed animal to cuddle or he may appreciate practical repairs and chores handled around the house. Gifts that make sense for older adults who live with dementia range from adult coloring books and crafting materials to board games and puzzles, flowers, a key bracelet, shoes with Velcro straps, nice pure bath soaps and a scrubbing brush to large print books. A cozy robe and slippers, a blanket or duvet could make him feel well cared for and secure. You could mow the lawn, clean the house, buy groceries or give him a gift card for important items. Maybe hire someone to make the house safer by installing things like grab bars in the bathroom and better lighting. Laughter and meaningful time spent together are among the best gifts.
Give back to others
Honor your dad’s memory by doing something for others. If he believed strongly in an organization or cause, consider making a financial contribution or volunteering your time. Or you may want to explore programs that empower fathers. One example is The Father Center of New Jersey, which supports men in gaining the skills and meeting the responsibilities of fatherhood. Maybe you feel called to work with someone else’s aging father as an in-home care aide. If your dad valued the outdoors, you could even plant a tree in his name by making a donation to the Arbor Day Foundation. His memory will live on in one of our nation’s forests.
Give back to yourself
Dedicate some time to yourself on Father’s Day or soon after. Do whatever it is that gives you a sense of peace. It could be something you still enjoy doing with your dad, or something you used to do together. Maybe you loved horseback riding or strolling through a particular museum. You may have had a favorite restaurant. Go there with friends or family, if you can’t go with your dad. Give a toast to him and then reflect on all the good things you’ve done as a caregiver. If you feel the need to get away, try a silent retreat at a monastery or a nature site. The point is to be good to yourself. Commit to setting aside regular time going forward for all-important self-care. Your dad would want the best for you, so why not honor his feelings?