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Caring for Dementia: Writing Letters to Your Loved One

Is there anything more personal, more intimate, or more endearing than a personal letter from a beloved family member? In today’s world, handwritten letters are unusual. But when caring for dementia, it’s important to connect with people in the ways they are the most comfortable. Generally speaking, most of us don’t receive handwritten letters very often.

The value in these personal letters is in the amount of time they take for someone to write, the words they have chosen, and the personality conveyed by their handwriting. In addition, the value is increased by the fact that such letters are mostly relationship-focused, conveying thoughts of thankfulness, appreciation and love.

Write How Often?

As much as receiving a letter may mean to us, writing regular letters to a loved one with dementia can mean even more – both for the recipient and the writer.

Most of our loved ones with dementia grew up in the glory days of sending and receiving mail, so letters and cards can really ring true with them. Receiving these letters helps remind them that they are not forgotten, that they are still important to you and can also provide them with something to look forward to.

Writing a letter will cost you something – but in a good way. Beyond the stamp, paper and the time they take to craft, writing a letter to a loved one with dementia requires an emotional investment. This investment can help you reconnect with and re-share happier times with your loved one, and help you channel your emotions related to dealing with dementia in a positive way as you find words to express your caring, appreciation and encouragement for them. Lastly, writing these letters can help ensure that you do not leave things left unsaid, particularly if you are not all that great at sharing your feelings face-to-face.

Ideas for What to Write

If you are on-board with starting to write some letters, but are at a loss for what to write, here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Seasonal Messages: Find cards for holidays, birthdays or meaningful special events and write a short note in them. Many people like to hold onto cards and notes and re-read them again and again.
  2. Encouraging Lines: Whether the letter is long or short, be sure to write a sentence that lets them know you are thinking about them, about what you love about the person, what the person means to you.
  3. Friendly Reminders: Find a picture from “the old days” to send to your loved one with dementia and write about what you remember about the event in the photo. The combination of the letter and picture can be a good reminder. Be sure to include the names of the people in the photo as well as location details.

For your loved one with dementia, a letter or card can be a gift that keeps on giving. Even for those who are unable to read any longer, caregivers will read the letters to them and discuss pictures and meanings. Unlike a phone call, a letter is something they can refer back to again and again as a reminder that you care. And it is a small gift that you will feel good about sending over and over again.