I’m sure it’s the same everywhere but for some reason the Holiday season in New England is very special for me, magical if you will. From the wonderful Thanksgivings that we’ve hosted, surrounded by our two incredible daughters, their husbands and three beautiful granddaughters, to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and all that happens in between, it’s something I look forward to every year. Living where I do in Southeastern Connecticut, I’m particularly blessed to be in an area where the communities as a whole embrace the Holidays as well. There are Christmas walks, Men’s Nights, Christmas Pops Concerts and even a Christmas in Song event that I’ve been blessed to be a part of every year. They’re all wonderful events that truly charge your “Holiday Batteries”…unless you have dementia.
Of course, it isn’t just about Christmas. Alzheimer’s dementia is no respecter of persons so it doesn’t matter if the event is Ramadan, Kwanza, Passover or just a birthday, the point is your afflicted loved one may have a hard time “dealing” and you need to always keep that in mind.
If you don’t process things well and are uncomfortable in a strange environment how do you think you’d do in the middle of a family Holiday party? Remember, they could find themselves in a room full of people with numerous conversations going on around them. There is likely to be music playing and maybe even folks singing along to their favorite Carols. It sounds like great fun but not for them when you remember that all of that is coming at them at once. It’s important to remember that not everyone with Alzheimer’s dementia will react the same way. Each is their own individual and many may love being at a Holiday Concert while others would simply prefer to feel safe at home in an environment they feel comfortable in. As a caregiver, you’ll need to be proactive and sensitive to your loved one. If you choose to take them along on a Christmas walk, to a concert or to a Christmas Eve service, be prepared to go to Plan B if you realize they may be on overload. I’ve shared with you in the past that when I had my 87 year old Aunt attend our daughters wedding and reception that we had a dedicated, well trained and informed companion with her. All went well but when she had decided she had had enough, her companion, whom she trusted, took her back to the Hotel on her terms. She missed the toasts, the father-daughter dance ( just as well, I was a mess) and the tossing of the bouquet but that didn’t matter. It was about her and as much as I would have loved for her to stay and enjoy it all, it wasn’t practical or fair to her.
As you’ve read many times, the number one thing they look to us for is to feel safe so regardless of the circumstances, you need to always pay attention to them to insure they feel comfortable and safe. Are they going to be able to enjoy all that comes with the children opening Christmas presents or be able to sit through an entire Seder supper? How about being able to deal with a family reunion with distant relatives? They’re excited to see her and be with her again but if she’s in the stage of the illness where she doesn’t remember them or their names and they’re all fawning over her, it won’t be fun, not for her.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease and there are no warnings of when things are going to change. Before you assume all will be well, be sure that they are going to be able to cope with what you may be asking of them, not just this time of year but year round.
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