I have to confess that when the pandemic of 2020 broke out, my hopes were, that within a few weeks, all of this would be in our rear view mirror. I couldn’t imagine the impact it would have in our region, our country and the world. No Summer Fairs, no parades, no Summer Pops concert, businesses that have been with us for decades now gone, no international travel, or for that matter, in some cases, interstate travel and now they talk of the impact it is going to have on The Holidays. Scrooge would be delighted.
Whether to go “over the river and through the woods to Grandmothers house” is a decision only you can make.” As I write this, we’re just a few days away from Halloween and I’m looking forward to seeing how families are going to deal with it considering the “official”recommendations.
I love November and December for the same reason that most of you do. The vibe of Thanksgiving week is wonderful as is the anticipation of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my two daughters, their husbands and four Grand daughters. To date, as a country, we’ve proven to be a pretty creative lot in how we’ve dealt with the challenges of COVID and I’m sure that will continue during this Holiday season. If you’re one of those that may be dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s dementia you may be facing some additional challenges at this time of year.
I was talking with a woman the other day who shared that her aging mother couldn’t remember whether or not she had eaten lunch but could remember the name of the person she went to her Senior Prom with. I reminded her that mom’s brain was now like the tractor trailer that you pack with memories. The older memories go in first and eventually the trailer becomes full and there’s no more room for the new memories to be stored.. The point is that many of your loved ones will still have fond memories of Holidays past and may become confused or even upset with a change of plans.
Try to maintain as much normal for them as you can. In one of the four Memory Care Communities I managed in my career, every Thanksgiving morning the staff would put a Hotel Breast of Turkey in the oven so when the residents woke up, that’s what they smelled, just like they did when they were growing up and when they had their own families.
We’re all looking to be positive during this trying time but you have to remember that you may have to modify your Holiday routine to accommodate you’re loved one with dementia. Remember that they don’t all process well, that a loud environment with happy children, a busy kitchen, lots of people, multiple conversations, music playing and a football game on TV could be a lot for them to handle. Be prepared to have a quiet place for them. If it makes sense, allow them to help you in the kitchen or with setting the table. If they were super moms in their life this will be a meaningful activity for them. Also, never forget it doesn’t matter how well they do it.
In spite of it all, the Holidays can still be special for all concerned. Plan your travels carefully and plan to accommodate the needs of your loved one with dementia in advance. Favorite foods, things that will keep them in a happy place and make sure they need to feel safe in a manageable environment.
Like the Marines, we are learning to adapt, improvise and overcome. If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, you’re probably pretty good at that already.
Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join the Journey.