Alzheimer’s affects millions of people and their families, and the disease can be devastating. The holidays, in particular, are a stressful time for families struggling with Alzheimer’s. There are several great ways to include family members with Alzheimer’s in your Christmas traditions and to enjoy them as the people they are behind the disease.
Express Your Feelings
Alzheimer’s is a devastating diagnosis, yet sometimes families hide how they feel about it, particularly at Christmas. They rationalize, “My loved one is in pain; it’s not fair for me to be sad, angry, or confused.” It is fair, natural, and healthy to feel these things, and you must express them. Turn to understanding family members, friends, or a counselor to help work through your emotions.
Don’t Expect Big Changes
When a loved one has Alzheimer’s, there is always the possibility this holiday will be his or her last. It’s a sobering thought, but one that must be accepted. This reality doesn’t mean the rest of your family will become perfect angels. Things will likely proceed as normal, including relatives’ annoying behavior. Keep in mind that for your loved one, this normalcy might be reassuring.
Treat Your Loved One as a Person
If your loved one is still somewhat independent, let him do as much as he can on his own. Don’t try to force her to remember; discuss topics with which she feels comfortable. If an outburst occurs, don’t panic. Suggest moving to a quieter place, and do what you can to help your loved one feel calm.
Enjoy Favorite Traditions
Did Grandma love trimming the tree? Did Grandpa always read the Christmas story at the family party? Keep these traditions alive, even if your loved one needs help to participate.