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Making the holidays merry for family members with Alzheimer’s

Written By | Dec 14, 2021

Main image: Thanks to Brigitta Schneiter @brisch27 for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁

SAN DIEGO, December 14, 2021– When Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, it was heartbreaking and frightening. At first, I did not know how to get through it; nor did I have a sense of what was to become of her or us as a family. I miss Christmas with Mom in it. However, I am comforted by knowing we celebrated with Mom right up until the end.

Traditions invoke joyful Christmas memories

Christmas is considered the most favored holiday each year. Christmas engenders feelings of love, generosity, and goodwill as it brings together family members and loved ones in shared moments and traditions. Feelings of stressfulness and loss gradually replace joy and merriment when Alzheimer’s strikes the family.

When mom or dad, grandma or grandpa slowly decline, never to be the same, sharing family traditions gradually change with the loss of memory and self.

As of 2020 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s according to the CDC.

Currently, there is no cure, though new modalities are offering hope. Though currently considered the sixth leading cause of death in America, the National Institutes of Health believes that it will eventually become ranked as the third leading cause of death.

As Alzheimer’s progress, everyday tasks such as driving a car, paying bills, cooking, grooming, following a conversation, and progressive forgetfulness occur.

Holidays, when there are a lot of people and activity can increase symptoms. With the increased activity and people, a person’s behavior may change and could include anger, agitation, anxiety, and in some cases violence.

Thanks to Oriol Portell @oriol_portell for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁

Alzheimer’s attacks the human brain creating the loss of connection between nerve cells as amyloid plaque continues to develop.

As a result, neurons will become progressively more compromised and eventually die, taking with them cherished memories.

Normal processes of the physical body will eventually shut down due to the lack of proper signaling from the brain leading to death.

With proper diagnosis by a neurologist, a variety of medications, dietary modifications, and behavioral management will significantly improve quality of life and quite possibly slow down disease progression, though not to a significant degree.

Slowly watching a loved one die so vividly is one of the most tragic emotional impacts facing family members and loved ones.

Over time, there is no escaping the experience of continuous decline while viewing the ravages of this horrible disease.

Gift giving for those with Alzheimer’s

Advanced planning of family gatherings is imperative to meet the ever-changing needs created by the disease. These needs will change as the disease progresses.

Some changes will include the inability to tolerate loud noises, stressful situations, and crowds. Therefore it might become necessary to end large family gatherings. Think about creating smaller gatherings, over a period of days. This will ensure the least amount of stress.

Gift giving may need to be modified. Consider more practical items, like comfortable pull-on clothing, soothing music, even the online mind games designed to stimulate the brain.

It is critically important for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and for the family members and loved ones who care deeply about them, to maintain holiday traditions. This will allow the Christmas spirit to shine brightly so that everyone feels accepted, valued, and loved.

Screenshot via YouTube/Alzheimer’s Australia Vic

For further information about Alzheimer’s disease, including tips for getting through, the following resources might be helpful:

NIA Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center

Alzheimer’s Association

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

(Main image: Thanks to Brigitta Schneiter @brisch27 for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁


Read More from Laurie Edwards-Tate

Laurie Edwards-Tate

Since 1984, Laurie Edwards-Tate has served as President and Founder of At Your Home Familycare, a non-medical Home Care Aide Organization, serving seniors, disabled, infirm and children. Laurie is Board of Director 2018 (elected), Palomar Health; Executive Board Member; Chair Board Human Resources Committee; Member of Audits & Compliance Committee; Community Relations Committee.