Hope and Help for the Holidays

October 13, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

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It’s October and according to some retailers, the holidays begin now.

I don’t listen to the marketing hype, but when I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner (which I am not this year), I start thinking about the menu and planning in September. However, it’s hard logistically and emotionally to plan for the holidays when you are caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease.

By their very nature, the holidays cause us to look back. In most cases, celebrations and traditions of years gone by determine the tenor of today’s customs and rituals. For many of us, the holiday season begins with talking to our loved ones, planning where celebrations will be and what they will entail. We speak the plans for the upcoming holidays, but what we don’t say, what goes unspoken is the foundation upon which those plans are made. Here is where the friction comes in. Looking back is fine, but looking forward is scary. Your mom doesn’t remember the traditions that she couldn’t live without. Your dad is agitated by the very lights that he used to meticulously string on the Christmas tree; today, he couldn’t pour a cup of hot chocolate, much less man the omelet station for the traditional holiday brunch.

So, where does that leave you? I’m not sure, but I know where it left me. It left my heart aching for the past and sometimes dreading the future. It left me hanging on to old traditions and knowing that it was time to start new ones. It left me wondering how I could celebrate in a way that mom could enjoy without being scared, anxious or agitated.

In this series I’ll share my holiday experiences (some were nightmares) with the hopes that you can learn from MY mistakes. I’ll give you some do’s and some dont’s. I’ll hopefully inspire you to hold on to some old traditions, but encourage you to try some new ones as well.

So, let’s plan together as we approach the holidays. I’ll specifically reference Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, but it really doesn’t matter. The principles are the same for Yom Kippur or Purim.

I’ve learned, it doesn’t matter what our ethnic background or religious tradition. Alzheimer’s disease hurts all of us. It makes us all cry and it takes away a little of our past and our future as it creeps through the brains of our loved ones.

Look for upcoming posts on Hope (and Help) for the holidays. Do you have any tips for making it through the holidays? Please share.

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