For many adult children, the Christmas holiday season is the first real inkling that something may be wrong with their parent. Adult children often live great distances from their parent or parents, and long visits are usually reserved for holidays. If you have (or have had) this experience, don’t feel guilty. It’s not your fault.
People with Alzheimer’s Disease can be incredibly resourceful when it comes to keeping their condition from others. People have been known to keep extensive notebooks by the telephone containing family trees, tidbits of current events trivia, and other talking points designed to prevent anyone from noticing their memory loss.
But even after a parent or grandparent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, there are still ways for families to enjoy time together around the holidays as long as you understand the effects and limitations of the disease.
People often want to bring a family member home from the nursing facility for the holidays. It’s an understandable desire, but it may not be in your loved one’s best interests. Caregiving for an Alzheimer’s Disease patient is a 24/7 responsibility.
Alzheimer’s Disease progresses differently depending on the person. Some people linger in the “functionally forgetful” stage for a long time. Other people move rapidly to the later stages of the disease. If your loved one is only having difficulty with short term memory loss, and is not showing signs of physical deterioration, a large gathering isn’t a bad idea, but only if there is a quiet place where they can retreat to if they begin to feel overwhelmed.
For people who have progressed into the later stages of the disease, large crowds can be very, very upsetting. Keep the dinner quiet if possible and low key. Most nursing homes have a Holiday Dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Remember, for the nursing home resident, the nursing home is home. They are probably more comfortable there than anywhere else.
Giving gifts to Alzheimer’s Disease patients can also be complicated. Alzheimer’s patients often exist in the past, so giving them gifts that relate to the era in which they grew up can be very comforting.
Someone who came of age during the 60s might enjoy a book that reflects on that era. Since we now live in an era where vinyl records are making a comeback, an inexpensive record player can be bought for less than $50 dollars. The technology may be familiar enough that the resident can use it themselves, while an iPod would be completely baffling.
On this podcast from the Alzheimer’s Society of the United Kingdom, you can hear about good ideas for gifts as well as other information about having an enjoyable holiday with a person who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.