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Making the holiday season joyful for your loved one

The holidays are quickly approaching and reminders are everywhere. Christmas carols can be heard on the radio, and there are lights and decorations every which way you turn. Gift buying suggestions overflow our mailboxes.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukah, the holidays are times for celebration, family dinner gatherings, and party invitations with the underlining expectation of comfort and happiness. This time is difficult for many. We remember our loved ones who are no longer with us, we worry about having enough money to buy gifts, and some of us crumble knowing our lives are less than perfect during this so called festive time.

We see family and friends who are not well, who are going through hard times, and we look at our own lives questioning our own level of happiness. But what about the caregiver? How will she celebrate the holidays? How will she get through this time with all she has on her plate, living the “36 hour day?” Will she be expected to buy gifts, cook and entertain family and friends?

For the caregiver who struggles to get through each day, I hope that she will be surrounded by loved ones who will recognize her life and respectfully include her in their holiday time if that is what she wants. Some people prefer to ignore the holidays and this should be respected. Well meaning people may pressure others to join them in their festivities and do not hear what is really being said to them. Take the time to listen and to respect the wishes of others.

A precious gift for a caregiver is time. Offer your time to free the caregiver to be able to enjoy activities of her own. If you want to add to this, think of a gift certificate for some body pampering, or for a favorite boutique. Invite her out to a movie and dinner and arrange for someone to stay with her loved one.

Holidays bring memories of past times, better times, and with these memories come sadness. If we are dealing with a sick loved one, we wonder what the new year will bring. Will the loved one be here for the next holiday? It is easy to suggest that we focus on the present, the days of the holiday, and to make the best of this time. The suggestion is easy, the follow through is harder. There are no magical answers.

Someone with Alzheimer’s should not be ignored during the holiday season. Think back to how these times were spent in the past, before the disease. What did the person enjoy about the holiday season? Was it the food, the songs, a decorated tree, the opening of gifts, small or large gatherings? Plan to include your loved one in some of these activities. The treat of a turkey dinner with all the fixings, potato latkes and sugar donuts, a beautifully wrapped gift, some old time music or movie that can be enjoyed by all. Keep in mind that these activities should not be overwhelming, but at a level that the person will feel comfortable.

I see too many AD individuals forgotten during the holiday time. People may think that they won’t really understand a celebration, but this is not true. A special dinner, dressing in pretty clothes, a gift, hearing lovely music, seeing beautiful decorations can all be a joyful experiences.

We tend to think that everyone else’s life is perfect and that it is just ours that is challenged. Intellectually we know that this is not so, but during holiday time we are bombarded with images of happy people enjoying celebrations. No one is ill, no one is alone. Each year we read about how difficult the holidays are for so many people. Decide what works for you and your loved ones. Focus on doing simple things to bring a smile to the face of someone you love.

Do not forget the caregiver; do not forget the Alzheimer individual. Even a person far into the disease can smile and feel joy.

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