Especially at Christmas, caregivers and families feel the sting of Alzheimer’s and dementia. We hang ornaments and remember past Decembers when our loved ones decorated the tree, sang Christmas carols and laughed while opening presents.
Smells from the kitchen spike memories of Christmas cookies, cinnamon and nutmeg, that special family recipe for peppernuts.
Yet now – everything has changed. Our loved one sits quietly in a chair, unaware of smells and colorful lights, breathing in and out, communicating with no one.
It is the passage of time and the ache of what this disease can do.
Somehow, we must look for joy by searching for its source.
Think back on Christmases past and be grateful for the memories and the legacy preserved within family.
Treasure the presence of your loved one, even though he or she seems mentally far away.
Remember that Christmas is about a baby in a manger who became the Savior on the cross. Someday, in eternity, all Alzheimer’s genes will be nonexistent. No disease there. No memory loss. No sadness.
Be grateful for these moments together, because you, too, are creating a legacy for the generations to come.
Sing a Christmas carol together. Music connections are the last part of the brain to die. You can still communicate with your loved one through music.
With all the excitement and chaos of opening presents, be alert for anxiety in your loved one. He or she may need to return to assisted living long before all the Christmas activities are finished.
Find your own joy in being with family. Each day is a gift. Each time we get together, we make memories. Even if the day is difficult for you, treasure it.
Several years ago, my sister Kris – who is a talented poet – wrote these words:
“While striding on life’s pathway, fill up your days with cheer
Just laugh at rainbows, small or great, to banish every fear.
Hold tight to what life offers, content with all you do
For all adventures help create the treasure that is you.”
Remember that seasons end, and the season of Alzheimer’s will also end with the death of your loved one. So try to enjoy your time together and know that somewhere deep inside, Mom or Dad, Sister or Brother dearly loves you and wishes you a Merry Christmas.
©2015 RJ Thesman – Author of the Reverend G books http://amzn.to/1rXlCyh