Joy and magic are in the air at this time of year. But for millions of Alzheimer’s couples and caregivers, the holidays can also bring an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss.
For years you and your loved one may have celebrated every birthday, anniversary, holiday and special occasion together. But now, with Alzheimer’s, what’s the use? Why bother to plan a special Christmas morning, or open presents, or watch The Nutcracker together, or prepare a festive family dinner for someone who can barely walk, talk or remember?
Fortunately, I found the answer to that question very early in my husband Mike’s illness. Shortly after Mike’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis someone counseled me to “keep our lives as normal as possible for as long as possible.” Such good advice! It was one of the golden rules that Mike and I lived by during our entire nine-and-a-half year Alzheimer’s journey. Now I am passing that same counsel on to you, especially for the holidays.
Why bother to plan Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s festivities for someone who may not even remember it the next day? Well, because celebrating the Holidays has been a blessedly normal tradition for you and your loved one for years. Because honoring that treasured tradition, despite your loved one’s illness, is a great way to stand up to Alzheimer’s…to affirm your semi-independence from the disease. And because now, more than ever, you and your loved one deserve to look forward to something special to share and enjoy. True, your loved one may not remember it tomorrow, but that shouldn’t deter you from sharing all the love, life and laughter of today.
If you and your loved one are expecting friends and family for the Holidays, the Alzheimer’s.net blog has compiled some wonderful tips and reminders for managing a joyful family Christmas at: https://www.alzheimers.net/12-23-15-family-story-christmas-with-alzheimers/
And if you still need a little magic sprinkled on your Christmas, please watch the short heartwarming video “Santa Forgot” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9pd6F7Wojk
Despite Alzheimer’s my wish for you and your loved one this Christmas is continue living each day to the fullest, and to decide to keep your life. Don’t listen to the well-intentioned naysayers who may lovingly advise you to give up your old celebrations or traditions. You will be surprised by what you can continue to do and how long you can do it. Get your friends and family involved, they can help you keep living, dreaming and enjoying your lives to the very end—just as it was meant to be.
And remember: Joy is not in things, it is in us.
You can learn more about the author and her book, Mike & Me: An Inspiring Guide For Couples Who Choose To Face Alzheimer’s Together at Home here: https://mikeandmebook.com/