Celebrations and Memory Loss
By Mary Cordova
Whether celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other holiday, we all celebrate with our love one’s with Alzheimer’s and other memory loss diseases.
I was recently sitting around speaking to my father-in-law who lives with us about Christmas and the holidays. He is eighty-eight and has Alzheimer’s. I realized as we were talking that he had become very anxious. He asked me, “how many people” and “how much per plate”, assigning himself back to the days when he was responsible for the Christmas dinner with family and friends. He continued to ask, “how many people? “Am I expected to buy a gift for everyone?” I kept reminding him over and over, “No, just for your two grandkids if you like”. He then became ultra-focused on “why are so many people coming?”
My take-away from this exchange was that what brings you some “joy” may bring extreme anxiety to our elderly suffering from memory loss. Going forward, I suggested to my family not to talk about details that would bring my father-in-law stress or anxiety, anytime. Especially during the holiday season.
A conversation that seems such a normal discussion with most people could be upsetting to a person with memory loss. The least amount of over stimulation for some is better than for others. Remember if your love one gets overwhelmed easily with many people and lots of commotion and adjust the conversation.
You may think about alternative plans or simply make sure they have a quiet space they can be in if they would do better than with thirty other people. Maybe a quiet place off from the center of the gathering.
We are all very blessed to continue to have our love ones in our life so just remember while they bring us joy, we may have to sacrifice to respond in kind to their joy!
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