By Kathy Kappler, RN

This season I’m thinking back to experiencing a Christmas with my sister while she had Alzheimer’s Disease. The holidays bring up many challenges for families living with Alzheimer’s. My sister remained very social with her disease, but the addition of families coming and going caused stress and confusion. She would mix up names or not remember names at all. The hustle and bustle of activities also caused anxiety and fatigue. It was important for us to make some minor adjustments to the usual Christmas routine. We spoke with relatives who had not seen her recently and prepared them for her change of behavior. That was important for my sister’s comfort and the comfort of others. It became natural to want to protect my sister from difficult situations. She wanted to be included in everything – typical of her previous healthy personality. So we gave her special attention and made sure she felt included. This kept things mostly the same as they had always been. Even with her disease, familiarity brought comfort.

As a family, we made simple adjustments to expectations and gently modified some traditions. We kept things quiet and calm. We gave my sister simple chores to help with and she felt important. She had a place to rest if needed.

While we had the bittersweet experience of including my sisters Alzheimer’s disease in our holiday, the simple adjustments made it a memorable and special time for all.