This time of the year generates mixed emotions for many New Yorkers. November and December are filled with many holiday celebrations, from Thanksgiving and Christmas to Hanukkah and New Years. There are work parties, gift exchanges, light displays, television specials, and more. Many local families have deep memories associated with this time of year, with fond recollections of joyous times with relatives–particularly mothers, fathers, and other older loved ones.
Yet, the happy memories are a double-edged sword. Recollections about fond times in the past may serve as a painful reminder of how things have changed in the present. This is a particularly acute situation for New York families with seniors dealing with cognitive conditions like dementia and Alzheimers. These ailments sometimes make it impossible to re-create the same holiday memories as in the past,
A story from late last month offers some tips for all those going through this holiday season (or any memorable time) with loved ones suffering from dementia. It was noted that holidays are a magnifier for depression among all community members, as they tend to emphasize what was lost from the past. That is true both for individuals with dementia as well as caregivers.
To combat these challenges, it is important to remember that high expectations are just that “expectations.” There is not one-size fits all blueprint for holiday activities, and there is nothing wrong with passing on activities like decorating the tree or lighting candles that may pose an unreasonable risk. Memories are mostly about shared experiences with a loved one, and being together in any capacity is more important than performing any particular ritual. Similarly, if travel is too cumbersome for a loved one with dementia, it is prudent to ask others to visit, instead of putting a senior through the burden of flying, taking the train, or spending long periods in the car.
At the end of the day, it is critical to keep up routines with seniors suffering from cognitive ailments. Maintaining a daily schedule, even through the holidays, is usually the best course of action, even if it means changing from past holiday traditions.
There is no easy way to help a loved one through the complex process of aging with dementia or Alzheimer’s. However, there is a big difference between planning ahead for one’s needs and scrambling to ensure proper support and caregiving. For help putting plans into place to ensure your loved one has the opportunity to thrive no matter what the future holds, please feel free to contact our elder law attorneys today.