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Published on: December 21, 2015
by Gerlad Coggin for The Tennessean:
It is expected that over 15 million people will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over the next few decades, tripling from today’s figures of five million to an estimated 15 million by 2050.
For all of those many people, it still takes only one diagnosis to change the course of a person’s life and that of their family members.
Every single diagnosis means that each and every family member will be affected by this disease that gradually robs a person of his or her memories and cognitive skills.
During the holiday season, traditional holiday events and family occasions can often be even more challenging for Alzheimer’s patients and their families than the everyday.
For family members who live close by and visit frequently, the holidays can pose challenges when trying to plan family traditions with the concerns of maintaining a routine and easing anxieties.
For family members who are traveling longer distances and haven’t seen each other in several months, they will be most surprised by any changes that have occurred since they last visited.
It is helpful to remind those family members of any changes in the family member with Alzheimer’s since they last visited.
Avoiding any dismay in person is always helpful, both for the visiting family members as well as the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends that family members be updated with what to expect prior to all family gatherings, if there will be those present who aren’t aware of the situation.
Maintaining family traditions as best as possible is also a helpful recommendation, since routine and familiar surroundings are best for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
While it is comforting to be surrounded by family and traditions, the noise and lights and general hubbub that comes with all family gatherings can be overwhelming.
For those family members and caregivers who will be planning the event, it is recommended that a streamlined version of holidays past might be best to ease anxiety in everyone involved.
Keeping traditions, such as holiday singing or food preparations, is important to maintain a sense of familiarity, but too much activity can be overwhelming for everyone.
The most important detail in planning holiday events is to remember that, while memories are fading in the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it can be challenging to recall simple details at times, the very best part of the holidays for a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is to be surrounded by loving family and caregivers.
Knowing that you are loved and cared for is the best reassurance of all.
The holidays, with all of their activity and excitement, frequently pose challenges to family members and caregivers.
Disruptions in routine and excessive stimulation are the hallmark issues to avoid when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, but these are frequently unavoidable during the holidays.
he emotional anguish of family members’ surprise and dismay at learning of the impact that Alzheimer’s has already had upon their loved one can be challenging at any time of year, but it can be especially difficult at the holidays.
Making sure that all family members are aware of how their loved one is doing prior to any family events, maintaining traditions as best as possible with some adaptations and ensuring that routine and stability are kept in place will ease a great deal of the inherent challenges that the holidays bring.
Knowing that family and loved ones are with you from near and far can be reassuring. It can be hard to find things to be thankful for when a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is present in a family, but knowing that the holidays are upon you with all of the comfort and reassurance that family brings is the best present anyone can receive during the holidays.
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