SAN DIEGO, November 28, 2017 – Most Americans love Christmas, and it is considered the most favored holiday each year. For those who have family members stricken with Alzheimer's disease, sharing family traditions could gradually become greatly altered as this horrible disease becomes more apparent.
Christmas engenders feelings of love, generosity nd good-will as it brings togetherfamily members and loved ones in shared moments and traditions.
Feelings of stressfulness and loss gradually replace joy and merriment when Alzheimer's strikes the family. When mom or dad, grandma or grandpa slowly decline, never to be the same.
Alzheimer's affects approximately five million Americans and is on the rise due to the increase in the aging population. Currently, there is no cure.
As Alzheimer's progresses, everyday tasks such as driving a car, paying bills, cooking, grooming, following a conversation, and progressive forgetfulness occur. Additionally, a person's behavior will change and could include anger, agitation, anxiety and in some cases violence.
Though currently considered the sixth leading cause of death in America, the National Institutes of Health believes that it will eventually become ranked as the third leading cause of death.
Alzheimer's attacks the human brain creating the loss of connection between nerve cells as amyloid plaque continue to develop. As a result, neurons will become progressively more compromised and eventually die, taking with them cherished memories.
Normal processes of the physical body will eventually shut down due to the lack of proper signaling from the brain leading to death.
With proper diagnosis by a neurologist, a variety of medications, dietary modifications, and behavioral management will significantly improve quality of life and quite possibly slow down disease progression, though not to a significant degree.
Slowly watching a loved one die so vividly is one of the most tragic emotional impacts facing family members and loved ones.
Over time, there is no escaping the experience of continuous decline while viewing the ravages of this horrible disease.
The Holidays with Alzheimer's
Advanced planning of family gatherings is imperative to meet the ever-changing needs created by the disease. These needs will change as the disease progresses.
Some changes will include the inability to tolerate loud noises, stressful situations, and crowds. Therefore it might become necessary to end large family gatherings. Think about creating smaller gatherings, over a period of days. This will ensure the least amount of stress.
Gift giving may need to be modified. Consider more practical items, like comfortable pull on clothing, soothing music, even the online mind games designed to stimulate the brain.
Keep the Christmas spirit and traditions alive
It is critically important for those suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and for the family members and loved ones who care deeply about them, to maintain holiday traditions. This will allow the Christmas spirit to shine brightly so that everyone feels accepted, valued and loved.
For further information about Alzheimer's disease, including tips for getting through, the following resources might be helpful:
NIA Alzheimer's and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
Alzheimer's Foundation of America
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!