The festive season is not an easy one. For some it is an open invitation to eat, drink, be merry and spend money they don’t have. For others it is a solemn time of year, but for those who have Alzheimer’s sufferers in their family, it is a time of the year that causes sadness and anxiety. Just how does one navigate this season?
I spoke to Gilda, founding member of The Living Cornerstone (TLC) Alzheimer’s Residence and she said, ‘For our residents, it is not a problem as they no longer remember. For them all that exists is this moment. It’s those who are left behind who suffer….’ We spoke to Florentine Soul whose mother Angelina has been with TLC since 2015. ‘At first it was very hard all the time, never mind Christmas! Before she came to TLC I was so stressed out as I had to see to my children, get ready for work, cook and then make sure that someone would check in on my Mom during the day. It was scary and hard because I never knew what I was coming home to and peace of mind eluded me. As the disease became worse, I knew I needed help. I had to weigh everything up in the end. TLC has made my life so much easier as I know my Mother is safe and taken care of.’ The relief in Florentine’s voice is plain to hear but marred by the pain of having a mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
‘First, don’t put so much pressure on yourself’ said Gilda. ‘And do not in any way feel guilty. Try to do things that will not cause anxiety to the person with Alzheimer’s. Perhaps you could reduce the amount of people visiting if you are spending your Christmas together or have a small room where they can withdraw to. Let the family members and friends know ahead of time what to expect and at what stage of the disease your loved one is… Tell your guest to speak to them alone, don’t correct then and remember that although their memories have gone they still have feelings and emotions.’
Whatever you decide to do this festive season make sure that your needs as a family come first. Create as environment where love can still be celebrated even if the circumstances have altered. Celebrate each moment as it arises and see the face of the one you love, perfectly imperfect. Christmas comes once a year so make the most of it.