Linda’s 86-year-old father, Dan, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the spring, and as winter and the holidays approached, Linda and her family made a decision to ‘opt out’ of the holiday madness.
“Every year I make myself – and everyone around me – crazy with trying to find the perfect gifts for everyone, bake dozens of cookies, decorate like Martha Stewart, and go to every holiday party I’m invited to,” Linda told me. “But not this year. It’s going to be more low-key. This year might be the last Christmas that Dad is able to enjoy, and I don’t want any stress for him.”
As Dan’s care manager, I was helping the family manage his care and prepare for the future. His diagnosis had not come as a surprise because he’d shown gradual signs of memory loss for some time. But it was still difficult for the family to accept. Linda’s older brother Jim, who lived out of state, was planning to visit during the holidays and discuss with Linda the ways he could be of assistance, even if he did live at a distance.
“My brother hasn’t seen Dad much the past couple of years,” Linda said. “But ever since he heard about Dad’s diagnosis, he wants to help. It will be good to have him and his wife with us at the holidays. And I’m not going to fuss about anything. We’ll order a pre-made meal and keep it simple.”
Linda and Jim decided that they would make the holidays as nice for their father as possible. They planned to take him on a car ride through the neighborhood to look at lights, and they would have a game night, the way they used to when they were kids. And they wouldn’t worry about gifts.
“We’re going to play Monopoly and other games that Dad loves, while he can still remember the rules,” Linda said. “In a way, it will be like going back in time to when we were small.” Linda and Jim had previous disagreements and conflict over the years, but coming together to make this holiday special for their father made past tensions fade away.
“This is the memory we want to preserve,” Linda said. “We don’t know how many days Dad has left. Maybe next year he won’t even know who we are anymore. But we’re going to make every day count, especially now, and be hopeful.”
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