The holidays are fast approaching. It can be something to look forward to or a stressful time depending on how we handle it. Before I was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, I would traditionally bake dozens of Christmas cookies, and scramble to get my shopping list in order for presents to purchase for those on my list.
My husband Dan and I would usually host Thanksgiving dinner and my sister and brother-in-law would host the Christmas Eve celebration. Sadly my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and my only sibling, my brother, have passed away. So now those long-held traditions have changed. Our niece, Marin, and her husband Dave, who were are recently married, are hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year. I am thrilled that the younger generation is taking over Thanksgiving dinner. It is too much for me to take on now. I will gladly bring something to add to the menu, but I`m relieved not to have to host it.
Other things have changed too. We have given our Christmas tree to our son and his family. It will be just the right size for their Chicago condo. And our nephew has given us his parent’s tall Christmas tree that will look lovely in our condo that we now call home. How nice it is to keep treasured items in the family.
When life changes and you lose loved ones, we hold on to the memories. Traditions are gifts that come from generations before us to pass on to the next generation. Hanging stockings over the fireplace to be filled by Jolly old Saint Nick on St. Nick Eve for the kiddies to empty the next morning is one of my favorite traditions. My creative Mom who also had Alzheimer’s made our stockings years ago, and we still use them. They are personalized with our names.
There are other holiday traditions I still enjoy. I love getting together to form a group of singers to stroll and sing Christmas carols. And one of my most favorite traditions is sending and receiving Christmas cards. The cost of stamps goes up every year, so it is a costly tradition. I am old fashioned and have already purchased my Christmas cards and will sign, stamp and send them. I know that living with Alzheimer’s disease might prevent me from signing and sending cards in the future. So I will enjoy this tradition as long as I am able.
I know that the holidays must be simpler now. But they will still be enjoyed. My family and I have learned to adjust our expectations and live in the moment. If you or your family are looking for some ideas on making the holidays simpler for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, I would recommend taking a look at this wonderful holiday tips site from the Alzheimer’s Association. Happy Holidays!
~ Barbara Cheek Johnson is a journalist living with early-stage Alzheimer’s ~