My Holiday Dilemma

Lisa M

My Holiday Dilemma

Lisa M
school-68931_640I love the holidays, almost all of them. My one exception is April Fool's Day, perhaps because I am so gullible! And empathetic off-the-charts - so I could never make a fool of someone else without tremendous guilt. But the other ones--LOVE THEM! I decorate. I bake. I shop. I get in the swing of all the festivities!

But now, I take care of my mom in my home. And she has Alzheimer's. Advanced-stage Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's, at my house, is NOT a fan of all the holidays. I wrote about mom's difficulties during the Christmas season here. It was a heartbreaking discovery. Especially since my mom encouraged my love of the holidays and let me run with my crazy, over-the-top decorating schemes. It's sad that she isn't able to enjoy them anymore.

Fast forward to last Monday. Not "technically" a holiday, but a holiday nonetheless. For millions of families, last Monday was The First Day of School. And that's how we think of it at our home - capitalized to signify its importance.  The First Day of School is a big deal around here. Something to plan for, shop for, bake for, decorate for (yes, I am that mom that makes those signs)--a holiday!

Turns out, mom and her Alzheimer's don't like the 'unofficial' holidays either! It is just too different. Too upsetting. Too much activity. Too much attention paid to the kids. Too little attention paid to her. And too darned many people around and awake and moving in the kitchen at breakfast time!

Mom couldn't seem to register what the First Day of School or Back To School meant. She talked briefly about how long ago it had been since she was in school, but just the one mention. She showed little or no interest in the kids' schedules or school supplies or new backpacks. She tried her hardest to be nice to my daughter as she was modeling all her new 'cheer gear' for Mom. But we could tell it was upsetting her for a reason she couldn't really explain. But it felt just like her reaction to Christmas and Easter and Fourth of July and all the other holidays.

Holidays are full of tradition. Mom can't remember what they are.

Holidays are full of joy. Alzheimer's has stolen Mom's joy.

Holidays have lots of components. Mom prefers life one thing at a time.

Holidays bring change. Mom has become dependent on her routine.

On a positive note, holidays bring lots of treats. Mom LOVES a treat and is happy to enjoy any and all of them!

The hardest part of the holidays--Back To School or Memorial Day or a birthday--is when something or someone refers to the special occasion and Mom gets angry because "no one told her". It can be posted as big as a billboard on her white board or laminated and taped to her walker, but she becomes convinced that no one told her. And verbal. And occasionally hurtful.

I think it's more common than I realized for Alzheimer's patients to be paranoid. How could you not be, with all the suspense and the surprises and mysteries the disease creates. The paranoia brings out the "fight" in mom. The vinegar. The agitation. And when she thinks someone is hiding something from her, Katie, Bar the Door!

It's a dilemma. I wouldn't dream of depriving my kids of the joy and excitement and pieces and parts of all the holidays. But, I wouldn't dream of intentionally driving my mother batty either.

So we do the best we can. And we downplay or we clear the evidence as quickly as possible! We celebrate and try and include Mom, but we also respect her inability to remember and her frustration at all the change.

Holidays are a compromise when you live with Alzheimer's. But so are a lot of other things! It's a dilemma and you know what they say????? "When life gives you dilemma, make di-lemma-nade!" 

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