I was reading this blog post today about gift ideas for loved ones with dementia. The holiday season can be awkward when you are trying to accommodate those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. I think often, we as family members go to one extreme or another. We either bombard the poor souls or we pretend they don’t exist. As usual, the solution is somewhere in the middle.
First of all, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Each person with dementia will react to the holidays in a different way. For example, Dad was never sentimental about the holidays and his interest didn’t change once dementia took hold. I did buy him a personalized New York Times edition from his birthday and birth year once he was in about the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s. I wish I had bought it for him sooner. I believe he was able to look at the pictures but I believe his reading ability was limited by that point. It was a gift I had meant to buy years earlier, for Dad loved newspapers and history.
So one has to try to relate to their family member with dementia as much as possible. I think generally speaking, low-key, small gatherings are best, because they don’t stress out a dementia sufferer with too many unfamiliar faces and too much commotion. But again, I heard a story recently about a woman who suffered from dementia and who had loved to cook the big holiday meal before dementia took over.
So what did the large, extended family do? They each made a dish from one of her recipes, and pretended that she made it herself. The little old lady took her place at the head of the table, wiped her brow and exclaimed how tired she was from all of that cooking before digging in. The new tradition went on until she passed away.
Sometimes gifts don’t come wrapped in paper and bows. They are recreating memories of a loved one and sharing in the joy of those happy times.