4 windows decorated with garland and poinsettias show a snowy landscape from left to right, they get progressively smaller and less decorated, in front of the smallest window two men exchange a gift

How to Enjoy the Holiday Season When Your Loved One Has Alzheimer's

I have never been more stressed out around the holidays than when my mom lived with Alzheimer's. Everything felt completely overwhelming. I was unable to enjoy all of the normal holiday festivities that I usually looked forward to every year. And to make matters worse, I put this immense pressure on myself to make everything perfect for everyone.

Looking back now, I realize some of the mistakes I made and why I could not enjoy the holiday season. I want to share some of the lessons I learned so that you won't make the same mistakes I did.

Keep it simple

If you are anything like me, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to come up with the perfect plans, the perfect decorations, the perfect gifts - everything. You may think it all has to be this big elaborate plan to be "good enough," but I'm here to tell you that isn't true.

You will have much more success if you keep everything simple. Don't overwhelm yourself and everyone else by coming up with these crazy plans and ideas. Remember, less is more, and there is no such thing as perfect. Just focus on love and being together.

After all, those are the two things that matter most during the holiday season.

Ask yourself

Is this something my loved one still enjoys, or do I wish they still enjoyed? Someone gave me this piece of advice when I was in the thick of it with my mom's Alzheimer's.

It was a lightbulb moment for me. I realized that there were so many things I was trying to force on my mom because I desperately wanted to keep doing the things that we had always enjoyed doing together.

I failed to realize that my mom no longer enjoyed doing some of those things. I was probably causing her stress, confusion, and agitation by forcing her to keep doing things that had become too much for her.

When I asked myself this question and focused on doing things I knew she still liked to do, our holidays became much less stressful and more enjoyable.

Manage your expectations

I always say you should prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Your loved one may not cooperate with your holiday plans.

The family members who promised to visit or call may not follow through. Your loved one may hate the gift you painstakingly picked out for them. Your loved one may have a great couple of days before the big holiday and then have a really horrible day on the actual holiday. Or, it might end up being the absolute best-case scenario you could have ever hoped for. With Alzheimer's, anything is possible. Manage your expectations accordingly.

Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling

It may seem like everyone else in the whole world is having the most magical Hallmark holiday season. It may seem like you are the only one crying your eyes out over a bowl of leftover spaghetti.

There is a season for everyone and everything in life. Maybe this isn't your best season. It's okay to be sad and depressed. It's okay to wish things would return to the way they were. It's okay to be bitter and angry that this is your life. It's also okay to be excited about the holidays. It's okay to want to buy the biggest Christmas tree. It's okay to make plans with friends and family.

This too shall pass

No matter how you feel, nothing lasts forever. If you are feeling down, remind yourself that this is temporary. If you are feeling good, remember to enjoy it while it lasts. Don't judge yourself for how you feel. Do what you need to get through it.

I hope these tips help you to have an enjoyable holiday season with your loved one. Do your best to be present, make memories, and take lots of pictures!

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