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Coping with Alzheimer's During the Holidays

JOPLIN, Mo. -- The holidays for many families are memorable times of the year, but for those related to someone with Alzheimer's, it can be a struggle. This is a challenge because some memories that you or other families members relate to the most, may not exist anymore to the patient.
JOPLIN, Mo. -- The holidays for many families are memorable times of the year, but for those related to someone with Alzheimer's, it can be a struggle. This is a challenge because some memories that you or other families members relate to the most, may not exist anymore to the patient.

"It's very hard because you remember them as they were, but this is precious too and you just glad you got them," said Janie Gaydou, Daughter of Alzheimer's Patient. 

Janie Gaydou's mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2006. The holiday traditions still exist in her family, but only to a certain extent.

"We had Christmas breakfast, my mother and my father would fix the breakfast. Now, we still have the Christmas breakfast, but my dad and I fix it and mom enjoys it," said Gaydou. 

Karen Laster is the health care home director for Freeman Health System's Ozark Center. She says it helps to celebrate the holidays in the most familiar setting for someone with dementia. 

"It's best to keep things simple, the traditions that your loved one is comfortable with and the traditions your loved one wants to see in place are the traditions that should stay in place," said Karen Laster, RN Health Care Home Director, Ozark Center. 

She says the best holiday gift you can give one another is support.

"Talk about strategy. Talk about where mom is today, and that might not be where mom is this afternoon," said Laster. 

Laster believes you should resist forcing old traditions or memories on your loved one and embrace the new ones. 

"It's really important to enjoy where your family member takes you and not insist that you take them down your path, down your memory, but let them tell you about what they remember and give them that gift," said Laster. 

She says most of all, take care for yourself. Guydou says it helps to remember that this could be their last chance to celebrate the holidays together.

"If they keep asking you the same question, just keep answering it. The main thing is to just sit there and listen to them and keep them happy, and enjoy it," said Laster.

Gaydou says she also gets help from the Freeman Alzheimer's Support Group. Those meetings are on the first floor lobby at Freeman Hospital East. They meet every second Tuesday of each month from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m. 

(reported by KODE in Joplin, Mo.)
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