The last actual Easter dinner I had with my mother was so long ago I actually can't remember it. What I can remember about Easter is that it was always a big deal in our house and my mom typically made a ham with all the fixings including mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, jelly, breads, and this weird green jello salad mix that my brothers like. Easter was once a big to-do that sometimes started the week before with a sunrise service and progressed into a day filled with laughter and a large table that sat roughly 12.
For many Americans, this Easter will be their first with a loved one who has recently found out or revealed that they are companions with the never-leaving houseguest known as Alzheimer's. This knowledge makes planning potentially precarious as we try and map out what the day will be like and how to make it easiest for our companion, family member, spouse or parent. I thought it may be helpful to offer a few things to keep in mind while planning your Easter dinner with Alzheimer's.
Make things easy. I realize that this first suggestion may seem pretty obvious but I think if we dive a little deeper into the meaning of "easy" and how it pertains to Alzheimer's Disease you may find it helpful. Making things easy for an Alzheimer's patient (to me) means that I am thinking of every detail that could potentially make my loved one feel stupid, confused, angry, or scared. I do this by trying to be extra sensitive to the activities of daily living that are very easy for most of us but are not so easy for the loved one. Here is a short list of things that may not be easy for your loved one depending on how far the disease has progressed:
- Walking into a house filled with people that they "should" know can be very challenging for someone with Alzheimer's disease. Often times, they know that they "should" know who the people are in the room but they just don't. An easy solution: Let other family members know of your loved ones condition and suggest they reintroduce themselves at the event and not get offended if the person doesn't remember them and let them know to avoid the "c'mon you know me from XYZ...don't you remember?!"
Make eating easier. Sixty percentof people with Alzheimer's Disease also suffer from vision challenges and/or depth perception problems. You can make their dining experience easier by plating their food on a colored dish. If you're trying to figure out how this helps go ahead and squint your eyes and now take a white plate and put white mashed potatoes on it. Not very easy to see, huh?
Value your time and be flexible. Depending on what stage your loved one is at with Alzheimer's their ability to enjoy an event such as Easter may be limited. Keep this in mind and know that this may be the last Easter that either of you spend together in a non-clinical environment. Make the most of your time by taking a photo, sharing old memories, and making sure your loved one is comfortable.
Don't forget the caregiver. There's often a silent hero in every family. One that is not recognized very often but is always in service and always an advocate for your loved one with Alzheimer's. In my family, that person is my father. He drives to my Mom's apartment inside of the Alzheimer's unit every single night. I'm certain life isn't easy and more than likely it is very dark. Let us not forget about those caregivers who are sacrificing so much of their life for our loved one's comfort. This Easter, why not make their life a little easier by serving them, serving their loved one, and sending them home with some leftovers. Odds are, they're not cooking for themselves if they're so busy caring for someone else. Most importantly, thank them.
Easter is a time of reflection, family, and wonderful food. No matter what your religious beliefs are I think we all can agree that time together is a wonderful medicine. Try and remember that for a person with Alzheimer's these times together can also be the most confusing. Hopefully by following my suggestions above you will have a joyous time creating many long lasting memories for yourself and your family.
David Pride is a professional youth speaker, owner of Social Impressions a social media agency. David's mother, Elizabeth, has had a relationship with Advanced Alzheimer's for over 3 years.
You can be find David on Twitter @DavidaPride.