LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The holidays are deemed the “best time of the year,” but for some families, it can be a challenge.
More than 58 thousand Arkansans struggle with remembering their family, and their families struggle trying to navigate the holidays.
Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease that shows no mercy to the ones we love. It is a disease where memory and other mental functions deteriorate.
The Alzheimer’s Association encourages a conversation with family members about what to expect before cutting the turkey or opening the presents.
“It’s really important to make sure all of the family knows where the loved one is in the disease,” says caregiver Gigi Gabriel, whose mother has Alzheimer’s. “I think it starts with preparing yourself – what are you going to say to your children? Tell them what’s happening in the moment — but also prepare them for the future moments.”
“The reason why you want to be present and available during the holidays — you never know how things may change or progress,” explains Ricky Williams, Developmental Director for Alzheimer’s Arkansas.
You may have noticed at the Thanksgiving table that your loved one is not the same as you remembered and they might not have remembered you.
“How would you feel if a loved one you’ve known for 30 years doesn’t remember who you are – so a lot of difficult moments could happen,” Gabriel says.
“Those that are caregivers, who are diagnosed with the disease, and those who know someone or have someone in their life,” adds David Cook, Senior Public Policy Manager of the Arkansas Chapter for the Alzheimer’s Association.
While difficult, children are one of the most important to be told why they have lost their loved one, even if they are still physically sitting beside them.
“They cried, of course, which is understandable. They love their abuela,” says Gabriel.
Alzheimer’s is unpredictable, so Alzheimer’s Arkansas urges people to spend the time they can, while they still can.
“The reason why you want to be present and available during the holidays – you just never know how things may change or progress,” Williams continues.
“They’re still family. They may not know who you are or know your name or recognize you but they still have emotions,” adds Gabriel.
Both the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Arkansas want to ensure that all people suffering from the disease or who have a loved one with the disease to know that you are not alone.