During The Holiday Season: 12 Lessons of Memory Loss

When a family member or loved one suffers from memory loss such as dementia or Alzheimer's, the holidays can still be a good time, says Lori La Bey, founder of Alzheimer's Speaks.

The holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year for scores of people.

The pressure to do it all- buy gifts, send out cards, bake cookies and make the rounds at holiday parties- can seem overwhelming. And the season can seem extra stressful for people who have a family member or loved one with memory problems.

The reality is that trying to create wonderful or special memories during the season may seem mostly lost on a person with dementia or Alzheiner's.

So how do you cope?

In an interview with Roseville Patch,  Lori (Moeschter) La Bey, founder of Twin Cities-based Alzheimer’s Speaks, offered several tips on how you can approach the holidays with a loved one who suffers from memory loss. (La Bey was recently recognized last month by Dr. Mehmet Oz and his health and wellness organization Sharecare as the No. 1 Influencer online for Alzheimer’s)

First, "control the things you can control," said La Bey, a native of Roseville who brought the first U.K. Memory Café to the U.S., which is in Roseville. Accept that a person with memory loss has lost the ability to choose how to engage with other people, said La Bey. For example, if the Alzheimer's person blurts out something inappropriate that is embarassing to you, it's never meant to be personal, she said.

Here are some other tips from La Bey for the holidays:

2.We are our own worst enemy.Don't expect perfection in dealing with your person with memory loss. And don't get too hard on yourself.

3. Maintain a pattern of routines. This can be a big help to a memory loss victim, especially as their diseases progresses.

4.Remember we are more than our name. It is the connection we have with our loved one.

5.Avoid negative energy. Negative energy spreads.

6.Old habits are hard to break even for a person with memory loss. So remember a person with memory loss might hold on to annoying habits and mannerisms. Be patient.

7.Focus on being engaged with your loved one rather than preoccupied with completing tasks and trying to solve oblems.

8.Model good behavior for a person with Alzheimer's. If you hope to have a person with memory loss is to be happy, then be happy yourself.

9.Quality of life. It is an issue you will have to address many times. Make sure  everyone involved is clear about procedures, desires and expectations.

10. Focus on the simple things in life that increase enjoyment for the person with memory loss.

11.Breathe deeply and count to 10 when you feel you are being pushed to your limit.

12. Be open to evaluating the relationship between you and your person with dementia. Don't focus on the way things used to be; instead, accept the way things are now.

"When you live with compassion and passion, you are able to create remarkable moments and find the goodness and value of yourself and others on a whole lot of new levels," La Bey said.

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"Caring for someone with Alzheimer's can be a physically, emotionally and financially challenging experience, making access to reliable information about various stages of the disease all the more important,"  Dr. Kevin Soden, a  Sharecare editorial advisory board member, said in a press statement from Sharecare.  "Recognizing the most influential and credible individuals in this field during November's Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month serves as a powerful opportunity for us to support not only those diagnosed with the disease but also their loved ones and caregivers."

Locally, J. Arthur’s Memory Café, 2441 Rice St., Roseville; "offers a safe, friendly and supportive environment for people with early memory loss and their caregivers to gather and build new friendships and a sense of community," La Bey told Roseville Patch. That sense of community is something that is so often lost when Alzheimer's or dementia strikes a person, La Bey said.

The Memory Cafe gatherings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month from 1 to 3 p.m. The sessions are free.


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