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Celebrating the holidays with those living with Alzheimer's disease

The Alzheimer’s Association said the stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with maintaining holiday traditions can take a toll.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — While the holidays are often filled with joy and memories, they can be overwhelming for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association said the stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with maintaining holiday traditions can take a toll.

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Katherine Lambert is the CEO of the Western Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

She said as families begin to gather, it’s a good idea to adjust expectations.

“What I would say for folks living with the disease or caring for someone with the disease, really figure out what were those things that were most important,” Lambert said.

“Maybe you don’t do every holiday tradition you’ve had for 50 years; you pick the one or two to help manage the energy and stress that goes into that. For those that are friends and family of those on this journey, offering to take some things off the plate. Could you host the event instead of them if they were always the host? Could you bring more things than maybe you would have brought before?”

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Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this holiday season might be the first time some families have seen certain loved ones in well over a year.

Lambert encourages families to take note of any odd behavior.

“I think the other group that really needs to be aware is those that maybe haven’t seen their loved ones,” Lambert explained.

“There hasn’t been a diagnosis. You walk in and you see things are very different than the last time that maybe you’ve seen your aging parents. You say, ‘Oh my goodness there’s a lot of expired food in the refrigerator, or the house doesn’t look the way it used to look.’ Often when we’ve gone for long periods of time, the phone or even a video can mask that there have been some challenges.”

Throughout the holiday season, the association is offering a free virtual education program providing tips to make the holidays safe and enjoyable.