May the spirit of love, peace, and happiness accompany each one of you as we approach the upcoming holiday season. Achieving a joyful state of mind may require us to let go of certain expectations, come to terms with the past, and fully embrace the present.
Entering what is commonly referred to as the holiday season, we are constantly bombarded by media portraying perfect families and flawless celebrations. However, the concept of "perfection" is subjective, and the pursuit of it often clashes with reality.
The idealized images and expectations associated with this season can have the opposite effect, especially on those experiencing loneliness or isolation, particularly individuals living with dementia. What is supposed to be an idyllic time of year can turn out to be the most stressful and somber for some.
While it is heartwarming to uphold traditions, it is meaningful only if these traditions genuinely bring joy to our loved ones and ourselves. Mindfulness about living in the present is crucial. Changing or adapting traditions is a natural part of life's evolution and doesn't diminish the beauty of the past; it simply acknowledges it.
For those grappling with memory loss, pushing them to remember or emphasizing their lapses can be painful. Instead, such coaxing may evoke sadness, frustration, or even anger. It's essential to be attuned to the cues of your loved ones and find joy in the current moments. Beyond this season, every day presents an opportunity for new traditions and special moments— we just need to seize them.
If a loved one is in the early stages of dementia and has traditionally taken on a significant role in holiday food preparation, consider making gentle modifications. They may not want to relinquish their role in the kitchen, so find ways for them to contribute, even if they are not in charge. Experiment with less labor-intensive recipes or host a surprise potluck feast. What matters most is the time spent together and ensuring they feel included in a way that is special to them.
The true celebration of happy holidays may lie in granting ourselves the grace to let go of rigid ideals. While memories and nostalgia are precious, they should not become shackles preventing us from fully living and loving in the present.
May each of your lives and celebrations be brimming with joy!
Domenico Praticò, MD, holds the position of the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation Chair for Alzheimer’s Research and serves as a Professor and the Director at the Alzheimer’s Center at Temple, as well as a Professor of Pharmacology at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.