St. Patrick’s Day Memories in Alzheimer’s World

We made quite an event of St. Patrick’s Day when I was growing up.  We didn’t have Irish family connections, except possibly way back in our genealogy.  But the hired man on our farm celebrated this holiday.

We children always checked to see if Dan had the little green bow on his work cap when he came in for breakfast that morning.  He was more like a member of our family, a grandfather figure for us children, even though he didn’t live at our home. 

He took his meals with us, and Mother prepared corned beef and cabbage for dinner, the large meal of the day on a farm.  If she didn’t have corned beef, she cooked a ham with potatoes, cabbage and carrots for St. Patrick’s Day.

When Mother was in the nursing home and someone mentioned they were having corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day, she asked, “Did they make enough for Dan?”

Even though her memories were garbled, some glimmer of the past on our farm came through and was associated with that day.

Encourage your family member to elaborate on memories.  Write them down or record them so you will have them for your family history.  Also, they will remind you that even though someone has Alzheimer’s disease, some of those memories linger and can be shared.

I’m Not Taking Mother Home for Christmas

“You’re not taking your mother home for Christmas!” a friend exclaimed.  “She’ll be lonely at the nursing home.”

Once Mother began residing in a nursing home, I never took her out nor brought her to my home. 

“How terrible!” you might say.

However, Mother made the nursing home her world.  She created a home, in her mind, that was her former home or sometimes her girlhood home.  She had been through upheavals when I moved her from her home in another state to mine, then shuttled her to daycare at a nursing home.  Because of my work, she sometimes stayed with my neighbor.  All of this was confusing to her.

When she resided permanently in the nursing home, she seemed to settle in and create her own world.  I was fortunate because she never talked about leaving, neither to me nor to the staff. 

So why should I move her to my home for holidays?  It would only confuse her, I realized.  Instead we visited her, attended parties and dinners with her at the home.  She seemed to think we’d taken her out to dinner at a nice restaurant when we all ate at a private table in the holiday feted dining room.

Not everyone adapt as well as Mother did.  However, I was advised that if I allowed her to adjust and to develop her own patterns, she would do so, and we could set new traditions for the holidays.  I look back upon these occasions with fond memories and have photos of our holidays together at the nursing home.

Give this some thought if you feel guilt ridden to bundle your Alzheimer’s patient up and take him/her to what you think are pleasurable occasions for them.  Perhaps you should think in terms of the “new norm” of the Alzheimer’s world instead.