by Joanne Webb
Q. My mother has Alzheimer's and my father takes care of her at home. What can I do for them as a Christmas gift that they both could enjoy and that would not add more burden to my father?
A. First and foremost the answer to that question depends on your mother. What are her likes and dislikes and what kind of activities does she still enjoy? Talk with your father about how your mother is doing physically and what she is enjoying most. If you focus on what your mother enjoys now, which may be something very uncomplicated, you will be able to avoid some common pitfalls such as overstimulation and exhaustion that come from overly ambitious plans.
One idea is to take your mother for a short outing. A short trip to the zoo, a drive to look at Christmas displays, or attending a matinee of a recent upbeat film are some possibilities.
If an outing is not feasible, giving family photos could give hours of pleasure. Placing the photos in plexiglass frames would enable your mother to handle them easily and safely. One family I know made a home video of old family photos and included a brief verbal explanation on tape of who is in each photograph and what relation they are to their AD relative.
Giving food and enjoying music is traditional during the holidays. Frozen casseroles or soups are always welcome and may be better than candy or sweets. If you are strapped for time, hire a home food service to deliver a hot meal as a gift. Think about what kind of music your mom likes. Singing holiday songs to her might be fun; she might enjoy a CD or tape of her favorite artist. Some families have hired music therapists to go to their relative's home or assisted living facility to play songs and do sing-a-longs. There are many different ways to provide an enjoyable treat to your parents. If you keep in mind the personal preferences and needs of your parent with AD, both of your parents will benefit from your consideration.