Why is joy so important? Well, joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, encompassing a sense of contentment with the present. Joy radiates into every sector of our lives, so much so that it has long been proven to impact our physical health substantially. Everyone needs, and also very well deserves, to have joy in their lives. Unfortunately, the aspect of joy is often not looked at as a necessity (when it very much is), leaving a vast gray area where other negative feelings of uncertainty and anxiety can creep in, contributing to a worsening decline in mental health. This is especially so for older adults with dementia and more significantly noted during the holidays, when much of the narrative has shifted to focusing on how most traditions might never be the same.
When Dementia Begins To Impact Holiday Traditions
Being diagnosed with dementia is already looked at as a sort of tragedy. As a result, there is fear circulating around the aging sector, which leads to widening gaps in the way older adults are treated and cared for. Oftentimes, aging loved ones are overanalyzed for what it is they can’t do, versus the immense potential for what it is they can do. And often, others forget to look at things from the perspective of the person living with dementia, who may be experiencing just as much fear and concern over some of the changes they feel are occurring.
Factor in the holiday season, and families, caregivers, and loved ones with dementia are all left struggling to find the balance between holiday activities they can share versus setting aside beloved old traditions that might no longer fit their family dynamic. There is a lot of unknown and uncertainty that comes with having dementia, and it, unfortunately, has a way of stealing the holiday spirit.
The Importance Of Joy For Older Adults During The Holidays
The heartbreaking truth of this is that our loved ones with dementia do know what it feels like to be left out or excluded during the holiday commotion. Their memory may be impaired, but much like everyone else, they still long to feel included and desire that familiar sense of purpose – something their diagnosis will never be able to take away. But most importantly, they still crave joy and a feeling of togetherness with those they love most.
While there may be no cure for dementia, and a world of the unknown is left to the future, we must remember that there is still joy to be found in the present moment – if not for our own sake, but for that of our loved ones. In fact, perhaps the best medicine (and gift!) we can give to our loved ones is holding on to hope for today and celebrating the excitement of life as it is.
Holidays Can Still Be Full Of Joy… Even With Dementia!
We may all have dreams of the holiday season being as picture-perfect as what we see on the Hallmark channel, but we have to admit that the holidays are much more than a perfectly curated cinema production.
Instead, it is important for us – and especially for our aging loved ones – to lend grace to one another and remember that the holidays are not meant to be all about the glitzy Christmas trees, perfectly wrapped presents, or extravagant dinner parties. The holidays are about spending time with the ones we love, and quality time in the present moment is just the thing your loved one with dementia needs to find joy in the season.
So make your holidays about capturing the moment and celebrating the victories of today, no matter how big or small. Know that regardless of being diagnosed with dementia, the holidays are a time fit for every person of every age and in every stage of life. Admittedly, there may be some holiday traditions that you’ll have to let go of, but the silver lining here is that you have every opportunity to create new memories with your loved one with dementia, memories that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.
Invite them into the mix and make sure they feel included every step of the way, even if it means taking the nontraditional route. Take it from Oakwood legend Nurse Rosemary: “As long as your new traditions fit with what is best for you and your loved one, then your holiday season is already perfect.” So this holiday, find the opportunities to cultivate joy as it comes and embrace the present moment with your loved one.
Did You Know?
Oakwood Creative Care is bringing back the JOY in aging! We believe a diagnosis should not have to define your life. Instead, we have devoted our mission to reigniting hope for caregivers and older adults with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other age-related challenges. Click the button below to learn more about how we do this through our research-based, cutting-edge, creative care model found at each of our Day Clubs.