The season of Advent is one of peace for some with Alzheimer’s

Many with dementia can be more agitated than calm, but not my mother

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by Ray Burow |

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The Advent season of the Christian calendar is now in full swing. Each of the season’s four Sundays connects the arrival of Jesus to a tenet of Christianity: hope, peace, joy, and love or faith, depending on a specific congregation’s tradition. We typically celebrate these words by reading a corresponding Scripture passage and lighting a candle.

Last week I wrote about hope; in my church this weekend, we lit a candle for peace — and, like so much else, it reminded me of my late mother.

Even with Alzheimer’s disease, my mother displayed the peace that was in her heart. As one of her primary caregivers, though, I have to admit that my heart wasn’t always at peace. At times, perhaps especially during the holidays, it was troubled. Though I found hope and ultimately peace in the coming of Jesus, I was also saddened because Alzheimer’s had reached in and touched our family.

I’ve often said that Alzheimer’s is a thief and a robber, and it’s true. The disease would steal our peace, even at Christmas if we allowed it.

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Before and during her Alzheimer’s disease, my mother seldom worried about anything. She attributed her peace and lack of anxiety to her faith and trust in Jesus Christ, who we believed came to deliver peace to the world and goodwill to all (Luke 2:14 NIV).

Growing up, I don’t remember ever catching my mother wringing her hands in worry. And when one of her children fell prey to anxiety, she’d remind them to pray and trust God for what came next. Her words were comforting.

Like my mother, my father was a devoted Christian, but he occasionally worried. His sighing gave him away on those few occasions. One late night, I heard my mother say to him teasingly, “If you’re going to do that heavy sighing all night, please sleep in the other room because you’re keeping me awake.” It was her way of reminding him that worry never solved anything. He loved her for it.

A caregiver’s elusive peace

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is a more significant challenge at Christmastime. In fact, caregivers often need to split their duties with others during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. In our case, it was never an even split, and peace was elusive.

I was raising kids during the caregiving years, and one Christmas, they were in a holiday performance that required daily practice until the week of the event. That meant caring for my mother while driving the children back and forth or finding them a ride. The practices were during my husband’s work hours, so he couldn’t assist.

My peace was depleted on one such evening when I made the 18-mile trek to pick up the kids from practice. I decided to sing in the car until I felt better. Of course, as it was nearing Christmas, I sang several carols that heralded the coming of the peace child, Jesus. You know what? When my focus changed, peace returned.

We were blessed that my mother continued to have a peaceful spirit during her Alzheimer’s years. That isn’t the case for many people with the disease. Some lovely folks are at peace before the disease, but they become disturbed afterward. Your loved one might become agitated or even aggressive, disrupting peace in the home. Adjusting their focus can’t be guaranteed.

Caregivers, however, are challenged to adjust their own focus to seek peace for themselves and their families. That’s what can happen during Advent.

Wishing you peace and goodwill at Christmas and always.

Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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