Alzheimer’s foundation offers tips, examples for holidays

Alzheimer’s foundation offers tips, examples for holidays

  • Dec. 22, 2017 5:01 p.m.

The table is set, the tree is decorated, cookies on festive platters are wrapped in plastic.

Melissa Garofalo’s home is ready with days to spare to welcome two dozen family members on Christmas Eve, just like it is every year. And that’s a good thing, too, because for one of her relatives, Alfred Falzon, the holidays require a bit more simplicity and care. He has dementia.

“He’s at the point where he doesn’t fully understand what the holidays are anymore,” said Andrew Falzon, 35, his son. “But they just help enhance his quality of life. He enjoys being around people.”

Across Long Island, thousands of families will celebrate the holidays alongside loved ones with dementia. More than 50,000 people on Long Island are living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, and thousands more are their caregivers, according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

“The holidays can be very stressful for families, with getting everybody together, and caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia can add to that,” said Charles Fuschillo, president and CEO of the foundation. “What we want to emphasize is that it doesn’t have to.”

The foundation recommends families maintain their loved ones’ routines, even around big events, and rely on traditions to keep them involved.

Caregivers should be open with their family about the needs of a person with dementia, from how far the disease has progressed to what the person’s sensitivities, such as loud noises, might be. The foundation also suggests planning travel carefully to keep a loved one comfortable and finding ways for that loved one to join in, such as giving them simple tasks in the kitchen or choosing music from their favorite era.

For the Falzon and Garofalo families, accommodating Alfred Falzon, 78, who is Garofalo’s mother’s cousin, is about taking the holidays in at a controlled pace and finding ways to keep him entertained.

“Fred is very easy going, so we don’t have to do too much for him,” said Garofalo, 40. “We always try to make him as comfortable as we can.”

Alfred Falzon, who lives with his son, was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2014, Andrew Falzon said. His father experiences confusion more than memory loss, his son said, and he can struggle to put his thoughts into words.

“He can’t necessarily understand every word that’s being said … but if you look over at him every now and then and say, ‘That was a good one, right?’ — just include him in the moment — he gets a lot of enjoyment out of it,” Andrew Falzon said.

Traditions and memories can be an important point of connection. Alfred Falzon, who was once a professional soccer player, takes joy from old family photographs from holidays past and his soccer-playing days, so Garofolo keeps those on hand to share with him.

Alfred Falzon is also a big fan of clearing the table. It’s an old habit of his and they help him do it whenever they get together, his son said.

“It’s really about taking the holidays at the pace that your loved one wants to take it at,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Masks were made mandatory in any workplace setting across Alberta as the premier introduced sweeping measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Paul Cowley/ Advocate Staff)
Kenney declares state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rise

High schools shift to online learning, businesses face new restrictions

Lynne McConnell, a Red Deer single mom who runs a delivery company, is left without a car for her business after her vehicle was stolen twice in about 48 hours. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Highway 11, from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House, is about to be twinned in a $120-million project announced Friday. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Town of Sylvan Lake likes Highway 11 twinning plans

Province plans to twin Highway 11 to Rocky Mountain House

Lynn Van Laar, chair of this year’s Christmas Wish Breakfast, said the event was planned outdoors to minimize the risk of COVID. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Outdoor Christmas Wish Breakfast helps central Alberta families this holiday season

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to stop children from having a merry… Continue reading

Canadian singer Justin Bieber performs live during a small concert for charity in Toronto on December 7, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Justin Bieber leads Canadian Grammy nods, Kaytranada among new artist contenders

Justin Bieber leads Canadian Grammy nods, Kaytranada among new artist contenders

Canada's Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman speaks via video link at the Global Business Forum in Banff, Alta., on September 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Keystone XL not the same project John Kerry nixed in 2015, Canada’s U.S. envoy says

Keystone XL not the same project John Kerry nixed in 2015, Canada’s U.S. envoy says

The Syncrude oil sands extraction facility is reflected in a tailings pond near the city of Fort McMurray, Alta., on June 1, 2014. Imperial Oil Ltd. says it will relinquish its contract to provide operational, technical and business management services to Syncrude Canada Ltd. when Suncor takes over its oilsands mining operations at the end of 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Imperial Oil set to end Syncrude services contract as Suncor becomes operator

Imperial Oil set to end Syncrude services contract as Suncor becomes operator

Bay Street in Canada's financial district is shown in Toronto on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
North American stock markets surge higher, Dow tops 30,000

North American stock markets surge higher, Dow tops 30,000

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground as a deer stands in a canola field near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. The Canada Energy Regulator says we will still heavily rely on fossil fuels over the next 30 years even with a bigger carbon tax and other new climate change policies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada Energy Regulator projects there may be no need for Trans Mountain expansion

Canada Energy Regulator projects there may be no need for Trans Mountain expansion

A fall stretch of long, warm weather has meant a much better harvest than last year, when this kind of snow arrived a month earlier.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Snowy roads in the forecast for Central Albertans

Central Albertans should expect a little extra snow on the roads for… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Chris Douglas will take on a different hockey challenge later this month, playing NHL 21 in a virtual Memorial Cup competition against some of the best players in the CHL. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Douglas pumped to represent Rebels in virtual Memorial Cup showdown

In more than 250 days, Chris Douglas hasn’t had a chance to… Continue reading

Most Read