As with so many of the things in our lives that we call “events”, anticipation is as much a part of the excitement, as much a part of making that time memorable, as the event itself. This may be especially true of our favorite holidays. Whether we are seven years old or seventy, if our children are young or grown with children of their own, we still get excited as a special day approaches. It can also be true of people who have Alzheimer’s disease.
People who have certain types of dementia lose memories in reverse; more recent memories disappear before older ones. If Dad has Alzheimer’s disease he likely remembers Christmas when you were very young more clearly than he remembers Christmas last year. The key here is that he does have fond memories of Christmas, even if those memories are a little hard for him to connect with. Doing the things that you have always done together to prepare for that particular event will help him access those memories; he will again be able to share your excitement and anticipation.
Remembering and sharing memories is called reminiscing, and we know that reminiscence therapy provides comfort to those with memory disorders. It can also improve memory and certain cognitive functioning, at least on the short term. Clinically, reminiscence therapy is fairly structured, but Dad remembering how you used to help decorate the Christmas tree when you could only reach the lower branches is also reminiscence therapy. Having him help you decorate the tree now can bring back those memories.