Alzheimer’s Weather Has Arrived in Time for Xmas

“Do you have the AC on?”

“No it’s 72 degrees on the thermostat”

“It’s freezing in here.”

“You might try putting on a sweater.”

“Why is it so cold.”

“It’s only 65 degree outside.”

“That’s cold.”

“It’s December. Christmas is in four days.”  

“It is?” (Our house has two Christmas trees and an advent calendar the grandkids come and mark daily)

“It was not this cold last year.”

“Yes, you complained last year too.”

“No I didn’t.”

This conversation has actually occurred in some similar form for years, here in New Orleans but also before at the farm. One of Ralph’s earliest symptoms of cognitive loss was his weakening sense of time and another was his sensitivity to the weather. In the summer he complains of the heat unendingly—while often wearing a flannel shirt. And in the winter, he cannot get warm—while ignoring the sweaters in his closet.

I have not always been as patient as I could be during these repeated conversations, but I finally have made an adjustment in our lives that might help. After resisting covering our beautiful old French windows for selfish aesthetic reasons, I have ordered solar shades for the room where Ralph most often sits. And meanwhile it will be warming up here in time for Christmas, although the temperature might not stop Ralph’s discomfort or this conversation.

As for the holiday itself, I am not sure how it will go. Now that I’ve adjusted to Ralph’s move into “moderate” Alzheimer’s, I recognize that that this may be a period in our lives that I will be nostalgic about someday because while Ralph’s cognition may be diminished, he is also undemanding; as long as I don’t set expectations too high, our day-to-day life is not that demanding —as long as Ralph’s routine is not disturbed and he can stay within its narrow confines. But Christmas is going to disturb his routine big time, 

My son and son-in-law are arriving tomorrow with their negative tests in hand. So are my sister and her husband. Everyone is coming, despite the new covid risks, largely to see Ralph, not sure where Alzheimer’s will have taken us by next Christmas. This year will be in untraveled territory enough. As recently as two years ago, our last full scale celebration, Ralph was tstill he center of our big, raucous Christmases, while I cooked and cleaned in the background. 

Now all he wants is to be left alone and he can’t remember that it is December even as I ask him to water the Christmas tree. My guess is that even when the family gathers, he will prefer not to participate. 

And that will be okay too. 

8 thoughts on “Alzheimer’s Weather Has Arrived in Time for Xmas

  1. My wife was diagnosed early last year with MCI and her latest assessment in November showed a sharp decline. I knew she had declined, the test just confirmed it. She is constantly saying she is cold and I never connected it to her MCI until I read this post. Since she can still drive and handle most things by herself I’ve learned to watch for the shift in her expression or tone of voice that tells me she is confused. But Christmas Day I missed a big one. We do a Thieves Christmas exchange at my sister’s house. There are 22 people in my immediate family so it is and always has been loud and chaotic. She kept telling me she forgot her number which was okay because I knew it. When it was her turn she didn’t know what to do so I gave her two options and she chose one. Driving home she said, “That was a weird way to hand out presents.” I realized that she had been confused during the entire game and I missed it. I got caught up in playing and missed that my wife didn’t know what was going on for almost an hour. Every time I think about it, I just cry. I didn’t mean for this to be so long. Guess I just needed to get it out.

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    1. This was so moving to read. I really appreciate the detail. From your comments and others’ I have begun to realize just that the small side effects are often the most important. I know that feeling of being at a gathering and letting down my guard, enjoying myself and then suddenly realizing I should have paying attention to what was going on with Ralph. But I also know that enjoying yourself, letting yourself relax into a given moment, is important too. So please don’t beat yourself up…

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      1. Thank you. I am learning and finding your post is more helpful than I can express. Others don’t see what I see so seeing someone else say exactly what I’m feeling sometimes makes me feel less alone.

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  2. My husband is exactly the same about temperatures. We live in the PNW so it is cold. Some mornings he comes out in a short sleeved tshirt and other days he has an additional two flannel shirts on. And don’t get me started on putting on clean clothes and showers. He is starting to see no need for either. He too is not really aware of Christmas even though he helped put up the lights. If things don’t affect him he is not interested. I think by this time next year he will probably be in memory care and he won’t be aware of it.

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  3. Sighing here … sounds like my situation. The younger son and our niece (and possibly her husband as well) will be here for New Year’s. As you pointed out, we don’t know what Christmas a year from now will be like, so best to try to make good memories while we can. Robert’s hands are always cold, and his ‘daily dress’ is jeans/pants, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt. Often, he’ll wear the same sweatshirt and pants for several days, but changes his underwear and t-shirt every day. (thankfully) Do take care and enjoy your company. Blessings to you and yours…

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    1. Thanks so much for writing. It is interesting and really helpful to know that so many of us are sharing the same experience with our spouses and seem to be on roughly the same timeline. Happy and Healthy Holidays.

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