My mother does not want to participate in our holiday celebrations anymore. She says she'll be fine. Is this normal? -

My mother does not want to participate in our holiday celebrations anymore. She says she'll be fine. Is this normal?


My mom says she has never minded being alone (divorced 30 years ago, no others since). I have a sister and a brother, both of whom live very far away, but who she loves to hear from and looks forward to their rare visits with great joy. She seems very peaceful about her life in general. She goes out in her car each day to do simple errands. She spends her home time watching news programs and doing Soduku puzzles for hours on end. She has always seemed to enjoy the company of our family of three and my father in law. This holiday withdrawal appears to have started over a year ago, concurrent with an onset of mild-moderate mental confusion and forgetfulness that seems to be increasing. She will not share what she has discussed with her doctor. She will also not fully explain (or can't explain) why she doesn't want to celebrate the holidays with us any longer. She has said that it confuses her to sleep away from home. She says that I am so busy with all of the preparations that she can't spend time with me anyway. We live an hour away in a very traffic congested region, so it would be very difficult for us to pick her up and bring her back home on the same day, when that day is a holiday. I have offered to do this, though, and she has refused. She won't stay overnight, because she becomes more disoriented at night, even if I sleep with her. I am in the middle of trying to please my family and include my mom in the holidays some how. My best friend said to take her at her word and just carry on without her. It is heart wrenching for me to think of her all alone on Christmas Day, though we did it last year and everyone survived. It just seemed so wrong. I don't want to separate from my own family. Any suggestions? Thanks so much.

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I think she is protecting you and herself against early dementia symptoms that include a little sundowning - she probably has her won way of minimizing that if she is at home and by herself, but does not want experience worse symptoms or worse still, allow anyone else to see it. This happened to a good friend of mine in a subacute rehab setting; even post-op he was very normal cognitively during the day, but had an epsiode one evening there that he told me about and found very embarrassing. She knows she can't process the stress and stiumlation of a noisy, joyful family style celebration and that she is still OK in the familiar and more controlled environmment of her own home.

Can you bring just a little bit of celebration to her in her own home earlier in the day?
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I agree with everything Jeanne said. My mom is not comfortable being away from the Assisted Living Center for any length of time even though she says she wants to go home all the time. I think familiar surrounding are important to them and they find comfort in that. Please respect her wishes and make a point to spend time with her at another time.
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Take her at her word and just carry on without her.

If she has dementia, her life will definitely change, regardless of what she wants. The time may come when she cannot safely live alone. The time may have come already when she should not be driving -- do look into that for her! But if right now she prefers staying in her own home for the holiday I think I'd respect that.

How about having her come for some other day, when it would not be quite so inconvenient to get her and bring her back on the same day? A time when you can just spend the time with her and not be distracted with preparations. I understand that if you have to spend 4 hours on the road you'd like her to stay a little longer, but at this point she does not want to make overnight visits and I suggest that you respect that.

Another alternative is to visit her at her house, on a non-holiday. That cuts your drive time in half. You can take her to a restaurant or bring in food. Or if she like to cook the two of you can spend time together in the kitchen.

Things are changing in your family dynamics. Your mother is aging. She may be developing dementia. Change is a part of life. Especially over the holidays when tradition is so important change can feel very sad and very stressful. If you can accept the inevitability of change that may reduce the stress a bit.
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