Ask Kari: My mother has dementia – how can I get through the holidays without feeling depressed?

Dear Kari,

I am feeling terribly sad as this is the first holiday season since I moved my mother into a care facility due to dementia and we won’t be celebrating the holidays like we usually do. I am feeling both the loss of her recognizing me when I visit her, and the loss of our family traditions. How can I make it through this time of the year without feeling depressed?

--Too Sad to Celebrate

Dear Too Sad to Celebrate,

I am sorry that you are struggling during this time of transition both for you and your family. It can be very challenging to have one’s parents diagnosed with dementia. Moving them into a more supportive setting is the best, safest plan for them. I recommend that you reflect on one or two traditions you most what to continue and focus on them happening this holiday season (e.g. attending church together, baking a special family recipe). As you are moving thru these few traditions, share the value of the acts with yourself, your mother, and any other family members who are with you. Speaking about what we feel can sometimes help us move through change better, versus storing our feelings up inside which can later lead to depression. Although this season will be different in some ways, maybe even many ways, I remind you to take the time to speak to those around you who matter. Remind both them and yourself that you are grateful and that the small moments can still be good, even if they are different from before. Best wishes to you.


As published in the December 2015 issue of Connections.

About Kari:

Kari O’Neill, MSW, LICSW, is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and the owner and Clinical Director of Issaquah Highlands Counseling Group (IHCG), which is now Kari O’Neill Counseling.

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