For most of us, winter holidays are wrapped up with family traditions. Mom’s top-secret turkey stuffing recipe and beautifully decorated table symbolize Thanksgiving. Heirloom ornaments adorn the Christmas tree. A menorah passed down through the generations is a special Chanukah symbol. Diwali lamps brought from India by elders help connect U.S.-born children with their heritage. And during Eid ul-Fitr, senior loved ones are honored during the feasting that marks the end of Ramadan.
No matter how far we have moved from home, most Americans want to spend the special winter holidays with loved ones. Busy airports overflow with travelers, and there is that special moment when we ring the doorbell to our childhood home and are greeted by the smell of baking cookies and hugs from parents and grandparents.
But for many families this year, holiday visits will include the realization that their senior loved one’s condition is changing. The house isn’t as spotless as Mom has always kept it. Maybe Dad—always so conscious of his personal grooming—looks as if he hasn’t shaved in a few days. Or perhaps the holiday dinner is several hours late because Grandma forgot to turn on the oven.