By Liz Collin


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a magical season, usually filled with family and tradition. But for loved ones with memory loss and their caregivers, it can be a difficult time of year.

WCCO has been documenting Paul Quinn’s journey with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. In the last few years, his family has made some changes to how they celebrate the holidays.

“We’ve had traditions that we’ve had since we first got married,” Peg Quinn said.

They’ve spent a lifetime growing a family. Each Christmas documenting how their stairs have filled up with new faces.

“A wonderful wife and wonderful children and grandchildren,” Paul Quinn remarks.

As Paul Quinn’s memory fades, his family tries to keep most holiday traditions, which begin by finding the best tree.

“The adventure would continue when we would try to put up the big tree we just cut down. Because that didn’t always go so well,” Katie Mack, Paul’s daughter said.

But, they admit its different now as Paul can’t remember much that just happened.

Paul and Peg Quinn (credit: Quinn Family)

“It’s wearing on the family,” Peg Quinn said.

The Alzheimer’s Association says this can be a difficult time of year for a lot of reasons.

Senior program director at the Alzheimer’s Association, Leah Challberg, warns family and friends against turning patient interactions into a pop quiz.

“Try to give them the answer so it’s not, ‘Do you remember me?’ That’s just setting them up for failure,” Challberg said. “It can be really difficult for a lot of reasons.”

She says it can be even more important in how you connect with a caregiver.

“Just saying what you see, this seems really hard and I don’t have the words right now but I’m with you in it,” Challberg said.

Cautioning anyone against commenting how someone with memory loss doesn’t look bad or things must be fine.

“Which is really invalidating to what a lot of caregivers experience,” she said.

“They don’t see the changes that are occurring slowly over time,“ Peg Quinn remarked.

Back at the Quinn’s, they’ve made adjustments to the agenda. The big Christmas Eve sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa’s is no longer finding big crowds, and noise can be overwhelming for Paul.

“Just the amount of activity happening at once and the number of people talking at the same time is difficult,” Peg said.

“When things get too far gone, I can journey to my bedroom or downstairs and watch TV or something,” Paul said.

They try to be honest about where Paul is in this journey and plan accordingly. Perhaps more grateful for the time they do have together with each season that passes.

“His progression has been thankfully incredibly slow compared to average, but he’s always been way above average,” they joked.

Leah Challberg from the Alzheimer’s Association says it’s also important to prepare your kids about what to expect and what you tell them depends on their age.

Liz Collin

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