Many aging families have a Blue Blue Christmas or Hanukkah, as Elvis predicted. Why does an aging crisis occur so often during the holidays? Why do so many desperate adult children get care managers on the phone and howl about Mom or Dad? There are a million bad reasons, – too much alcohol, too many folks who do not get along and drink that alcohol. But the physical basis for all of this misery in elder is often a loss of executive function and IADL’s.
It takes IADLs- (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) shopping ( walking IADL), Climbing ( getting all those decorations out of the attic), grooming ( Mom can be found – in a “messy ensemble” at the feast) by the older person in charge of the holiday to pull it off. Then add depression to the aging stew – widowhood, lonliness and you have the challenges to an elder, usually the woman in the family, in managing this entire titanic ritual.
The holidays in aging families can be a disaster for another neurological reason. Mom or Dad’s Executive Skills have crashed just like a computer.
Executive functioning involves the ability to organize, plan and carry out a set of tasks in an efficient manner. It also includes the ability to self-monitor and control our behaviors and multiple other cognitive functions and to perform the goal-directed behavior. It can be described as high-level thinking skills that control and direct lower levels of cognitive functioning.
Planning for the holidays takes those high level thinking skills -to execute and carrying out 25 different major tasks according to a study in the UK- Just think, planning a specific holiday ritual menu,( brisket and latkes or popovers and beef prime rib )- then shopping for it cooking it, planning the ritual items in the celebration – a menorah and
Hanukkah bush , Christmas tree, and creche, buying them or getting them out of storage on and on.
This why we may end up with burned brisket or turkey.
This is a massive event/ planning job taken on by one woman usually and as executive functioning power down in her brain- the computer-, which is our aging brain starts to crash- the result- the family freaks out because Mom forgot the ritual steps.
That’s why we need aging life or geriatric care managers to help divide the tasks when Mom cannot do this any longer
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