For me, the holiday season is a time to pause and reflect on all the good things in life and a time to gather with those I hold most dear. I give thanks for my many blessings, including being called to my Occupational Therapy profession and a career serving elders living with dementia.

During the holidays, I sit quietly and enjoy the glow of the Christmas tree, illuminating my ornament collection which represents some of the most special people, places, and experiences from my life. And I’m guided to visit mindfully with those I love, never taking a second of it for granted because I’m aware one day things will be different.

In both my “real time” and “walk down memory lane” moments, I feel the joy of life permeate to my core as I enjoy today, and I reflect on the good times from my past. These emotions are so technicolor at this precious time of year.

But I can’t help but wonder: would the holidays feel this precious if I couldn’t connect to my memories—memories of the places I’ve been and the people I’ve shared my life with—or if I didn’t have people around me who love me and help me to feel special? I’m sadly aware that those who are living with dementia may not be experiencing these same beautiful emotions. And yet it is these feelings that are one of the true wonders of the holiday season. I pray they too will feel peace, love, and joy, and will have opportunities to celebrate and gather with those they love, and/or those who help them to feel special.

I’m so very grateful for all those who advocate for better care and quality of life, and who work tirelessly toward this mission of making life a better place for those living with dementia. I reflect on the advancements that have been made over this past year, through the good work of each who strive for more.

We still have a long way to go but that doesn’t negate the earnest efforts and the valiant battles won in the trenches each day.

  • The nursing aide or other frontline worker who somehow finds those extra moments to bond with the person in his/her care despite the short staffing.
  • The manager who steps outside of his or her comfort zone to stand up for quality care.
  • The executive or owner who spends time experiencing the level of quality care his/her team is delivering, ensuring that the promises made to families are never broken.

Each of these moments is equally vital in our quest to make the world a better place for those living with dementia, and for their loved ones. Thank you for all you do!

So, during this holiday season and far beyond, I hope you will join me in consciously and freely receiving and giving the most precious gifts of all—compassion and love—whether they are shared between you and your inner circle, a stranger, or someone in your care. These gifts are sacred, as they are the real reason for our joy. For even if precious memories from our past can’t be recalled, this moment has the potential to be amazing when we feel safe, valued, and loved.

May the light shine brightly in you and from you. May peace be with you, and with all. Happy holidays!