The holiday season that commences with Thanksgiving and concludes on New Year’s Day is one of my absolute favorite times of the year. Even though I struggle with the daily demands of younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, this time of year is special because I am filled with the joy, peace and hope.
I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in November of 2009, so I’ve had lots of time to learn to cope with the challenges of this disease.
This will be my seventh Christmas season since my diagnosis. Here at the Hornback Homestead (a name we’ve given our family home), we go all out for Christmas. Decorating our home and grounds has been a family tradition for decades. Every room in our home has at least one themed tree. Some of our favorites include a Longaberger basket tree, family picture tree, nature tree, angel tree, military tree and a White House ornament tree. We start decorating right after Thanksgiving and usually complete the task within two weeks. At night, our home – which sits atop a small hill – gently glows with the warmth of thousands of white Christmas lights.
In our neck of the woods, this time of year is celebrated with down-home gatherings of family and friends.
One especially wonderful time at the Hornback Homestead is Christmas morning breakfast. We serve platters of poached eggs, country ham, red-eye gravy, biscuits, smoke-cured bacon, special seasoned sausage and white sausage gravy. It is a delightful meal our family enjoys with my wife’s side of the family just before we open presents on Christmas morning.
It also has been our tradition to host a large open house for the community at our home. However, this tradition will change this year as I’m unable to handle large crowds as well as I once did. Instead, we will host smaller groups of friends and family at our home.
I’ve found that smaller groups are much easier for me to handle. If things get too hectic, I often leave the room and find a place of solitude until my stress and confusion subside. If I’m having trouble communicating, I simply listen and enjoy the company rather than attempt to join in the conversation. These strategies have made the holidays more enjoyable.
A huge part of our holiday traditions center on our faith.
We celebrate this time of year with our church family as we joyfully thank God for His many blessing throughout the year. Even in the midst of living with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease, I have so much to be thankful for in my life: a devoted and caring wife, a loving and understanding family, a top-notch team of medical professionals, an active and caring Alzheimer’s Association, a new clinical trial for Alzheimer’s disease, faithful and helpful friends, wonderful support groups and a compassionate and caring God who gives me strength for my daily battles.
As you enter this holiday season, let your heart be filled with the joy and peace which the angels declared over 2000 years ago.
To my wife and family, thank you for the joy you shower my life with, for making every day special and for loving me unconditionally. From our home at the Hornback Homestead, we pray that God’s rich blessing will blanket your home and family during this holiday season.
About the Author: Paul Hornback was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2009. He is a member of the Alzheimer’s Association 2015 National Early-Stage Advisory Group and encourages newly diagnosed individuals to stay positive and active.
Paul and his wife Sarah live in Hodgenville, KY. Together they have three children.