Dec 152015
 

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.hornbackfamily

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.

  80 Responses to “Joy, Peace and Hope”

  1. God bless you, Merry Christmas, and thank you for all you do. Still treasure the book you mailed me. You probably don't remember me, but I am Patty Morton in Newton, Iowa. My disability recently went through after 3 1/2 years of battling. I am 55 and walking the journey with you. Never give up! Sending love and prayers for a breakthrough cure. God is good and has a plan for each of us. I just have to learn not to live in fear. I enjoy your posts and look forward to another 10 years of them at least! <3

  2. God bless you Paul and Merry Christmas to you and family. You are really really wonderful job and I am expecting you to continue the things which you are doing right now. Again I enjoy all your posts and I feel very happy after reading it.

  3. My husband has early onset and this article is awesome. I try to make the holidays as special as possible for him.

  4. This is a terrible disease. My mom died of Alzheimer’s.

  5. Paul, my prayer is that God continue giving you the strength & joy to share & enjoy everyday with your family & loved ones. My father was diagnosed at an early age of 46, although he had it before the diagnosis because it was not common at the time to have it so young. It’s been 20 years since he passed. I’m so grateful there is more attention & awareness now. We must never lose faith & hope for a cure. God Bless You!

  6. You are amazing! My mom had the same illness and I know she had the same spirit you do! She lost her speech early on but I know it truly takes an angel to have her spirit (as you do). Keep your spirits lifted and if you would like any contact with my family and I please email at stein.shel@gmail.com.

  7. Thank you for your testimony, and God bless you with continued faith and support. Bill & Sandra, Ontario Canada

  8. I pray that they find a cure for that, in the mean time enjoy your holiday and family. May God Bless you and keep you safe

  9. Paul thanks for sharing your story and how you celebrate the Christmas season. My husband has been diagnosed with Dementia and he is in the early stages. We are both trying to wrap our brains around this new normal. As his caregiver I am finding it hard to communicate with him. I am reading more about this disease and trying to learn as much as I can. I refuse to allow it to steal our joy. We have great doctors and they have encouraged us to live in the moment. I agree. Will be praying for you and your family.

  10. A beautiful story from a beautiful strong faithful family.

  11. Paul and family, I know your story and pain…my mom also had early onset Alzheimer’s about 35 years ago. I was a junior in high school, a teenager who had no idea what was going on with my precious mom. As time went on I tried to help with her. She was the oldest of 12, 6 of them had early onset Alzheimer’s between 38 to 42 years old. Our family got involved with research program at Duke here in NC. We donated hair, blood, skin and at time of death of loved ones did the rapid brain autopsy. We continue to pray for the research teams, others who are dealing with this horrible disease and the care givers as now my sister has it. Yes she was 40!!!! Thank you for sharing your journey. When I share mine, people are in shock to hear the young ages. So many think you are old when you get Alzheimer’s. May your faith, family and friends continue to be a blessing to you!!!! Wish I could hug you and your family as my heart hurts for you and them. Continuing to pray for you and the miracle!

  12. I am worr%ied that my husband has early stages of altimers but he won’t get tested, he thinks there is no need. When we are out he forgets where he is going and I have to tell him over and over. I recently got located on my phone so if he gets lost. His sister sister was diagnosed when she was 60 and he is 67. What should I do. We like to travel, camp but I told him we can’t do if he has altimers and he got mad, noise bothers him, he can’t be around all 13 of grandkids at once, when driving he gets upset

    What do you think?

  13. You have such a beautiful and supportive family. It’s so inspiring to see people dealing with challenges, that are so open to share their story. Have a great New Years.

  14. Hi

    Congratulations on your health! Sounds like you're doing great, maybe better than I am, and I have not been diagnosed! I was wondering if you have been taking a drug for Alzheimer/s?

    Thank you

    Nancy

  15. Merry Christmas to you and yours Paul. Thank you for sharing your story. It brings hope to all of us who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s. You have a beautiful family with wonderful traditions. May you feel the hand of God in all you do this season and those to come.

  16. What a beautiful family tribute. God bless you all.

  17. Kept the faith god never give you more than you can bear

    god bless you ,Keep you you in prayer

  18. Beautiful story. I'm impressed with how you know how to handle stressful situations. Keep up your positive attitude. Blessings for 2016.

  19. This is an awesome story of endurance, encouragement and love. Thank you for sharing! May God continue to bless you and your family in every moment. Have a very happy New Year as you cherish every moment! I truly believe a cure is near!!

  20. You are an inspiration…..God bless you and your family. I too hope they find a cure soon.

  21. Jesus Calling:
    When you are plagued by a persistent problem–one that goes on and on–view it as a rich opportunity. An ongoing problem is like a tutor who is always by your side. The learning possibilities are limited only by your willingness to be teachable. In faith, thank Me for your problem. Ask Me to open your eyes and your heart to all that I am accomplishing through this difficulty. Once you have become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down. On the contrary, your thankful attitude will lift you up into heavenly places with Me. From this perspective, your difficulty can be seen as a slight, temporary distress that is producing for you a transcendent Glory never to cease!

    This was given to me by a friend dealing with cancer. I love the passage and plan to share with many others in the future battling any illness. My Mother had early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. As an RN, I assisted closely as we cared for her in her home for many years. Please continue to be calm, surrounding yourself with love and happiness, and exercise frequently. Prayers to you and your family.

  22. Bless you…you are an inspiration to all with this affliction. As a Carer for my wife, I walk a bit of a different walk than you but look forward to each day with love and joy.

  23. How old is he?

  24. Paul I appreciate you sharing your story. Our journeys are similar except our ages. I will be 72 in February and was diagnosed in July of 2015. According to my neurologist, my decline is very slow and she describes my condition as "stable". I live in Lancaster Ohio a half hour southeast of Columbus. If you are interested, we could correspond by email. My email address is otterover@aol.com Otherwise, I wish you and your family happy new year. Michael Daniels

  25. Paul, you are an inspiration not only for Alzheimer’s patients, but for anyone facing difficult challenges in their lives. I whispered “God bless him” (you), several times while reading your story. I turned 66 this past July and I confess nothing scares me more than Alzheimer’s disease. This is from a guy who has had thyroid surgery, prostate cancer surgery, coronary arterial disease (heart attack in 2010), and to top it all off, I was diagnosed with bipolar depression about twenty-five years or so ago. I could open my own pharmacy with the medications I take. I’d like to think that I have, and have had a positive attitude with my challenges but not nearly the courage and determination you possess. It’s obvious to anyone that you are Divinely blessed but I will pray for you nonetheless. Blessings to you and your wonderfully supportive family and the support and medical people you mentioned. And I say, “Amen” to all of that.

  26. You said you have early onset AD, what age are you? It is so beautiful that you enjoy the holidays. My husband had early onset AD, started at age 60, but is no longer with me. He loved life and yes the holidays were special. I enjoyed reading your story. God Bless you and your family.

  27. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Hornback family! I enjoyed reading your message and pray that you and your family have a blessed 2016. I lost my father 2 1/2 years ago to dementia (early onset) and I pray that one day a cure will be found for this disease, until then we must have hope and prayer.

    God Bless you all!
    Yvonne in Arizona

  28. Blessings to you Paul and to your family. May God our loving Savior continue to watch over all of you as you solider on.

  29. happy 2016 and thank you for your words!

    my mother is 74 and was diagnosed with alzheimer’s disease around one year back and life has just turned upside down…not because she has caused any problems to me as she bn carrying herself well til today and coping with the problem so well…but for the reason that this fact is not sinking in well and soon that it is a matter of time when she might nt be able to recognise even me..phewww !!

    i am from new delhi,india…and unfortunately no research has been going on in this field…but sometime back..i read on internet..that SALSALATE [belonging to same family as ASPIRIN] has proved to reverse AD in rats and can be tried on human as its bn used since decades for arthritis and hence side effects etc are known;

    kindly let me know if anyone knows anything about any trial/its results…being tried on human! ?

    what is the dose of SALSALATE that can be taken for AD ?

  30. You are an inspiration! Thank you, Janit Kehl of Sebastian, Fl

  31. God bless you and your family. Continued positivity and strength. Trust that what you do makes a significant difference in the lives of others.

  32. Lovely story, in the midst of difficulties

  33. This was very touching to me. I lost my mother on December 4, 2015 at the age of 87. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about 14 years ago.I was her cargiver. One of the blessings was that she still knew all of her 8 children up until her passing. Like you, she had a God whom loved who kept her in His care and now she is with Him. Thanks for sharing and may God continue to bless you and keep you in His care. Carletta Smith

  34. The love of my life , Blair , was also diagnosed with early onset in 2013. He was 59 at the time . Although we were devastated at first, we decided to get on with life and what a wonderful life it is! It was encouraging to read your story and see that 7 years in and your holding strong and helping others! Thanks for sharing you have given me hope that we have time to enjoy life!

  35. Thank you, Paul. Your story helps me to realize that I need to stop being so fearful and enjoy everyday. My mom was diagnosed 3 years ago and had had 4 siblings pass from complications of Alzheimer's. It has scared me that I will also one day be diagnosed. I guess living in fear it's a waste of time, right?!

  36. my husband at age 59 was just diagnosed this summer….we have the same joy in

    Christmas as you do…Judy

  37. Lovely story, in the midst of difficulties

  38. Thank you for such a great personal Chtistmas story! I too have younger onset Alzheimer's diagnosed
    Dec2013. It was a beautiful story. Excellent! I am glad for you and your family that the Christmas Spirit
    Is alike and well in you! Be well!
    Love, dottie

  39. This is awsome. My husband is 52 and very advanced.

    Many blessings

  40. My wife of 65 husband and is in the early stages of Dementia, I am a 85 year old armature care giver. I have attended 4 different seminars sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association. It has been very helpful. My wife is physically healthy. However I have RA and it has compounded our social life. The victim in my case is me of having to readjust to this new life style. Fortunately she appears to happy most of the time.

    I proudly have been a financial supporter of the local Alzheimer’s Association. urge you to get involved with your local Alzheimer’s Association

  41. just diagnosed…from the time of onset how long were you able to continue working……where are you in the progression of the disease…and are there any groups in Mass. that you are aware of for the patient?
    I wish you continued strength and admire your sharing.

  42. Paul, thank you for sharing your faith with the world. Jesus is with you and your family (ohana), every step of the way. Your gift of transparency will allow others to walk the journey with you and see how the Lord works abundantly in your life.

    Mele Kalikimaka!

    Hauoli Makahikihou!

    Our prayers are with you,

    Lynn from Hawaii

  43. Hi Paul, some time back I was diagnosed with early onset dementia with the Alzheimer's something or another in my spinal fluid. I had a great set of doctors when this was first diagnosed. I was going to end up in a nursing home (long story) my home is Vt and I was sent back here to be with mom and sister… I have had tons of issues with the doctors here telling me I don't have it, even though I have good days, bad days, having to get away from stimulation. I am on two meds that did help me tons but I have been on them for at least 4 (?) years and I feel my self slipping. Harder times communicating, getting things out to come out of my mouth, trying to remember what an item is, just lots of issues that have me concerned… since I can remember something (repetitive), but have issues with short term memory. the doctors here in Vt state that I don't act like the norm so I don't have early onset dementia / alz., so they are kind of oblivious to what I am having issues with.. So in the mean time I am struggling of feeling and knowing that things are getting back to where they were prior to being put on the meds… Paul what is it like for you. can you function normally sometimes? Do you have times that someone is speaking with you and you feel like you are in a fog, you can hear them and what they are asking but can't get out what you need to? I have days where I feel like I am having an out of body experience, people are going about their life and I am just able to observe. or it take some time for me to be able to process what they are asking.. I just don't know what to do to get what I need and scared that I will go back to not being able to function as I am now.

  44. What an inspiration you are to me. My husband was diagnosed 3 1/2 yrs ago. I have been Blessed with a wonderful Pastor, Caregivers and Church family. I admire your tenacity for hanging in there. Merry Christmas and God Bless you. I live in the SE part of PA about an hour by train from Philadelphia.

  45. Nice family and a tree in every room–Wow! Happy New Year!

  46. I am heartened by your positive and warm encouraging spirit.

    I might ask your help? I am struggling with a feeling of losing myself. I’ve been noticing things for years but my doctors have not diagnosed anything. How did you finally get your diagnosis? I think if I had a name to what’s going on it would help me know how to deal better. In the meantime, I am so great full to know the Lord Jesus. But it is so hard because I am now 61 and living alone.

  47. Hello Paul,
    I want to thank you for posting your Christmas message. I am Betty Bastian in Orlando, Florida. I was diagnosed with Alzheimers about three years ago. I turned seventy eight in November. I too was blessed with a happy Christmas and am looking forward to the New Year. I welcome each new day and thank God that I still know who I am. I keep active, attending Mass on Sunday, joined the lady's group at our church, attend exercise classes three times a week, have taken up painting and thus joined an art group at the Senior Center where a group meets to paint together. I enjoy reading, being with people, and walks with my eleven year old poodle, Copper.

    I keep as active as possible each day. I attend exercise classes three days a week and take long walks, have joined an

  48. Bless you heart! What a wonderful family of support you have. Keep your positive attitude! Hope you have many, more Christmases! Sincerely, JO Lost my Mom 1 year ago To Alzheimer's.

  49. Thank you for your story! Very touching. My wife and I have been married for 37 years! She just turned 58 on 12/30 She was diagnosed with dementia last year 2014. Her drivers lic was taken away, so i had to give up my construction buisness to stay home with her. Its really hard to watch someone you love so much struggle day to day. I find my self in the kitchen every day with her preparing dinner! And helping her with every day chores. She stays very active! And i think the most important thing is a good night sleep. I just hope and pray that one day they will find a cure, or at least something to slow it down.

  50. Paul, you are such an inspiration for me, I was diagnosed with younger -onset -Alzheimers disease, I just turned 65, and I have always been independent and self sufficient. Neurologists expect I've had this disease for years, memory issues, dimensia, you understand . I'm trying to stay positive and present, but now I can't drive , I will soon sell my home and move in with family, I do know I'm very fortunate to have such a loving and caring family, and I thank God every day, but I feel like I've lost my freedom and will slowly lose Me. You are so positive and I feel so blessed to have the Alzheimer's Association working so hard to find a
    cure, I will be going into a clinical trial soon, obviously it won't help me, but knowing I'm helping in finding a cure makes me feel I have a purpose to continue & fight for our next generation. Thank you again for all you do. Diane D.

  51. He is really lucky and blessed. My wife Vivian age 67 was also diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2009. However the disease progressed much faster she is now in stage 7. I am her husband (married 46 years) and her full time primary caregiver. However starting in August 2015 I just couldn't do it any longer because the disease progressed too fast. She is now in an assisted living home in Lakewood, CO. I live in 3 different states, NYC fall and spring, CO extended summers, and Fla winters (where I am now. My daughter in Denver, CO visits her weekly. She can still walk, eat with assistance, but that's it, She can't speak any more or recognize anyone.

  52. Thanks to you and your family for courage, love and faith, which ill get you through this. Happy New YEar!
    Karen

  53. Always take one day at a time and treasure each one. I truly know what younger-onset Alzheimer’s is as my husband was diagnosed in his middle 40’s and they thought as fast as he progressed that it might have been Picks disease. He passed away at age 51 in 1997, but I was truly blessed to have had a daughter to help me take care of him and a wonderful Alzheimer’s Day Care that I could take him for a few years while I worked. My daughter was only in the 6th grade when he was diagnosed but we both loved him so much and learned to read his eyes when he no longer remembered how to talk. We remember all the good times. I presently take care of my cousin with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home. They do have more medicine now to help to slow it down. My thoughts and prayers are with your family! God bless!

  54. God bless you as you cope with this illness with such a loving family and a compassionate God. He sees all of us through the painful things we have to deal with as long as we live in this world. One day we will have perfect bodies and minds.

  55. My mom has advanced Alzheimer's. She is 86 years old & lives in a memory care facility. I am encouraged by your words & positive attitude. It's so good to have faith in a loving God to get through the hard days & be thankful for the good ones. May God continue to bless you.

  56. Paul, I liked what you wrote, a lot. My mom was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's, but it was when she was 78 or so. She has a broken leg right now, and has been in a nursing home/ rehabilitation center for 2 months or so. I think she is doing well, but she does have sundowning and gets confused starting in the afternoon. She doesn't really remember the rules that the Physical Therapists give her, and is unable to understand how to push the nurse's call button to ask for help, tell that she is in pain, or that she needs to go to the bathroom, so we pay daytime and night time caregivers to come stay wither so that she is also watched. She used to be an artist, so I bought her a lot of art materials that she has been using, which is very nice.

  57. Paul, I so much admire your attitude, acceptance and your dependence on the Lord for your strength in handling this dreadful disease. My husband, Roger, was also diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2008. It was the hardest thing for both of us to go through but, of course, especially hard on him as he saw his independence grow more in the last year or so. I love him so much and since August have struggled to learn to live without him. BUT, I know he is in his Savior's presence and that I will see him again some day. I pray that you will continue to live your life fully and that the steps you take to safeguard your solitude when you need it and, I would imagine, you take really good care of your health. That, along with a great family and the Lord, are the best tools you have to fight this disease. Roger and I were married 50+ years and I have wonderful memories, too, to think on and cherish. Best wishes to you and your family.

  58. May 2016 bring you happiness and comfort in knowing you have a wonderful family and others that care about you! I do believe in early onset of Alzheimer’s … I had an aunt with Alzheimer’s and my dad is now dealing with Alzheimer’s . He is in his late 70s. But I’m wondering how you came about the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s at an early age? I’m in my late 50s and feel some of what you have experienced but not sure or what do I do to get answers. I’ve mentioned things to my Dr but it’s usually thought to be stress or depression …so I’m just curious as to how you were diagnosed? Thank you if you do reply… Good luck to you and your family!

  59. My husband 81 years old just came home from rehab. He is a dementia patient. Any age is devestating but you are young. Go after that cure. It needs to come from God and He loves each one of us so I believe we will have an answer soon . I love your family. We have 2 great helping daughters and there families and God is at my side at all times. That is the important thing. Family and a sense of humor are next. Y God bless you in this New Year Marilyn Bolz

  60. my husband was diagnosed this past May 2015 with younger onset Alzheimer’s Disease and will be starting a clinical trial either receiving the real drug or placebo for 52 weeks. my question is three fold 1. how old were you when diagnosed 2 what drugs have you been on 3 how have they helped in the last 6 years? we were told by our neurologist that Exelon patch has only been out for 6 years so they don’t actually know if it is making a big difference yet with those with younger onset. currently my husband is on Namenda and the patch. if you feel you can answer my questions and elaborate as much as your heart desires as we are all eyes! thank you for sharing your story you are not alone!

    Kindly.

    Karen

  61. What an amazing story that truley blessed me today

  62. This is very heart warming. I am very thankful that Paul can enjoy the holidays! God willing.

  63. Thank you for your story. I am 71 and have been diagnosed with this disease, I am thankful to God that he has been so good to me in the early stages. . .

  64. God bless you as you cope with this illness with such a loving family and a compassionate God. He sees all of us through the painful things we have to deal with as long as we live in this world. One day we will have perfect bodies and minds.

  65. Paul I appreciate you sharing your story. Our journeys are similar except our ages.

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