Thanksgiving for Everyone …
So much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Season! As Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias become more and more prevalent among our growing senior population, here’s another wonderful resource for those who love them: It’s caregiver.com – a website with a wealth of helpful information for anyone caring for loved ones who have a diagnosis. The organization has a magazine called Today’s Caregiver and below are some exceptional tips (excerpted from their November 2022 article) for celebrating Thanksgiving to accommodate those with dementia.
- Prepare your guests: Consider sharing helpful information with your guests, such as best ways to communicate with the person, what they respond well to, what might cause distress. This will help foster positive interactions.
- Factor in the person’s routine into your planning. Changes in daily routine can be challenging for someone living with dementia. So try to plan your day around that routine. For example, if the person usually takes an afternoon walk, build in time for that.
- Start the celebration early. People living with dementia are prone to “sundowning,” a syndrome that can cause agitation and confusion in the later afternoon-evening as the sun sets. This can be compounded by a houseful of guests. Consider starting the celebration earlier in the day to avoid running into this common problem.
- Ask for help. Preparing for and holding a holiday gathering can be stressful enough without the added responsibility of caring for a loved one with dementia. Relatives and friends are often eager to help but don’t know how. Don’t be afraid to give them specific directions, like bring a specific dish, help with cooking, shop, or decorate. They could even spend time with your loved one while you are busy.
- Keep your loved one involved. Make adaptations that enable your loved one to be a part of things. Focus on what they can do easily, like setting the table. Play familiar music, start a sing-along of tunes they will remember from their past.
- Have a quiet space available. Prepare a quiet place away from the crowd where the person with dementia can go if the party becomes too much for them. Place familiar items there (blanket, sweater, stuffed animal). Try to control the flow of visitors where possible.
A little pre-planning can go a long way toward making your family holiday gathering a happy one – one that includes everyone!