Caregiver Tips for Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving is more than just a turkey with all the fixings. It is a time to share thanks for all that we have been given and a time for togetherness with family and friends.
If a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, considerations can be made in advance to ensure an enjoyable holiday for all. Here are some tips to help both people with dementia and their families during Thanksgiving:
- Plan ahead - There is a tendency to prepare the person with dementia for any event that will change their daily routine. However these efforts can confuse the person more and make them anxious. If you are taking your loved one to a different setting, leave plenty of time to get there and explain as you go.
- Get plenty of rest - Have him or her sleep in or take a nap in the afternoon to make sure they are rested for the gathering.
- Keep them involved - If they are able, get their help to prepare the meal with simple tasks, like peeling potatoes. Also make sure your loved one sits at the table to help them feel part of the group.
- Think simple - Limit the number of guests to around ten so they are not overwhelmed. Most people with Alzheimer’s do best with a predictable daily routine. Try to keep the routine of a normal day and consider whether one large Thanksgiving gathering with all the family will be better than shorter visits throughout the weekend with different relatives.
- Communicate - Encourage family not to be shy and speak to him or her and not just the group. Share tips with the family to improve communication, like being aware of their body language, smiling and using humour.
- Be flexible and respond to mood changes. If he or she appears restless or irritated, take them away from the party for a break. If you are making a daylong celebration, have a quiet room available for a nap. All the activity and people can be tiring.
- Reminisce. As the evening winds down, consider an activity better suited for someone with dementia, like looking through old family photos, which can stimulate reminiscence. Old photos can be a great way to start a conversation about times that your loved one can still remember. If you don’t have old photos, you can still ask about past times, what they remember about holidays when they were young, their favorite traditions and foods.
- Sing or listen to soft music. Music has a unique place in the human memory. Very often people can remember the words and tunes to songs when much else has been lost. Sing the songs that your family associates with Thanksgiving, or music that is special to your loved one.