The countdown to Thanksgiving has officially begun. But, as a caregiver for a loved one with dementia, you may be feeling a greater burden of stress as you enter this holiday season. Holidays, such as Thanksgiving, can often be a struggle for families including loved ones with dementia. The mass amounts of pressure and things you need to think about may leave you questioning – does it have to be this difficult?
“Being an effective caregiver for a loved one with dementia can take a lot of time and effort,” states Suzy McCann, Community Relations Director of YourLife™ of Pensacola, a Memory Care community in Pensacola, FL. “It can be difficult for many to navigate the stress of all of that on top holiday stress. But, ultimately, by making a few adjustments to how you go about celebrating Thanksgiving, you can guarantee it is an enjoyable time for all involved.”
Tips for Thanksgiving When a Loved One Has Dementia
Before gathering with your family in a few weeks, consider these five tips by the Alzheimer’s Association® to truly tackle Thanksgiving and best support your loved one with dementia.
- Communication is Key
Thanksgiving is a holiday filled with emotion, so it can be vital to inform your relatives on what to expect before they visit. This can be done by offering your visitors a short update on any changes in your loved one’s behavior since their last visit. Including a recent photo can also allow relatives to be prepared for physical changes since they last saw your loved one. You may also give visitors a few tips of listening patiently, not criticizing repeated comments and making sure not to interrupt while interacting with your loved one with dementia. Knowing your loved one’s unique behavior can help everyone best support them during Thanksgiving celebrations. If expressing this information over an email or phone call is too much, consider sending family members a holiday card with an update instead.
Communication is not just important with those visiting, but with your loved one with dementia too. Letting them know who is visiting a few days before their visit and then reminding them again on Thanksgiving day can help your loved one process and prepare for their visit. Keeping an open line of communication with your loved one can also help you monitor how they are feeling throughout your Thanksgiving celebrations and evaluate if they need some quiet space or alone time for a while.
- Be Adaptable & Willing to Adjust
Consider simplifying or adapting your Thanksgiving festivities to best support your loved one. Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that are focused on sharing food with those who you love, not necessarily a date. So, instead of an elaborate family dinner, contemplate inviting everyone over for a potluck instead. Or, instead of a large group gathering all on one day, maybe invite people to visit on different days in smaller, family unit groups for a meal together.
Routine and structure can be very important for your loved one with dementia. To not offset your loved one’s schedule, plan ahead and shift the timing of Thanksgiving celebrations if necessary. If evenings are a struggle, perhaps a Thanksgiving dinner can be moved earlier in the day as a Thanksgiving lunch. Or maybe another family member or friend can host as to not cause as much chaos for your loved one in their own home. Remember to keep outings brief and be prepared to leave early depending on your loved one’s routine.
- Create a Safe and Calm Environment
It’s important to create a positive, safe, and calm environment for your loved one. Avoid safety hazards like small breakables or decorations that could be mistaken for food. If you choose to light candles make sure to keep them attended or switch them out for electric candles. Also, stay away from decorations that cause clutter or involve rearranging furniture in your home. Lots of blinking lights or large decorative displays can cause confusion and be overwhelming to your loved one with dementia.
Creating a calming space for your loved one goes beyond just the decorations you put up. Many individuals with dementia can become disoriented in large, noisy crowds. Prior to coming together for Thanksgiving connect with visitors to come in smaller groups. You may also consider creating a quiet room which your loved one can go to calm down if needed. This room can include family photo albums or space to rest to help your loved one relax or meet with relatives one-on-one if needed.
- Remember Self-Care
The holiday season can be hectic and overwhelming without adding in the necessity to care for a senior loved one with dementia. Self-care is crucial as a caregiver during this busy time. Remember that you can’t do it all. It’s perfectly reasonable to delegate, have other family members step up to help and take a bit of time just to yourself this Thanksgiving.
Focus on what traditions and activities are most important to you and your family. If there is a Thanksgiving gathering which simply would not work for your loved one, go yourself. YourLife™ of Pensacola offers wonderful Respite Care which allows you to have peace of mind that your loved one’s needs will be met while you enjoy the holiday festivities. There is no need to live up to the expectations of others or constantly carry around a sense of guilt for not doing more. Ultimately, each family is different, and you deserve to have fun and celebrate this Thanksgiving too.
- Involve Your Loved One
Thanksgiving is a time for coming together as a family, so make a point to include your loved one in your family celebrations. Being involved in the prep work and set up of holiday food or decorations can be a great way to familiarize your loved one with the upcoming festivities. Simple tasks such as setting the table or measuring ingredients for a recipe can help your loved one process what is happening around them and allows you reminisce about previous Thanksgiving memories together too.
Beyond Thanksgiving preparations, plan ahead for hands-on tasks that your loved one will enjoy. Find activities that are appropriate to your loved one’s abilities and will include them as an active member of your family’s Thanksgiving celebration. Watching a holiday cartoon on TV, festive coloring pages or pumpkins to decorate, or even going for a stroll and admiring the changing color or the leaves can be simple activities which the whole family can be involved in and enjoy. There’s also a simplicity in Thanksgiving of just spending time together, so feel free to gather up some warm blankets, a cup of cider and a family photo album and just spend some one-on-one quality time with your loved one.
At the end of the day, trust your instinct on what is a reasonable way to celebrate this Thanksgiving. Check in with your loved one with dementia and focus on what will help them best enjoy the holiday. Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and love. So, forget all the glamour and frills and instead focus on that one-on-one quality time with family.
To learn more about best supporting your loved one with dementia during this holiday season, contact the team at YourLife™ of Pensacola. We would be happy to help you learn more about memory loss, provide you with support and help you provide the best care for your loved one. To RSVP to a support group or to get in touch with a member of our team, contact us today.
The Memory Care Your Loved One Deserves.
Offering the very best in Memory Care, YourLife™ of Pensacola was designed specifically with residents in mind. We’ve created a community where residents can define their own lifestyle, based on their preferences, needs and story, all while having the peace of mind of 24-hour support and freedom.
Because we focus solely on Memory Care, all of our resources and attention are on catering to each resident’s needs while providing unequaled peace of mind for families. Our licensed nurses and YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide personally inspired care and support, no matter what your needs. With such dedicated care, our residents have the support they need to live as independently and engaged as possible.
At YourLife™ of Pensacola, YourStory comes to life. Whether you want to enjoy our exclusive activities and YourStory programming, spend time exploring our services and amenities, relax in our easy-to-navigate Memory Care neighborhoods and living areas or try something new, the choice is entirely up to you. Contact us to learn more!