The holiday season is a time of tradition, memories, and spending quality time with people you love. If you are a family caregiver for an elderly adult who is living with dementia, however, you may worry they’re no longer able to participate in this treasured holiday the way they used to. Their dementia may have compromised their ability to remember the traditions they’ve always loved, to participate in the celebrations how what they used to, and even the family members and friends who gather together to celebrate. This can be challenging for you, but taking the time to prepare your elderly adult for Thanksgiving can allow them to engage more in the celebration, and for everyone to enjoy their time together making memories.
Some ways you can prepare an elderly adult with dementia for Thanksgiving include:
- Start talking about the holiday a few weeks in advance. This gives them the opportunity to hear about it several times, and get more used to the idea of a special event coming up, even if they cannot fully engage with the idea of Thanksgiving.
- Talk about how your family has always celebrated Thanksgiving. Share memories with them, and encourage them to try to remember holidays they have celebrated throughout their life. You may find they are able to remember how they celebrated with their parents or even grandparents, but may not be as able to remember more recent years. This is fine. Encourage them to remember these good things, and share the stories with you. This will help them to connect with the idea of Thanksgiving, and also share with you more of their life so you can treasure it.
- Show pictures of past holidays and talk to your parent about the people in the pictures, the activities you are doing, and even the foods you have pictures of. Ask them if they recognize anyone, or if they know what’s happening in the pictures. Seeing these visual aids can help to trigger memories for your parent.
- Go over everything that is going to happen during the holiday celebrations. Tell them about the preparations, the guests, the meal, and any activities you will be doing. This can be valuable in helping them feel less anxious and more in control.
- Reassure your parent you will be there, and that they will continue to get their regular care. Let them know if they are feeling overwhelmed, you will make sure they are able to go to a calmer place, such as their bedroom, or a room you set aside in your home.
- Encourage your parent to be a part of the preparations. They can help you put together the menu, shop for ingredients, and even take on simple roles of cooking.
- Be gentle with your parent if their memories and expectations of the holiday include deceased family and friends. Help to divert their attention if they believe these people are attending, or listen attentively and comfortingly as your parent shares memories with you.
Routine and predictability are absolutely vital for elderly adults who are living with dementia. Introducing home care to your care routine with your parent is a fantastic way to help maintain these even during times of change such as the holiday season. An in-home senior care services provider can maintain an ongoing schedule with your parent during Thanksgiving and the rest of the holidays so they continue to get the consistent, personalized care they are accustomed to. This can be particularly beneficial as you are dealing with the increased responsibilities, activities, and events of this season. A care provider can even be at the home during gatherings and activities so your senior receives consistent care without you having to focus completely on managing their care needs so you can focus on enjoying your celebration.