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10 Precautions for Celebrating Thanksgiving with Dementia

HOLIDAY TIPS: Getting together for a holiday meal can cause a person with Alzheimer's confusion and anxiety. Get 10 tips to make the holiday more easy and pleasurable.
Selective Focus Photography of Man Preparing Food Beside Smiling Women and Kids

Thanksgiving celebrations can cause a person with dementia some confusion and anxiety. People with a dementia such as Alzheimer’s may find certain situations easier and more pleasurable than others.

  1. Large gatherings, family reunions, or picnics may cause anxiety. Consider having a more intimate gathering with only a few people in your home.
  2. Think about having friends and family visit in small groups rather than all at once.
  3. If you are hosting a large group, remember to prepare the person with dementia ahead of time. Try to have a space available where he or she can rest, be alone, or spend some time with a smaller number of people, if needed.
  4. Consider simplifying your holidays around the home and remember that you already may have more responsibilities than in previous years. For example, rather than cooking an elaborate dinner at Thanksgiving, invite family and friends to help out by making a few dishes. Instead of elaborate decorations, consider choosing a few select items to celebrate.
  5. Make sure holiday decorations do not significantly alter the environment, which might confuse the person with a dementia such as Alzheimer’s.
  6. Holiday decorations, such as Christmas trees, candle sticks, or menorahs, should be secured so that they do not fall or catch on fire. Anything flammable should be monitored at all times, and extra precautions should be taken so that lights or anything breakable are fixed firmly, correctly, and out of the way of those with dementia.
  7. As suggested by most manufacturers, candles of any size should never be lit without supervision. When not in use, they should be put away.
  8. Try to avoid clutter in general, especially in walkways, during the holidays.
  9. Play familiar seasonal music. This can stimulate long-term memories from the past, as well as help orient a person with dementia as to time and place.
  10. Keep some old photo albums handy — it is usually calming to go through them together

Make sure the family understands your needs and wishes.Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage.

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November 23, 2017 9:54 am

My beautiful daughter who is just 55 this last September was diagnosed 3 yrs ago with early onset dementia. It is horrible. But I thank God I am with her to be her advocate, and she has even said, "Mama I don't know what I would have done had you not been here for me." My daughter had a executive admin asst job to a VP of a very large company for years. Dementia showed up and she was robbed and still is daily of her abilities and skills. "God I pray for the grace to bear this journey, keep me strong and encouraging. Amen" This is my 2nd journey as I lost my youngest daughter 9 yrs ago to breast cancer at age 42, diagnosed at 34, she battled mightily for 8 years and lost the battle when it returned even more fierce and cruel. I intend to write a book of help to others who are on the one-way journey's to tell them with God's help is the only way I have been able to endure all that I have with my girls. He breathes life into me and keeps me putting one foot in front of another.

Reply to  Mame
November 23, 2017 1:16 pm

Oh, the Lord bless you, dear mom. May you sense His closeness and deep comfort to your broken heart and continue to give you strength, wisdom and grace each day. You are not alone as you continue to love and serve your daughter in her time of need. Bless you, dear one.

Reply to  Mame
November 23, 2017 2:55 pm

Bless you and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

November 23, 2017 1:47 pm

May God bless and keep you through your heartbreak. May you and your daughter find comfort in each other through this difficult journey, Amen.

November 29, 2017 11:56 pm

After weeks of talking nonstop about looking forward to going, my sister with advanced dementia backed out of going to the family dinner at the last minute – I think she realized she wouldn't know how to eat properly with a knife, fork or spoon in front of others, very sad..

November 24, 2018 4:55 pm

I think I errored in the Holiday Decorations department. I have downsized the amount of decs. However, I always put up Christmas curtains and shower curtain in the bathroom. For the first few days Darling would look into the bathroom, and then continue down the hall. "doesn't look right" . I THINK he has now adjusted to the change, but next year I will have to adjust more. sigh

B. Berger

B. Berger

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

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