Happy Thanksgiving! As we prepare our tables, our turkeys, and our homes for our Thanksgiving celebrations, might we take a moment to prepare our day for those who have dementia. Holidays, especially the kind with lots of movement, people, and conversations, can be more of a nightmare more than a celebration for those living with dementia. I have adopted a list from Purple Table Reservations as a guide for the season to come.
1. Have your meal at noon, or earlier in the day instead of a late meal that might happen around sundown or after dark.
2. Create a place in your home where your loved one (and even yourself!) can escape to during the gathering. Keep it as a quiet place, one for sitting and resting or having a conversation between two people without the surrounding noise.
3. Make sure that all attending are aware of the individuals dementia and that their loved one may not act as they have known them to act. Be careful to still make sure the individual’s dignity remains.
4. If you like to have games and activities going, included your loved one in selecting and participating. Encourage all generations to interact with each other, and make sure that there is a way for all to participate.
5. When selecting your playlist, play songs that are orchestral or instrumental instead of those with lyrics. This will decrease the background noise that can cause confusion and make it difficult to participate in conversations.
6. Think about how you are setting the table and serving food. Buffett or server style is best, and try to only put out what you need at that moment when it comes to plates and silverware. This helps direct them to what they will need to use for each course/dish as well as help them select the food they enjoy instead of being overwhelmed by the choices.
7. If you are traveling, allow extra time for travel in addition to accounting for traffic.
8. Remain calm and patient. Your loved ones will pick up on your emotions and reflect them back to you.
9. Make sure there is enough walking room for your loved ones to get around the table and other areas where you will be in the house.
10. Know that if you ever need help the Alzheimer’s Association has a 24-hour helpline that can help you. 1.800.272.3900
This is a list of suggestions. Only you will know the details of how to best celebrate this holiday season with your loved ones. Take pictures, write down stories, and enjoy the moments you have.