Thanksgiving is supposed to be a happy time when families gather, eat and just enjoy just being together. But in reality it is often very stressful and tensions can run high.
From grocery shopping, traveling, cleaning the house, prepping meals and trying to make everything perfect – taking the time to enjoy the day is sometimes forgotten. And if you have an parent or loved one with dementia Thanksgiving can be even more stressful.
You worry about what to say if they can’t remember everyone’s name or become agitated for what seems like no reason. So how do you handle the holidays when your parent has dementia?
Talk To Family & Friends Ahead Of Time
Explain that Alzheimer’s and dementia is a disease affecting the brain. It is possible their their loved one might not remember them, may blurt out what seems like an insult, get scared or accusatory without much warning – they aren’t doing it on purpose or to be mean.
Alzheimer’s can be particularly challenging for family members who don’t understand what is happening to their loved one. If they haven’t seen Alzheimer’s behaviors before it isn’t uncommon for someone to think they can convince the person surely you must remember me or no Grandma, Uncle Joe isn’t coming today – he died 10 years ago – remember.
Before everyone gets together hold a family meeting or send an email ahead of time discuss what to expect and tips to family and handle common issues like communication, suggested activities and safety issues.
Focus On Family Memories And Enjoying Time Together
While spending Thanksgiving with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia can be stressful and scary, it doesn’t mean you can’t laugh and enjoy time with your loved one and other family members.
Watch a familiar movie, look through old photos or listen to their favorite songs. Not only does this help you, and your family, reconnect with old memories, but for people living with dementia these activities are often soothing and can awaken past memories.
So what if Grandpa accuses you of stealing his car again? Assure him his car hasn’t been stolen and ask what he likes so much about it. Did grandma just call you by her great aunt’s name – again? Smile, then ask her about her great aunt and find out what she remembers so fondly about her.
Listen and encourage. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but at the same time don’t push someone with memory loss to remember and challenge their recollection of a person or an event.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys memory. If someone can’t remember, or recalls something differently, don’t spend time arguing or telling them they are wrong. It can increase confusion and lead to agitation. And even if they end up agreeing with you today it is no guarantee they will remember it tomorrow.
Read more tips from the Memory Centers on how to talk to children about Alzheimer’s behavior, preventing Alzheimer’s wandering or tips for appropriate activities that can help keep agitation and boredom away.
Learn more about The Memory Center communities dedicated to caring for those living Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.