Thanksgiving is a time to get together with friends and family to enjoy one another. If you are a caregiver of a family member with dementia, you know how challenging it can be to help your loved one and others have a wonderful holiday. You are not alone–the Alzheimer’s Association reports there are 15.7 million family members caring for those with dementia. To help those who give so much to the family members they care for, here are some ways to make Thanksgiving more enjoyable:
- Make Adequate Arrangements
Caring for a family member with dementia is demanding, and understanding how important a routine is can make a significant difference. Dementia patients do well with a regular schedule and may need some additional time to adapt to visiting with others. Allow for extra time for traveling if you will be transporting your family member somewhere else as this will make the person less anxious and resistant. Stress levels rise when you rush or try to get a dementia patient to adapt quickly to an unknown situation. If you are having Thanksgiving at home, try to introduce people to your loved one in stages. It is easy for someone with dementia to become overwhelmed by having to interact with too many people at once.
- Take Care of the Essentials
Make sure you provide your family member with information on what is happening throughout the day. If you are traveling, share where you are going as you drive and make sure that you give him or her the chance to rest during the day. Think about including him or her in the celebration in some way such as arranging flowers, helping to get a dish ready or straightening up after dinner. Keep your family member engaged with others and helping with the tasks of the day. These ideas can assist them in adapting to a new routine for Thanksgiving.
- Be Flexible
Sometimes, a lot of people can be too much for your loved one. Try to limit the number of people he or she will interact with to less than ten and make sure there is a place for your family member if he or she needs a break or gets tired. The Alzheimer’s Association also recommends getting enough sleep yourself, so you can manage and care for your family member during Thanksgiving.
Music has been shown to have a beneficial impact on the elderly with dementia. In a recent study in Frontiers of Psychology, researchers working with dementia patients noted an improvement in cognition in 8 out of 12 participants in a music program. The study also found that music may improve mood, verbal skills, and attention in individuals who have mild or moderate dementia.
As a caretaker, you know what it is like to try to make the holidays special for a loved one with dementia. Using these suggestions can help in creating a holiday you both will remember.