Alzheimer’s: Last Minute Tips for Thanksgiving


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With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I wanted to leave you with my thoughts on making the holiday the best it can be for your loved one living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia – and for YOU.

Only you know what’s best for your unique situation, so first and foremost listen to your heart. Remember that while things will never be what they once were, it is still possible to find blessings and create moments of joy. If your loved one is still in a place where a gathering is feasible, here are some tips to help.

  • Set realistic expectations right from the get-go. When planning, consider where your loved one is in the progression of the disease and prepare accordingly.

  • Let go of the need for everything to be perfect. You are not Martha Stewart and no one expects you to be. If you need help, ask.
  • If you are hosting, set aside some quiet one-on-one time to spend with your loved one before guests arrive. During this time, shut out all distractions and focus on your time together.
  • During a larger gathering, keep noise to a minimum. Speak clearly in a calm, soothing tone.
  • If your loved one is still able to help with simple tasks, by all means, let them! This gives them a sense of purpose and pride.
  • Minimize distractions, and remember that if you are tense, your loved one will pick up on that feeling.
  • Create a quiet, comfortable area where one or two people at a time can visit.
  • Watch for signs of overstimulation in your loved one and recognize it may be time for a quiet break. Soft music may help with relaxation.
  • Keep some old photographs handy as a conversation starter and for reminiscing. Avoid questions like, “Do you remember?” Instead, talk about the photographs and follow their lead.
  • Realize that sometimes just sitting and holding their hand or rubbing their back makes for the perfect visit.
  • Don’t argue or correct. Remember the best visits involve you entering their world, rather then expecting them to come to yours. This is a key to every positive interaction!
  • Know that the emotions stirred by your visit will last long after the memory of your time together has faded. Let them feel your love.

If you are having visitors who don’t see your loved one on a regular basis, prepare them ahead of time so they know what to expect. You might even consider sharing this list with them in advance of the gathering.

Last but not least, if you have a chance, listen to this recorded call. You’ll hear Susy Favaro, LCSW, from the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, and myself along with other caregivers and several individuals living with Alzheimer’s. The call is from 2013, but the content is timeless.

I’d love to hear your tips, suggestions, and lessons learned, so feel free to leave a comment below!

Wishing you and yours a blessed holiday….




Getting Through the Holidays with Alzheimer’s


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As the holidays approach, stress levels tend to rise and expectations (often unrealistic to begin with) run amok. It can be a recipe for the ultimate disaster if we aren’t careful. Chances are, if you’ve been a caregiver for a while and your loved one is in the advanced stages of the disease, you know all too well what I’m talking about.

But for those who may be less seasoned, I thought it would be a good time to share a bit about how our holidays changed as my mom’s condition deteriorated – and how we coped (and are still coping today).

Check out Holiday Hoopla: Don’t Let It Get You Down. My hope is that this short piece may help you create reasonable expectations and limit your own heartbreaking disappointments.

Holiday Hoopla was written in 2012. Mom had taken a turn for the worse in the late summer/early fall and I believed we had reached the end of the road. I canceled a pre-paid trip to Mexico at the last possible minute in September, but to everyone’s surprise, she began to bounce back a bit.

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, Jess and I were emotionally and physically worn out. If there was any chance of making it happen, we really needed a couple of days away. Mom seemed to be doing well, stable at least. She wasn’t having the horrible days and nights that we’d experienced in September and October, so her caregivers encouraged us to take our Chicago trip.

Happier holiday times, circa 1990. Mom, age 54

They reassured us she would be just fine, and after much deliberation and a healthy dose of guilt we packed our weekend bags and drove to the Windy City. I knew Mom would be well cared for, and we would be better for having had a few days away. If anything happened, they would call and we could head back immediately.

Although we were on edge Thursday and Friday, receiving no phone calls led us to believe things had at least remained status quo. What a relief! Or so we thought.

We drove back Saturday and arrived to find the wheels had essentially fallen off the bus in those 72 hours. It was a steep decline and one from which Mom wouldn’t rebound… On December 15, 2012, she earned her angel wings.

We still go to Chicago for Thanksgiving – it has become our new tradition. The trip gives us something to look forward to instead of spending three weeks dreading the impending holiday. It’s not the same as the wonderful Thanksgivings we had as a family; however, those times are distant memories. November and December will never be what they once were. But, life must go on…and it does.

However you decide to spend the holidays, I wish you joy and peace – most of all peace. Remember that only you know what’s best for your family and your unique circumstances. Be well, my friends. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

With November Comes Mindful Gratitude


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Did you know…. November is National Family Caregivers Month.


The last of the autumn leaves are falling, and those of us who still follow that silly practice of setting our clocks back have done so. Fall is waning and we’re slipping into winter.

I find myself in need of some mindful gratitude, and November is the perfect time for it. Thanksgiving is just around the corner – what better time to count our blessings?

Some of life’s greatest gifts are things we take for granted – a hot, soothing shower after a stressful day, the rich aroma of fresh brewed morning coffee, the miracle of a sunny day, or just simply the fact that we’ve made it through a rough day.

Will you join me in this November gratitude challenge? Each day this month, jot down one thing you’re thankful for. If you’d like, leave a comment here on this post, or make a daily post on your Facebook page as a way of stating your intention.

Here’s to a month of mindful gratitude….