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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….