Tips for Thanksgiving

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15399171436_55e2735e8a_cThanksgiving is one holiday that all Americans share.   A unique question for families living with Alzheimer’s is how to balance family expectations and traditions with the reduced abilities of those who have this disease. Here are some suggestions to create a meaningful holiday.

  • Manage expectations. Tell family members who have not seen your loved one recently about functional changes prior to the celebration. If you plan changes to family traditions to accommodate your loved one, tell everyone in advance as well.
  • Time of the celebration. Late afternoon is rarely the high point in the day for those with Alzheimer’s. A noon-time meal will usually allow your loved one to be most fully present.
  • Length of the celebration. Your loved one may no longer have the stamina to attend a day-long event. Think about what part of the day is the most important to your family and plan accordingly. Your loved one may just come to a morning football game, or for dessert.
  • Prompts for engagement. Bring out photo albums, other memorabilia and favorite music to help families engage. Figure out tasks for your loved one so he or she can be part of the preparations. Avoid controversy; people with Alzheimer’s may not understand the substance of a discussion, but they will pick up on anger or agitation.
  • Comfort. Make sure that your loved one has what is needed for the duration of the visit, whether it is a change of clothes, a place for a nap, an extra sweater, or special foods. If your loved one becomes overwhelmed with the gathering, declare success and leave early.


Your loved one may not be able to participate as in years past, but will still enjoy being part of the family celebration. Enjoy and remember the moments of connection!

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