Ways To Successfully Prepare And Enjoy Thanksgiving With Your Elderly Family Member
Written by Joy de Guzman
Summer has ended, and the holiday season is arriving quickly. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. For some family members, their Thanksgiving plans have already begun. The holidays truly are a special time – they are a time to reacquaint with family members you don’t get to see often and to honor, be thankful for and share in the special love of family and friends.
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Planning your Thanksgiving party or dinner can be stressful yet exciting and fun; a time most look forward to with great anticipation. Unfortunately, many seniors do not always have the same view. They often have trouble dealing with the holidays and can often suffer from what’s called the “holiday blues.” They may find this time hard because it reminds them of times long gone and people who have past. Some elders also do not handle stress as well as they did when younger so the thought of planning, and attending dinner parties can be overwhelming to them.
Sharing the holidays with your elderly family member can and should be a great time; one that is cherished. But, in order for it to be successful there are some tips you might want to consider to make things go smoothly for them and for yourself. Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks and one of the biggest things you can be thankful for this year is that your older family member is able to share it with you.
Here are ways to ensure a successful and memorable Thanksgiving for you and your elderly family member:
- Ask your elderly family members to place holiday events on their calendar so they do not have to go off memory alone. If it is on their calendar, they can see it coming up and maybe take some time to mentally prepare themselves.
- Keep the portion of the holiday party or dinner to a minimal timespan (maybe 2-3 hours), at least while the elderly family members are present. In some cases (such as with those living with Alzheimer’s disease), stress levels and mental/emotional capacities are not what they used to be.
- All the hustle and bustle of family and especially children running about can create stress for your elderly family member, so try to prepare a nice quiet seating area for them away from everything in case they need to get away for a bit and relax.
- Ask them to help with the food preparation or table setting if that’s something they enjoy; it will make them feel included and constructive. Remind all your family members to make a point to acknowledge and include your elderly family member in their conversations when possible; one-on-one conversations with them are ideal.
- While having dinner, remember to include your elderly family members in the table conversations as much as you can.
- Seat the elderly family member at the end of the table if possible so they have plenty of room to get up and stand if they want or need to.
- Plan your meal well in advance and be sure to consider any dietary restrictions your elderly family members may require. Also, consider their ability to chew, swallow and digest the foods you are preparing as well.
- Serving the Thanksgiving meal earlier in the day, such as in the afternoon, may be a good idea, if it will likely fall in line with their regular schedule. If your elderly loved one has dementia, prepare their plate for them if they don’t mind, so they don’t have to worry about the various choices.
- Setting up your home to accommodate a wheelchair or walker is important as well. Make sure they can easily come through the doorways and gain access to the bathroom.
- If your parent or grandparent has an assistant, consider inviting the caregiver to share the day with your family. This may help the elderly family member to relax and help you with ensuring their extra needs will be taken care of.