The Thanksgiving holiday can be a joyous time of year, but it can also be stressful. That’s especially true for families of the 340 thousand Hoosiers currently serving as Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter is offering tips for Thanksgiving travel and family gatherings.
Familiarize others with the situation. The holidays are full of emotions, so it can help to let guests know what to expect before they arrive. If the person is in the early stages of the disease, relatives and friends might not notice any changes. But the person with dementia may have trouble following conversation or tend to repeat him- or herself. Family members can help with communication by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts. If the person is in the middle or late stages of Alzheimer's, there may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time an out-of-town friend or relative has visited. These changes can be hard to accept. Caregivers may find it easier to share changes in a letter or email that can be sent to multiple recipients.
Adjust expectations. The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Caregivers may want to call a face-to-face meeting or arrange for a group discussion via telephone, video chat or email for family and friends to discuss holiday celebrations. It may also be necessary to adjust expectations or traditions. For example, if Thanksgiving dinner is traditionally held in the evening, but the person with the disease tends to be more confused and agitated at that time, shifting it to earlier in the day may help.
Take travel precautions. Thanksgiving often involves travel, which can be especially challenging. It is best to stick with places that are familiar, avoid layovers if possible, and be aware that changes in environment can trigger wandering.
Reach out for help. The Alzheimer’s Association has a free Helpline (800.272.3900) that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – even on holidays. Specially trained staff are able to help with questions about communicating with a person with dementia, safety issues, local resources or any other question caregivers or other family members may have.
About the Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s®. Visit alz.org or call 800.272.3900.