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The Holidays.  That time of year when from mid-fall to New Year’s Day we are obsessed with planning. There’s decorations, meals, presents, family visits, entertaining,  etc. to plan  for.

Now imagine trying to plan and execute all that activity with the addition of caring for a person living with dementia.  Somewhere between “forget the whole thing,” to “I can do it all,” lies a reasonable approach to the holidays!

For the next few weeks I am going to share some of my experiences with holiday planning as the primary caregiver of a person living with dementia.   I will go into detail about traveling during the holidays a little later, but if you MUST travel, make all necessary reservations NOW!

A friend from the Alzheimer’s Association once told me that if you can’t continue your old holiday traditions, make new ones! Don’t be afraid or stubborn about crating new traditions.

Is the location of your Thanksgiving meal part of your tradition?  If the location has been your house, you might want to think about relocating.  Gasp! But, we’ve always had Thanksgiving dinner at Mom’s & Dad’s house.  If one  of them is living with dementia, the other one is going to have the burden of care and the burden of putting together a huge meal for a lot of people.

If relocation is not possible, then it’s time for you, the caregiver, to make some changes.  In order not to over burden yourself, make a plan and an “assignment” sheet.  You will set the table. You will put the turkey in the oven.  Everyone else either brings a course to be re-heated or does their own last minute prep (as in mashed potatoes!).  Those who don’t cook can be in charge of beverages or store bought dinner rolls/dessert.  Furthermore, no one gets a “pass” on clean up!

Most folks will ask you what they can do or what they can bring to a holiday dinner. Don’t be shy about telling them exactly what you’d like them to do.  And really, do we need 3 vegetables, 3 starches and 3 desserts? Editing the menu is not a bad idea.

Be mindful of your loved one’s schedule.  Plan to serve the meal as close to his/her normal lunch/dinner time as possible.

One of the joys (for me, at least) about Thanksgiving dinner had always been the time, after diner, when we sat around the table  and TALKED!  Your loved one may have limited tolerance for staying seated during extended conversations. Plan on letting him say good-night to everyone, help him to bed and wrap up the evening when you are ready.

Don’t over extend yourself.  You’ll need your rest because the weekend has just begun. Next time we’ll talk about holiday activities.

With love and hope!