I attended a Dementia Support Group Meeting where someone asked the question of how to have our dementia loved ones participate with the family during the holiday season. The answer seems quite clear in that it isn’t the Holiday that is important here, it is actually your loved one that is important. So the focus should be on our loved ones needs rather than being concentrated on what we want or what we think would work best for us and our family traditions.
Typically for holiday’s the family gets together at someone’s home. Aunt’s, Uncle’s, Cousins, significant other’s, friends, Grandma’s, Grandpa’s. All of these family members partake in the festivities and that is a lot of people and a lot of commotion. There is drinking, loud talking, arguing, playing, screaming and so much more going on that mom would quickly become overwhelmed.
Now is the time to start planning ahead for the upcoming holiday’s and that does of course include mom partaking in the family holiday traditions. After all, bringing the family together is tradition but maybe having a family member with dementia is a good time to rethink tradition and what really drives the closeness of a family.
The idea of the holiday’s is to be with loved ones and share time together. The problem is that if you bring mom, or grandma or who ever it is that is suffering from dementia, into your home with so many people and so much noise and confusion, they will suffer. They may suffer quietly and they may sit there and silently cry because they do not know what is going on around them and they are embarrassed and they do not know what to do. They cannot make sense of all the activity because there is just too much activity. To reduce the anxiety that mom will be experiencing during the holiday’s you will need to make it all about her.
What I would like to do with my mom is to spend Thanksgiving with her. The best way I can figure to get this to happen is to take the holiday to mom. Bring the Turkey and the food in to where she lives. It does not need to be elaborate. It could be small and intimate. It should be done for her because you love her and you want to make her feel special by bringing in your own special dinner and bringing in your own special love to be shared with her. Love and not being alone is all she wants.
Plus, you don’t have to do Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving day. It can be done any time around the holiday or really just any time. She probably doesn’t know exactly which day it is anyway, but what she does know is how you make her feel.
For many of our loved ones they may not remember that you even had Thanksgiving dinner with them. But they will remember a warm and happy feeling and they will remember that you made that warm and happy feeling happen for her. She may not remember “you” were the specific person but she will remember the feeling and that is enough.
The best part is this; every family member can have a Thanksgiving dinner with their dementia loved one. Just do it one or two at a time. If you want to give her love and share your love with her then do it in terms that will offer her the most comfort. Be happy, thankful and grateful for the time you spend with her. You will see on her face that she is happy. Give her hugs and kisses and tell her you love her.
You are all she has in this whole world. Her friends are gone. She is no longer capable of making new friendships that will have that deep connection that she had with her old friends. She has nobody else.