Don’t Let Alzheimer’s Disease Steal Thanksgiving

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by Ray Burow |

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As exampled by the Pilgrims and the Indigenous people who graced the first Thanksgiving table, families in the United States gather each year to give thanks. The gateway to Christmas and Hanukkah, Thanksgiving sets the season’s tone. How appropriate to begin with thankfulness before gifting one another with Hanukkah or Christmas presents.

It is a rare person who searches their soul without finding something for which to be grateful on Thanksgiving. Alzheimer’s disease is probably not at the top of your list. The average caregiver doesn’t awaken each morning with gratefulness that their loved one has been diagnosed with dementia.

However, within the sphere of living with the disease, there are still multiple things for which to be thankful. Dig out those nuggets from the recesses of your heart. It may take a bit of mining, but gratefulness will dislodge when you begin counting your blessings.

Alzheimer’s has stolen enough. Don’t allow it to steal the holidays, too.

Caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease may be tempted to forego celebrating the holidays. For overwhelmed caregivers, concentrating on the celebratory aspects of Thanksgiving followed by Christmas or Hanukkah is difficult. It’s hard to get to the happy parts, if you know what I mean. There’s a gray cloud that permeates the surrounding air with loss. The joy of preparing a golden turkey or decorating the house for a cheery celebration seems more of a chore than in past seasons.

Also, we’re tempted to skip the holidays because our loved one won’t remember celebrating them anyway. Thanksgiving is just like any other day of the week to them, as each day runs into the next. If we’re not careful, it will become the norm for us, too, as caregivers. Do not let this happen. The gray cloud will dissipate with a little effort on your part. It won’t totally disappear, because loss is present, but life is more than a lesson in endurance.

Life’s goal

Endurance has its place. It’s what has gotten you this far as a caregiver. You’re doing a phenomenal job in what seems an impossible situation. Now, place that same emphasis on enjoying life, beginning with Thanksgiving. Your celebration doesn’t have to be a big one; most of our celebrations will be smaller this year because of the pandemic. Your goal is to acknowledge the holiday and to take a few steps toward the joy it should bring to you and your loved one.

Yes, but how?

Instead of skipping the holiday, why not skip the turkey? If baking a big ol’ bird is too much, opt for chicken. If cooking in general is too taxing, skip cooking. Most neighborhood grocery stores will deliver a fully cooked Thanksgiving meal and not always for an exorbitant cost. By the time you shop for ingredients and make all the purchases for the meal, the cost to order in may be similar to what you’d hand over to the grocery cashier. Plus, you’d still have to pull it all together and heat the stove if you made the meal yourself.

Do what you can

Concentrate on what you can do rather than on what you can’t. Yes, caregiving changes how you’ll celebrate with your family. Some traditions may be altered during the caregiving season. Don’t fall into depression over the few pies you will bake in comparison to noncaregiving years or the lack of multiple vegetables on the table.

Maybe this year your family will begin a new tradition. The pilgrims didn’t have the option of purchasing Blue Bell ice cream or another favorite nontraditional dessert. You do. The idea is to keep the preparation simple so that you can enjoy the celebration. Food is an important aspect of the day, but it’s also a byproduct. The purpose of Thanksgiving is defined in its name: to give thanks.

One more thing

Involve your loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease as much as possible. This may not mean that he or she will have hands-on work to complete. You can involve them in small ways. For instance, when they awaken that morning, you might inform them that today is a special day. “It is Thanksgiving.” Depending on their cognitive ability, you might give them a brief history of the day. Your loved one might not remember the story of the first Thanksgiving.

Another way to include your loved one is to bring their attention to any decorations you’ve placed about the house. Involve their olfactory senses as the good smells that accompany baking and cooking permeate the air. “Mom, can you smell the turkey? Doesn’t it smell wonderful?”

As you pull pies from the oven or whatever delectable item that might emerge, carry it over to where your loved one is sitting and show them the beautiful creation, allowing them to ooh and aah.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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