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10 Precautions for Celebrating Thanksgiving with Dementia

On Thanksgiving, family and friends traditionally get together for a special meal. This can cause a person with Alzheimer's [and dementia] some confusion and anxiety.

Thanksgiving celebrations can cause a person with dementia some confusion and anxiety. People with a dementia such as Alzheimer's may find certain situations easier and more pleasurable than others. Here are 10 tips to [help] make the holiday easier and more pleasurable:

  1. Large gatherings, family reunions, or picnics may cause anxiety. Consider having a more intimate gathering with only a few people in your home.

  2. Think about having friends and family visit in small groups rather than all at once.

  3. If you are hosting a large group, remember to prepare the person with dementia ahead of time. Try to have a space available where he or she can rest, be alone, or spend some time with a smaller number of people, if needed.

  4. Consider simplifying your holidays around the home and remember that you already may have more responsibilities than in previous years. For example, rather than cooking an elaborate dinner at Thanksgiving, invite family and friends to help out by making a few dishes. Instead of elaborate decorations, consider choosing a few select items to celebrate.

  5. Make sure holiday decorations do not significantly alter the environment, which might confuse the person with a dementia such as Alzheimer's.

  6. Holiday decorations, such as Christmas trees, candle sticks, or menorahs, should be secured so that they do not fall or catch on fire. Anything flammable should be monitored at all times, and extra precautions should be taken so that lights or anything breakable are fixed firmly, correctly, and out of the way of those with dementia.

  7. As suggested by most manufacturers, candles of any size should never be lit without supervision. When not in use, they should be put away.

  8. Try to avoid clutter in general, especially in walkways, during the holidays.

  9. Play familiar seasonal music. This can stimulate long-term memories from the past, as well as help orient a person with dementia as to time and place.

  10. Keep some old photo albums handy — it is usually calming to go through them together.

Make sure the family understands your needs and wishes. Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage.


Memory Matters Utah/Nevada wishes you a happy and safe Thanksgiving Holiday! Our office will be closed on Thursday, November 22 & Friday, November 23. We will reopen on Monday, November 26.

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