Preparations for the Holidays

Holidays can bring so much joy to family and friends — but for caregivers, it can also be a lot. Hosting or not hosting, there are a bulk of preparation steps that caregivers go through in order to make the holidays, like Thanksgiving, a happy affair for all of the guests involved.

Here are some tips to help.

Keep schedule in mind

As many of us know, keeping a consistent schedule is important for our loved ones who have Alzheimer's. It provides stability and calm. However, a holiday is, in and of itself, a break from the usual schedule. While that can be very freeing, it's important to keep your loved one's schedule in mind when structuring your holiday.

If you are hosting the holiday, then that is pretty easy (to say the least). You may choose the time of your meal at a time when your loved one is used to eating. At least in my own experience, this tends to be a little earlier in the day than a traditional dinner, which, I have found, can be just fine on a Turkey-filled day. If your loved one traditionally takes a walk or a nap at a structured time, those are other things to keep in mind. Bring in as much "normal" to the holiday schedule as possible.

If you are not hosting the holiday, set expectations with your host or hostess to let them know how their invitation will be received. If you are invited to a later dinner that conflicts with your loved one's typical bedtime, let them know and express ways that you can attend the event while also being respectful of your loved one's schedule. Ideally, your host or hostess will be accommodating. However, if it falls on deaf ears, simply let them know that what you have outlined is all that you're capable of doing in terms of attendance. Would he or she be willing to accommodate? I'm willing to bet most are.

Be aware of the noise

If you are hosting the event, the biggest change for your loved one will be an invasion of foreign people into your home. These are your guests — friends and family — but receiving many guests en masse can be a little overwhelming for our loved ones.

Ahead of the event, reach out to attendees who will be over to make sure that they are aware of your loved one's current mental state. This serves as a good way to set expectations for your guests (who may have feelings about your loved one's capabilities at that time) while also giving you an avenue to provide some tips for having a quality interaction, such as, don't be too loud, have a conversation with them, provide some of your loved ones favorite things right now, such as Elvis and puzzles.

If you are not hosting the event, do your best to make your loved one as comfortable as possible. Apart from maintaining their schedule, one can also ensure proper attire for an appropriate, but comfortable, dress code, perhaps with a zipper or button or another attribute that they may fiddle with.

Ask for help

Finally, ask your friends and family for help! As I have previously said to my brother-in-law as we watched football while his 2-year-old daughter is roaming the area: zone defense. For those non-sports folks, this means, when the baby is in your zone, she's your responsibility. While it will be your instinct to ensure that your loved one's needs are met throughout the event — you're among loved ones and, as a result, it's not your responsibility alone. Ask Bridget to take your loved one for his usual walk at the designated time as you're prepping the meal. Ask Jean to prepare a plate, with the food cut up into accessible pieces, to eat with your loved one. Ask Joey to ensure that your loved one is never cold, as she tends to catch a chill.

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Warms the heart

Thanksgiving is my low-key favorite holiday. It kicks off the fun of Christmas, at least for me (sorry for all of those who already have their winter holiday decorations up - I'm a Black Friday decorator), there are no obligations to buy presents or to make it special for any one person. It is a day to express gratitude for the abundance that we have in our lives at this moment, and we all have so much for which to be thankful.

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