I love having the family over for Thanksgiving. It’s a treat to catch up and exchange stories. But I’m also a caregiver and those duties can never be ignored. My mother has Alzheimer’s disease and lives at home with me.
Including a person with dementia in a social gathering can be challenging, but also rewarding. Although my mother enjoys socializing, she isn’t the only one who has difficulty communicating with others. Sometimes friends and family feel uncertain of what to say when speaking to someone with dementia.
To help ensure a fun family gathering, here are some tips to help both people with dementia and their families:
- Have her sleep in or take a nap in the afternoon to make sure she is rested for the gathering.
- If she is still able, get her to help prepare the meal with simple tasks, like peeling potatoes.
- Limit the number of guests to around ten so she is not overwhelmed.
- Limit loud music as it’s distracting
- Make sure she sits at the table to help her feel part of the group.
- Encourage family not to be shy. My mother always enjoyed when people spoke to her and not just the group.
- Share tips with the family to improve communication, like being aware of their body language, smiling and using humour.
- Be flexible and respond to mood changes. If she appears restless or irritated, take her away from the party for a break.
- Ask for her help with cleaning up after the meal.
- As the evening winds down, consider an activity better suited for someone with dementia, like looking through old family photos, which can stimulate reminiscence.
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