Thanksgiving Gatherings: Celebrating Well with Aging Loved Ones

In just one week, family and friends will gather round the table to give thanks for the many blessings we share. Your celebration likely includes a gathering of loved ones, delicious food and fall decorations. While this can be a wonderful time, your aging loved one could experience stress and a few challenges.

These tips will help you meet challenges with confidence and create a more festive celebration.

  • Embrace tradition. Great, great grandma’s recipe for pumpkin pie or displaying a family heirloom tablecloth will be appreciated by your elderly relatives and it is also a great way to pass on memories to the younger generations. Try to keep at least a few traditions alive.
  • Be flexible. Remember that many in your own family also have extended family, which can make scheduling difficult. Sometimes you will need to abandon tradition and reschedule to accommodate others. Perhaps offer a smaller dinner or have all come over to your house for dessert and coffee later in the day. This could help your aging loved one stay connected to those who they don’t often see.
  • Watch the time. Allow your elderly loved one breaks and quiet time, especially if they struggle with memory loss or agitation. If they have more difficulty later in the evening, schedule family time for early in the day. Plan for a quick, simple exit plan for every event, if need be.
  • Be aware of dietary and medication issues. Yes, Thanksgiving is a time to splurge – a lot! Be aware of medical conditions for which splurging can be dangerous, such as diabetes, and perhaps share this information with other family members. Be sure that needed medication is taken on time and to monitor blood sugars and/or pressure. Assist loved ones in “splurging” wisely. Know the steps to take in the case that their symptoms require attention. Also, consider talking to your healthcare provider ahead of time.
  • Acknowledge loved ones who have passed away. The holidays, including Thanksgiving, can be a difficult time for those who have lost their closest friends and family. Allow them to talk about those they miss, allow them space to be emotional, and talk about happy holidays from times past.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Especially if your loved one struggles with memory, be sure that everyone attending is aware. Meet their struggles with compassion and understanding.
  • Have reasonable expectations of yourself. Remember that you don’t have to do it all. Ask for help, and feel free to purchase a few dishes rather than make everything homemade, consider a smaller gathering if needed. Take breaks and engage in some physical activity to help keep stress levels down.

We wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving Day!

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