The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Have a Happy--Stress-Free--Thanksgiving

Like many of you, we will be traveling to visit family this Thanksgiving. Therefore, this blog will be short an sweet. We'd just like to remind you of some of the things that help both you and your loved one enjoy family gatherings even when Lewy is present. Your primary job is to help your loved one be comfortable as possible, thus decreasing the likelihood of behaviors and increases their ability to be present. Family gatherings seldom meet this criteria, what with the excitement, chatter and general chaos that happens when such a group gathers, even though the members involved may all be well-loved.

Remember these facts:
  • A person living with dementia is most comfortable in a familiar place, with only a few people at a time, with very little excitement, and with as few surprises as possible.
  • Visitors, even well-loved ones, in the home usually leads to extra work for an already overburdened care partner. 
Plan ahead. Talk to family members and friends with whom you want to spend this holiday. Make sure they know your needs and limitations. Location: Your loved one will be most comfortable at home. Second choice is someone else's home that also familiar. Third choice is an equally familiar restaurant. (If the gathering will be at your home, ask for help getting house, etc. You already have a full-time job and your family probably will be glad to step in and help.)
Sanctuary space. Set aside a room or corner where your loved one can go to find peace and quiet, away from too much excitement or too many people. You might even opt for them to simply stay there and invite family/friends to visit a few at a time. Don't forget your own needs! Large groups can be stressful for anyone who is already stressed (read: most dementia care partners!). Use this or another room as a place where you can escape to and rest a bit now and then during the day. Make sure your family understands these needs and supports them.
People: Ideally, you would invite a few people at a time to visit but this isn't very practical for a holiday gathering. Instead, enjoy the whole bunch but explain your loved one's need for less stimulation. Invite them to visit the sanctuary room for quality time with your loved one, one or two at a time.
Food: Leave most of the cooking to others. If it is at your home, make the meal potluck. If not, bring something easy to fix...or store bought.

Thanksgiving is a time for thinking of all the things and people we have to be grateful for. It is also a time to gather as families and friends. We hope you do lots of both!

For more information about Lewy body disorders, read our books: A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.

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