Gathering for a Thankful Thanksgiving

Vicky Pitner   -  

Let the holidays begin! Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather, share a meal, reminisce, and create new memories. However, when a loved one is living with dementia, some past family traditions might cause anxiety and confusion for a loved one, not to mention the additional stress put on a caregiver.

However, with strategies to manage stress, the holidays can still be a joyful holiday gathering. Below are tips to make your Thanksgiving celebration more enjoyable for your loved one and your family.

  • Consider an early lunch or brunch rather than a late evening celebration. Confusion and anxiety for the person living with dementia can often be worse in the evenings.
  • Never leave your family member alone. Always have someone with your loved one to ensure safety and engagement.
  • Find a quiet spot for your loved one to sit. Have refreshments and something to hold such as a pet. Have others come to the quiet place to visit. A family photo album may spark a pleasant conversation. Seat your family member first at the dinner table.
  • Let others know what to expect. If family members haven’t visited recently they may not be aware of significant cognitive changes in your loved one.
  • Avoid talking about current events around your family member. Conversations are hard to follow when there is memory loss. Reminiscence reminds us of some of our best times and works well to help your family member feel included.
  • Share stories rather than sharing opinions. A peaceful holiday makes for better memories!
  • Remind others to not ask your family member “do you remember?” because they don’t. Start conversations with “I recall when we”… or “I am thinking about the time….”
  • Avoid correcting the person with memory loss. Just go with the flow. Inaccurate dates, locations, and people’s names are really insignificant.
  • Avoid calling someone out when they repeat a story. Just listen again and help the person feel connected to the holiday.
  • Keep with the routine for your family member. Make sure everyone is well rested and watch for signs of anxiety and be prepared to adjust.

Thanksgiving may look different this year. You can either focus on the differences or stay in the moment and create opportunities for new traditions. Celebrate what is, not what was.

If you, a friend, or family member would be interested in learning more about our Memory Ministry or our Connections Zoom group, please contact Vicky Pitner at