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Navigating Thanksgiving and  Dementia: A Guide to Meaningful Connection

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, reflection, and quality time with loved ones. For families affected by dementia, celebrating this cherished holiday may require some adjustments to ensure a meaningful and comfortable experience for everyone involved. 

Here are some tips on spending Thanksgiving with a loved one with dementia to foster connection, understanding, and joy.

  • Create a Familiar Environment. People with dementia often find comfort in familiar surroundings. If possible, celebrate Thanksgiving in a familiar and calm environment, such as the person’s home. Decorate the space with familiar items, family photos, and cherished mementos that evoke positive memories.
  • Plan a Simple and Familiar Meal. Keep the Thanksgiving meal simple and focus on dishes your loved one enjoys and can easily manage. Consider their dietary restrictions and preferences. Smaller portions and easily manageable finger foods may be more suitable than a traditional feast.
  • Involve Them in Preparations. Engage your loved one in Thanksgiving preparations, such as setting the table, stirring ingredients, or sorting utensils. Involving them in these activities provides a sense of purpose and offers an opportunity for meaningful interaction.
  • Utilize Memory Lane Games. Plan the day’s activities with a predictable schedule in mind. Memory Lane Games is an app with thousands of quiz-style games, including a game dedicated to the Thanksgiving holiday. The games are fun, interactive, and engaging. In fact, playing the Memory Lane Games app for just a few minutes a day can positively impact individuals experiencing sundowning and other symptoms of dementia.
  • Encourage Social Interaction. Keep the guest list small and intimate to create a comfortable atmosphere. Inform guests about your loved one’s condition and provide tips for meaningful interactions. Encourage visitors to share stories, reminisce, and engage in activities your loved one enjoys. An easy and effective way to achieve this is to set your loved one up with Memory Lane Games on a tablet or iPad and have a family member play with them. Young children, for example, may enjoy playing ‘Fairy Tales’ or ‘Nursery Rhymes’ with their grandparents. 
  • Be Mindful of Sensory Overload. Thanksgiving can be overwhelming with its sights, sounds, and smells. Be mindful of sensory overload, and consider creating a quiet space where your loved one can retreat if the festivities become too stimulating. 
  • Adapt Traditions. Modify Thanksgiving traditions to accommodate your loved one’s needs. If they used to play a specific role in past celebrations, adapt that role to suit their current abilities. The key is to maintain a sense of continuity and connection with family traditions.
  • Express Gratitude Together. Take a moment during the day to express gratitude together. Share simple and heartfelt moments, expressing appreciation for the time spent together. Gratitude can be a unifying force, bringing joy to the occasion.
  • Embrace Flexibility. Above all, be flexible and adaptable. Recognize that plans may need to change, and it’s okay. The goal is to create an environment that prioritizes your loved one’s comfort and well-being.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with a loved one living who has dementia requires thoughtful planning and a commitment to creating a supportive and understanding environment. By incorporating these tips, you can ensure a Thanksgiving filled with connection, joy, and meaningful moments that all will cherish.

To explore the Memory Lane Games digital therapeutic and access caregiver support resources too, download the app for a free 7-day trial from Apple or Google Play stores.

Author: Catherine Goss @

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