My favorite holiday of the year is fast approaching.  For my family, it has always meant enjoying a feast of a meal.  I have memories of moving from the “kid’s table” to the “adult table.” These days, I help prepare plates for my youngest son and monitor to ensure accidents and spills are kept to a manageable level.  But what about those families who have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s?

Here are some tips for Thanksgiving dinner with someone living with Alzheimer’s.

  • Provide a calm environment at meal time.  This might be easier said than done, but perhaps there is a separate area where only a few can gather to eat where the atmosphere can be less festive and calmer.  Whatever the situation, make efforts to provide a calm environment for the person living with Alzheimer’s.
  • Use a plate with no designs.  Sometimes patterned plates can confuse a person living with Alzheimer’s.  Even if everyone else is eating off the fancy plates, ensure that the plate is solid in color and contrasts to the place mat or cloth.
  • Don’t argue.  Do not try to convince the person that he or she has eaten or not.  Instead, simply offer the plate and what is eaten is eaten.  There is plenty to eat both before and after a Thanksgiving meal, so don’t stress out if you’re told I’ve already eaten.
  • Fill the glass only halfway and use a straw or a glass with a top.  Avoid the uncomfortable situation of accidents for everyone by minimizing potential accidents in a subtle way.
  • Limit the choices or prepare the plate for the person.  It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed with all the options at Thanksgiving and that can be multiplied for someone living with Alzheimer’s.  Try to ensure that this person’s favorite food is provided, even if it is a peanut butter sandwich and potato chips.
  • If choking is a concern, cut all foods into small pieces.  Foods with mixed consistencies, like vegetable soup, should be avoided.
  • Provide only one utensil and possibly only one food.  Don’t load up with a dozen things on this person’s plate while adding a piece of pumpkin pie on a separate plate and a dinner roll on another.  Make things simple.

Lastly, be thankful.  Be thankful that you have the opportunity to enjoy Thanksgiving with someone who is living with Alzheimer’s.

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