OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is offering tips to assist families affected by dementia-related illnesses this holiday season.

“Families caring for a loved one with a dementia-related illness deserve to join together and celebrate Thanksgiving, and there a few simple steps they can take to make that celebration as joyful as possible,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President & CEO. “Being proactive and prepared are the best tools caregivers can use to give their loved one a Happy Thanksgiving.”

AFA has released seven tips to make this Thanksgiving easier for families with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related illnesses:

  • Prepare your loved one. It may be a good idea to familiarize them with the guests beforehand by showing them photos, sharing stories, or arranging a phone or Facetime call before the holiday. You could also create a detailed invitation to give to your loved so they know what all will be happening during the celebration.
  • Prepare your guests. Sharing beneficial information with your guests regarding your loved one can help prepare for a smooth holiday. Telling your guests ways to communicate, what your loved one responds well to and what may cause distress will help create positive interactions.
  • Factor the person’s routine into the scheduling. Plan the celebration around their routine to avoid any conflict. For example, if your loved one regularly takes walks in the afternoon, allow time for them to do that.
  • Hold the celebration early. “Sundowning” is common among those living with dementia. According to the AFA, it can cause agitation and confusion in the late afternoon-early evening as the sun sets.
  • Plan for help. Relatives and friends are often available for help, they just may not know how. Be open with what you need, whether it’s asking them to bring a dish, help with preparing food, shopping, or decorating. They can even simply spend time with your loved one while you are preparing.
  • Keep your loved one involved. Focus on what your loved one can do. You can offer to have them help prepare ingredients, set the table, decorate and other activities. Playing familiar music and looking through old photos are a great way to bring joy during the celebration.
  • Have a quiet space available. Have a quiet place prepared away from the crowd where your loved one can go to if the celebration becomes overwhelming. Have familiar items available such as blankets, a sweater, or a stuffed animal there to comfort them.

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