Help seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia enjoy Thanksgiving

Even though your older adult has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you still want them to feel included in Thanksgiving festivities.

But you also don’t want them to get overstimulated or agitated.

We share 3 tips to help you adapt Thanksgiving festivities so older adults with dementia can participate more comfortably.

We also share 8 fun, dementia-friendly Thanksgiving activities that seniors with dementia can enjoy with family and friends.

3 ways to adapt Thanksgiving festivities for seniors with dementia

1. Keep groups small to avoid overstimulation

Too many people, too much noise, and a flurry of activity can easily overstimulate someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Don’t feel stuck with the usual traditions, make changes that will help your older adult stay calm and relaxed.

For example, instead of hosting one big meal for all of the extended family, consider having more casual get-togethers with small groups of relatives spread over a couple of weeks.

Or, limit the guest list to immediate family only.

2. Schedule important activities for their best time of day

There are times of day when your older adult is at their best.

Try to schedule the most meaningful holiday activities (like the Thanksgiving meal) for times when your older adult is most likely to participate successfully.

For example, if they get agitated in the evenings, eat earlier in the day.

Or, if your older adult doesn’t wake up until late morning, have the family gathering in the late afternoon or evening so they can stick to their regular schedule.

3. Set aside a private, quiet space and encourage one-on-one visits

Whether the Thanksgiving gathering is at your house or a relative’s, it will likely get crowded and noisy.

To avoid overstimulating your older adult, arrange for them to take breaks or stay in a quiet room away from the noise.

Family members can take turns spending quality time with them in their calm space

8 Thanksgiving activities seniors with dementia will enjoy

To help your older adult feel included, plan some group activities you know they’ll enjoy.

For example, if mom still loves to bake, make one of her favorites together with other family members. Or, if dad loves watching football, have everyone watch the game together.

Thanksgiving activity ideas:

  1. Bake cookies – try these delicious, easy-to-make gingerbread cookies.
  2. Cook or prepare some Thanksgiving dishes. Depending on their level of ability, they might be able to cut veggies, put salad ingredients into a big bowl, or be the official taste tester.
  3. Take a short walk around the neighborhood or through a local park.
  4. Many people with dementia love music and can still engage with it even if their communication skills have declined. Play some of their favorite tunes and sing along with them.
  5. Look at old family photos and gently encourage reminiscing about happy times.
  6. Play a simple, fun group game. We love this bingo set.
  7. Work on a jigsaw puzzle as a group – we’ve got great suggestions here.
  8. Make simple, fall-themed home decor like a leaf garland or a thankful tree, which is perfect for Thanksgiving!

Guest bio: DailyCaring has free, practical senior care tips that answer top questions and reduce your stress. Get solutions for everyday challenges, help with important care decisions, and advice on how to plan for the future. Browse our articles and sign up to get the latest caregiving tips delivered to your email inbox – free!