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Mom loved Thanksgiving.  Even during her Alzheimer’s disease, she enjoyed the family time and traditions.  That’s why I found it particularly curious as to why our family had to stop taking her to the Thanksgiving feasts at her assisted living facility.

Several weeks before Thanksgiving, facility management would send around flyers announcing the special dinner that was being planned for the residents and their families.  There were pictures of turkeys, fall leaves and bowls of holiday treats everywhere.  They made a very big deal about the planned menu. They made sure that as many family members as possible could attend.  It was always held a few days before Thanksgiving, so it didn’t interfere with family plans.  It was a huge build up and something to look forward to.

Except for Mom.

The day arrived and my daughter Alli and I brought Mom downstairs from her room, and we sat at a beautiful table. We anticipated a big, happy, delicious feast. That is, until Mom asked the big question.  “Why didn’t you tell me they were planning this?”  Her voice was not happy.  She was clearly upset.

Both Alli and I looked at each other and did exactly what we learned later we were not supposed to do.  We pulled out the flyer and reminded her that we had all known about this fun holiday celebration for weeks.  Including her. 

Wrong answer. 

We didn’t even finish our meal.  Mom was too upset.  She had no recollection of being told and this dinner gave her no joy.  What seemed so simple to us, was very confusing to her. 

By the third Thanksgiving with this very same scenario, I finally got the picture.  I was the turkey.  The chef had come around to see how we were enjoying our meal, and he could tell something was wrong.  Mom looked up at him with a scowl on her face and asked why no one had told her about this Thanksgiving dinner.  He very calmly said, “You know what?  You are RIGHT!!  We should have told you!”  I looked up at him, smiled, and said thank you.

Bless his heart.  From then on, I realized that these holiday dinner celebrations at her assisted living facility were not for her.  In the future, I took Mom out on those days so she never even saw another one. Thankfully, she still loved Thanksgiving at my home.  Although somewhat chaotic and busy, I guess it was just more familiar.

When my kids were growing up, I used to say that the key to motherhood was flexibility.  I later learned that when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease,  flexibility not only comes in very handy, it’s essential.  Turkey day or not!

The following articles might be helpful for dementia caregivers during the holidays:

ALZHEIMERS.NET.  Top Tips for Dementia Caregiving During the Holidays:

CAREGIVER.COM.  Surviving the Holidays: