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Talking Turkey about Thanksgiving

Posted by / in Blog, Moderate Stage / 6 comments

Thank you for sharing

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:

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I had a nine year journey with my Mom who suffered with Alzheimer’s disease. I wish to share what I learned about caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s and also provide a website with information and helpful resources.

  • Kathy Benderev

    November 16, 2017, pm30 4:15 PM

    What a powerful story. Thanks so much for sharing your insights. I wish I had had more of them when my mom was alive with dementia but I learned as I went along. Your posts are so helpful to so many.

    • Virginia Naeve

      November 16, 2017, pm30 10:02 PM

      Thanks Kathy! I wish I could have helped you more with your sweet mom. She was lucky to have you.

  • Ron Kays

    November 16, 2017, pm30 8:06 PM

    Very nicely brought home the point that our response in those uncertain moments is ‘everything’. If we answer the person with Alzheimers as we would any other person, we’re sunk~and it goes downhill quickly from there.

    • Virginia Naeve

      November 16, 2017, pm30 10:05 PM

      Thanks Ron. You are right. Our responses are so important. Not only what we say, but how we say something. Alzheimer’s is tricky to deal with and I wish none of us had to learn how.

  • Eileen Cannon Paulin

    November 16, 2017, pm30 8:33 PM

    You give us the gift of hope. Me specifically – Thank You!
    My mother died 21 years ago. My father remarried. His wife is a long term family friend and her deceased spouse was one of my father’s dear friends. As, you know she is on the journey to nowhere with Alzhiemer’s Disease. My dear father is now a full time care giver. They have good support in their living arrangement, but it is a rough road. I praise the Lord that my children and my nieces and nephews have easy access to him. We all rally around him as his wife sinks deeper and deeper into the abyss.

  • Virginia Naeve

    November 16, 2017, pm30 10:07 PM

    Eileen, your father is lucky to have you and your entire family. He’s going to need all the support he can get, and it is truly a sad journey. A very rough road. Not easy on anyone.

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