This will be a different kind of Thanksgiving and holiday season, for sure. It’ll be quiet. It might bring up anxiety about staying healthy or being alone. If you’re at home caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, the holidays will be riddled with their typical challenges. If your loved one is in a memory care home, it will be sad because you might not be able to visit. However, this season will also allow us to pause in order to count our blessings and welcome unknown and unseen blessings.
In his book “Upward Spiral,” neuroscientist Alex Korb, M.D. explains that practicing gratitude is one of many pathways to an upward spiral to happiness.
Be grateful. Make a list of things that uplift you and that you’re grateful for. Keep a gratitude book and write about your favorite people and things. A job that you like, a special person, a pet, a warm and safe home, good food, a favorite book or TV show, a park where you walk, your health, a fragrant candle, a neighbor who helps out by shoveling your sidewalk, raking the leaves, or picking up groceries.
Before you get out of bed say an affirmation such as “I’m grateful for my strength and health.” “Today is going to be a good day.” “I have the power to change my attitude.” “I am happy to be alive.”
Write uplifting quotes, blessings, Bible verses, words of wisdom or other religious quotes in a blank book specifically designated as your “happy” book.
If you’ve lost a loved one in the past year, create an alter in your house in remembrance of them. Put up their picture, place a candle on the alter with some incense or food they loved. Be creative. Put on their favorite music. Sit and contemplate all the gifts that person brought to your life.
If you have leftover guilt, pain or regrets about your relationship, have a conversation with that person. Ask for forgiveness and give your forgiveness back. You might shed some tears, but it’ll open your heart to the possibility of healing.
15 ways to connect with your at-home care partner and uplift both of your moods.
- Put on some music and dance. If your care partner doesn’t walk, hold their hands and gently sway to the music.
- Look at photo albums together.
- Make a collage with family photos or pictures cut from a magazine.
- Make colorful paper chains to decorate the house.
- Plan a family zoom party. If you have a musician in the family have a sing-along.
- Try an intergenerational activity like a story chain. One person starts the story and hands it off to the next. It’s a little like the game telephone.
- Do a puzzle, do board games.
- Get out some watercolors and paper.
- Borrow a neighbor’s dog, if you don’t have one and go for a walk.
- If there’s snow on the ground, bring enough inside to cover a tray. Use food coloring to make designs.
- Make and/or decorate a gingerbread house.
- Bake gingerbread and eat it warm with whipped cream.
- Make and decorate cookies. Then bring them to a neighbor.
- Read to your care partner.
- Give your care partner a massage.
If your loved one is in a care facility
- Try to connect on Facetime or Zoom. Even if your care partner can’t see you very well, hopefully hearing your voice will help you to connect emotionally.
- Drop off a basket filled with special treats and flowers.
- Send a CD of favorite music.
- Fill a memory box with small, special mementos.
- Puzzles and coloring books help with fine motor skills and uplift the mood.
- Seniors who loved to dress up will appreciate glittery and colorful costume jewelry.
- A favorite book on tape might trigger memories and put a smile on one’s face.
- Provide an aromatherapy diffuser that plugs in the wall, with an uplifting aromatherapy oil.
My 2020 Thanksgiving prayer
I am grateful for being loved and loving. I am grateful that I’ve stayed healthy this year. I am grateful to authors who share their beautiful imaginations, I am grateful to my parents who, many years ago, let me go west to college, where I’ve lived in the Rocky Mountains ever since. I am grateful for my beautiful environment, my comfortable home, my book club, and my writing groups. I am grateful for being able to eat organic food and drink pristine spring water. I am grateful that I live in a place where intelligent people question authority. I am grateful that I have healthy children who are contributing members to society. I am grateful for being blessed with four gorgeous, delicious and healthy grandchildren.
I am so grateful to be alive, and for so much more.
May your Thanksgiving be filled with good health, friendship, hope and ease.
Barbra Cohn cared for her husband Morris for 10 years. He passed away from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Afterward, she was compelled to write “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia”–winner of the 2018 Book Excellence Award in self-help– in order to help other caregivers feel healthier and happier, have more energy, sleep better, feel more confident, deal with feelings of guilt and grief, and to ultimately experience inner peace. “Calmer Waters” is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Boulder Book Store, Tattered Cover Book Store, Indie Bound.org, and many other fine independent bookstores, as well as public libraries.