Caregivers of elderly loved ones may wonder what to do to bring some Thanksgiving cheer to their charges. Here are some activities to help make the Thanksgiving holiday memorable and special.
Make a family pumpkin patch as a Thanksgiving activity
Family caregivers may find out in advance how many family members will be attending this year’s festivities. Then they can go to the grocery store or farm stand and obtain a pumpkin for each person. For this activity, the pumpkins should be small enough to handle; no larger than a basketball will work best.
The entire family can spend time together decorating their pumpkins. It’s probably too messy–not to mention dangerous–to actually carve the pumpkins. However, family members can use markers, acrylic paint, glue, ribbons, accessories, and other similar items to decorate their pumpkins.
This activity will be a fun way to bring the family together. Most seniors will be able to participate in the simple activity of decorating a pumpkin, perhaps with a little help. Sitting around a table with laughing, fun-loving relatives old and young, makes the activity most worthwhile. After all the pumpkins are decorated, they can be grouped together in a display either outdoors or indoors. Feel free to throw in a few bales of hay, a scarecrow, and other similar autumn touches. The display will be a visual reminder of the fun family time together, creating a seasonal tableau.
Be sure to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal . . . and let everyone help
The traditional Thanksgiving meal is sacred to many. It simply isn’t Thanksgiving without turkey, mashed potatoes, and other traditional dishes. Although such a meal is a lot of work, chances are the familiar seasonal sights, smells, and tastes will help remind an elderly loved one of happy times in his or her life.
Seniors who are able to should help with the preparation. They may have a lot of good tips to give on making a turky turn out right or seasoning stuffing! While he or she may not be able to engage in complex tasks, many seniors can stir the cake mix, set the table, or roll out cookie dough. The most important thing is that the senior feels involved and like a vital part of the holiday effort.
Some simple Thanksgiving-themed crafts
Many elderly people enjoy creating things with their hands. A construction-paper collage of Thanksgiving-themed items is appropriate. The senior can cut out a turkey, dinner table, pilgrim’s hat, and other traditional shapes. Then, using a glue stick or tape, the pieces can all be assembled to make a colorful and cheerful scene.
Doing such simple crafts will keep an elderly person occupied and also give him or her the satisfaction of creating something instead of just sitting in a chair. The time and effort to organize and supply such a craft will be well worth it. An elderly loved one will have something to look at and enjoy after the day’s festivities have ended also.
Spend time sharing things to be thankful for
Although this time of year brings challenges, it is also a time to consider the things one is thankful for. Spending some time with an elderly loved one and other members of the family in a circle, talking about things everyone is thankful for, is time well spent.
This will is a great exercise for seniors. Not only are they able to interact with the rest of the family, gratitude lifts one’s spirits. Everyone has at least a few things to be happy about. Focusing on those things rather than thinking about things one would rather change will help improve everyone’s outlook.
Just be together
Above all else, this is a time of year to spend quality time with family. It is a time to enjoy each other and to remember that every day is a gift. Preserving memories together–with cell phone cameras, videos, and so on–will enshrine the day in memory. Don’t let such recording intrude on the day too much, though.
In years to come, the memories made now may grow more and more precious as each year passes. This is especially true after an elderly loved one passes on. In addition, family caregivers will have the satisfaction of knowing that an elderly loved received a precious Thanksgiving memory.
Meske, C., Sanders, G. F., Meredith, W. H., Abbott, D. A, (1994). Perceptions of Rituals and Traditions Among Elderly Persons. Activities, Adaptation & Aging, 18(2):13-26. Available at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/j016v18n02_02. Last visited November 18, 2016.