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Supporting the Evolution of a Thanksgiving Holiday

IMG_1985Just like changes are happening in how we are choosing to age dynamically in our communities, for many, the thanksgiving table is getting a makeover. Sharing stories about changes in how we celebrate and coping strategies for caregivers over the winter holidays can help us all think of new innovations and changes during this season of gratitude

Although some find the menu for the thanksgiving spread to be narrowly replicated ritual each year in many families new traditions emerge when hosting friends from all over the country or from new relatives via marriages. Various food preferences such as vegetarian and vegan fare have modified many home-prepared holiday meals and foods from many lands have become holiday favorites.

One friend shared the new additions from her Thai born daughter in law whose spicy recipes are not beloved family favorites. For my California sis–in-law it is not a real feast without tamales, which sound tasty and spicy instead of stuffing. This year I have a menu to accommodate multiple food preferences so I am adding some innovative new dishes and recipes so there is something for the gluten–free, dairy-free, sugar-free and meat-free attendees at our event, along side the usual turkey.

Many have found ways to incorporate volunteering as part of their Thanksgiving –and many others open their homes to all sorts of visitors, travellers and guests who need a new way to celebrate after they have moved to a new location. It is not only young, post-college interns living in a group house who need a good invitation to join in a holiday celebration, but the newly divorced, or widowed, or that couple who just moved into your neighborhood from several states away.

So how to simplify the holiday so everyone has more time to enjoy the day? A friend told me that she and her husband go out to a restaurant for the holiday meal and enjoy that approach of having a stress-free meal together. They started this when her son was posted overseas as a Marine and now the son’s family lives far and comes for Christmas instead. When her other friends bemoan the heavy work load of putting on a huge holiday meal she just smiles and knows she can better manage her weight watchers points eating out without a refrigerator full of fat-laden goodies. More than one friend notes that long ago they gave up using good china and by switching to paper plates and several note that their family always makes a long hike part of the day so the focus is not just on the calories but instead a chance to hang out with others in a healthy activity not just stuffing their faces together.

Caregivers have special holiday challenges. One dear friend shares how she is able to delegate a sibling to be the special care-giver of the thanksgiving day to make sure her 95 year old mother is tended and brought to the family feast and helped during the day and afterwards. When her sibling steps up to be “hands on caregiver for the day” it ensures that all the tending for the mama’s needs is handled with loving care by someone else so my buddy, can instead spend the day as the hostess for the holiday meal without her usual caregiver duties. No matter what your choices or innovations happen to be I hope they are nurturing to your heart.

Following is a shared post from Muriel Cole of HomePorts in Chestertown, MD., a few tips for coping with holiday stress, with a special focus on caregivers, reprinted by permission from the Kent County News.


            “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” goes the song sung by Andy Williams and others.   But for some of us, the period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day is the most stressful time of the year. Anticipation of family gatherings can provoke anxiety for many reasons, and the stress of caring for an elderly spouse, parent, or other relative can complicate the experience.

            Experts offer any number of to-do lists and recommendations to minimize the stress on caregivers. Here is my list, based on experience and reading:

  1. Be realistic. Make a holiday to-do list or calendar. Then cross off the low priority ones. This may be a time to lower expectations, including expectations of

yourself. Simplify. Perfect is the enemy of good. (And big can be the enemy of small.)

  1. Delegate. You do not need to do it all. Learn to say No. See number 1.

.           3. Be flexible. Learn to accept changes as they occur.

  1. Maintain your health – nutritionally, physically, spiritually, and socially. Don’t skip medications or medical appointments. Exercise is important in order to maintain your energy and vitality. Just 10 minutes three times a day.
  2. Know your limits, and ask for help when you need it. Encourage honest communications among family and close friends about the caregiving situation.

            Traveling with someone who has dementia raises special concerns. Patti DeWitt, Community Nurse Educator at Cooper Ridge Institute, advises to make travel as short as possible, build in rest periods, stick to the familiar, and avoid travel at peak periods. Single destination trips are bet. Schedule major activities for early in the day. To the extent possible, stick to a regular routine. Large groups and noise can increase confusion and discomfort.

            What do you give a caregiver? The Alzheimer’s Association recommends gift certificates for home repairs, house cleaning, or products that can be delivered; the gift of listening; a ready-made meal; respite care so that the caregiver can take a break; or books. For those suffering from dementia, gift suggestions include music, visits, bath products, night lights, and hugs.

Good News – Social Security beneficiaries receive a 1.7% cost-of-living increase in January. Medicare premiums do not change. The average monthly social security benefit will be $1,328 per month. The maximum will be $2,663 per month.

( Reprinted by permission from the Kent County News)

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