Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Thanksgiving Survival Guide for Caregivers by Kim Campbell for

We don’t normally do ‘lists’ here at CareLiving, but this one has a little more to it than your average turkey recipe…

1. Be Thankful

We all know that Thanksgiving the time of year that you’re supposed to count your blessings and put things in perspective.

* Being a caregiver can be so overwhelming at times that it’s easy to forget to be thankful for your friends, family and medical professionals who are there to support you. Don’t forget that you are not alone.

2. Guest List

While it’s nice to invite everyone to your holiday party, there are always those special few people who insist on helping with the dishes after the meal. Make sure those people are on your list! You should accept all the help you can get this time of year.

* Surrounding yourself with the right help as a caregiver is very important. It’s not just about being present, it’s about understanding, empathy and being sensitive to others’ needs. There’s no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen in this case.

3. Prepare

Do the prep work ahead of time and a little clean-up along the way so that you can try to relax and enjoy yourself later.

* As our friend and CareLiving contributor Vicki Bartholomew wrote: Always Be Prepared

4. Delegate

Don’t try to do everything by yourself. Let others help with the cooking or ask your guests to bring a dish or a drink to the party – or better yet, go to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving this year!

* It’s impossible to take care of someone with dementia 24/7 without help. Put together a team so you can take a break, take care of yourself or see friends and be social now and then. Remember that there are great long-term care options available across the country as well when things get a little too hot in your own kitchen!

5. Good ingredients

Bring only good things to the table. We know that pre-packaged foods filled with preservatives, hormones and antibiotics are not healthy, so try your best to use of organic, fresh, local ingredients. You’ll taste and feel the difference.

* There’s no room for guilt, shame, resentment or negativity at the dinner table this year. You already have enough on your plate being a caregiver, don’t let one sour cranberry spoil the whole sauce. Encourage positivity, laughter, smiles and love.

6. Be Patient

A turkey takes a long time to cook and there’s no easy way to hurry it along (let’s not even talk about Flash Frying!). Plan some fun activities for everyone to do while you wait. Put on some music and enjoy your time with your guests instead of hovering in front of the oven.

* Caregiving can be a long journey. Alzheimer’s can last from 2 to 20 years. You need to keep living your life and engaging with the rest of your family and friends along the way – they need you too.

7. Don’t worry about being perfect

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you burn the pie. It’s hard to cook without much experience or when you’re distracted. All you can do is the best you can. Feel good about your effort even if the outcome isn’t the best.

* None of us are ever fully prepared to be a caregiver, and you will make mistakes along the way. As long as your heart is in the right place, a big gulp of love will remove the bad taste of any mistakes you might make.

8. Enjoy

You work hard all year and deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Don’t be embarrassed to help yourself to ‘seconds’ (or a few hours!) of happiness.

Happy Thanksgiving, caregivers!


  1. Michele Adams says:

    Thanks Kim, I saw my father in law go through this, he passed away 20yrs ago dec5. Now I’m watching my husband go through it and it’s early on yet but he knows and is upset of having me and our grown kids and our grandchildren go through this it’s mostly on me which is fine, but sometimes could use someone to talk to and cry with. Hope you have a very good thanksgiving with your family and friends

  2. Thank you, Kim. I don’t know how long our journey will be but I have to draw on my faith and pray for patience as I walk with my husband of 36 years who was diagnosed almost 5 years ago with EOAD.

  3. Thanksgiving was difficult for me this year. Our group of twenty something has dwindled down to four. Struggling to have patience with my husband of fifty five years. I always thought that patience was in my DNA but this is really tough sometimes. I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t his fault and he can’t help it. Don’t have anyone to talk or any supportive people in my life.

  4. By the way my husband was diagnosed five years ago. He started to decline about a year ago

  5. Thanks Kim. My husband has early onset Alzeheimer’s, at the age of 55. We think he had it sooner than that but we did not recongize the symptoms. At the age of 60, I could not longer care for him and work a full time job. I needed to work to pay the bills. My son quit college in his junior year to help assist in caring for my husband. We finally placed in a care facility when he was 61. My health was suffering also and his Alzheimer’s doctor recommended he should be safer in a care facility. I have been racked with guilt that I could have done something different. He had not worked in 5 years and I was layed off when my company moved to Chicago. We were forced to sell our house because of stairs and lack of funds. This diease depletes you mentally, physically and financially. I have tried to stay positive when we are together. He is in stage 6 and resent me because I work. I know it is the disease, it is just hard to be everywhere and stay healthy.

  6. Caring for my father by myself. If anyone knows how to get a little help please email.

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