Whenever your loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, every part of life is affected. Unfortunately, this includes some of our favorite holidays, like Thanksgiving.
You may associate Thanksgiving with copious amounts of food, spending time with family, playing football or enjoying the beautiful autumn weather.
Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year for the United States. One study said that 96% of Americans say they celebrate Thanksgiving. Another survey found that over three-fourths of respondents said that celebrating Thanksgiving was at least “rather important” or “very important” to them.
It’s a holiday that’s rich with tradition and synonymous with American culture. However, when a loved one is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, it changes their life and the lives of friends and family.
Your loved one may have been the chief turkey cook or family storyteller. They may have brought delicious pies or their warm personality that filled the room.
While their physical condition may have changed, there is still plenty of reason to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. It’s a holiday about showing gratitude for blessings in life. You may have questions about how a hospice Thanksgiving celebration should work.
*In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, remember to take proper precautions before visiting a loved one in hospice. Follow all of the guidelines put in place by their care facility. If they are receiving hospice care at home, consider wearing a mask, washing your hands before and after seeing them and using social distance to visit. A phone or video call is an excellent alternative to visiting in person.
Four Hospice Thanksgiving Tips
Visit During Thanksgiving.
If your loved one can see friends and family members, a short visit may lift their spirits during the holiday. A few things to remember before you go to visit:
- Call ahead and see how they are doing. Their caregiver or a member of the hospice team will let you know if they are up to seeing any visitors. It is also a common courtesy to let someone in hospice care know you are coming to say hello.
- Don’t visit if you don’t feel well. Patients in hospice care may have a weakened immune system. Getting sick isn’t a good way for anyone to spend their Thanksgiving. Consider giving them a phone or video call.
- Phone or video calls are a great alternative to a visit. If you aren’t able to see your loved one, for any reason, this doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate with them. A call or video chat can brighten their day and yours.
- Give their caregiver a break. If you can visit with your loved one for a while, use this time to give their caregiver a break to rest on Thanksgiving.
- Keep visiting groups small. While Thanksgiving is a time we usually associate with being in a gathering with friends and family, a large group can be overwhelming or exhausting for someone who is dealing with a terminal illness.
Talk About How Thankful You Are for the Impact They’ve Had on Your Life.
Talk About How Thankful You for the Impact They’ve Had on Your Life.
Thanksgiving is a time that we can reflect on what we are thankful for and express our gratitude. Telling your loved one how grateful you are for them is a great way to encourage and uplift your loved one. Remember, this is an excellent practice for any time of the year, not just Thanksgiving.
Share Thanksgiving Foods, If They Are Up for It.
A Thanksgiving celebration is only as good as the meal you share with your friends and family. See if there is a food you traditionally share with them.
Two things to note: First, see if they have any dietary restrictions. Second, see if they have an appetite. Many patients with life-limiting illnesses lose their desire to eat when they get to the last few days or weeks of their life. It’s a natural part of the end of life.
Keep Other Favorite Thanksgiving Traditions
While the celebration may look different, there may be traditions that you can continue. If you and your loved one enjoy watching football, turn on the big game when you come to see them. If your family tells stories, share one or two with them. If the weather is nice, see if they can spend a few minutes outside enjoying the autumn air.
While it’s easy to be discouraged by your loved one’s limitations, remember that holidays like Thanksgiving are about being with friends and loved ones. While it may look different, visiting in-person or over the phone with your loved one is what makes the day meaningful.