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Couple affected by dementia wants to express Thanksgiving gratitude

"Since nearly all of us have something to be grateful for, I encourage gratitude as a way to cope with adversity," coumnist Carol Bradley Bursack writes. "Gratitude doesn’t ignore our pain or challenges, rather it helps us realize that through it all, we also have blessings."

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Dear Carol: My husband has Alzheimer’s and even though we could afford a care facility, I want to keep him home as long as possible. This year, for the first time, we’ll go to our son’s home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. It will be delightful, I know, but in the past, our local extended family always came to our home for holiday meals. This is a big change, so we’re already missing the old days when we could host these lovely times. Your columns give us hope that there can be some dignity in this process of letting go of what was and appreciating what we have now. To help us do this, we’ve decided that this holiday season we’ll make a gratitude list. Can you help us get started and suggest ideas for how to express our gratitude for all that we have? - MJ

Dear MJ: My heart is with you as you cope with the changes that life is demanding of you. Even with all you are facing, you took the time to kindly mention my column, so thank you for that! Since nearly all of us have something to be grateful for, I encourage gratitude as a way to cope with adversity. Gratitude doesn’t ignore our pain or challenges, rather it helps us realize that through it all, we also have blessings. Here’s a start:

Looking inward

  • Your husband is doing well enough to stay at home with you, at least for some time yet.
  • You have local family to be with for the holidays and, presumably, other times.
  • You have food to eat, a warm home, clean water and other necessities.
  • You can afford holiday gifts for your loved ones.
  • You probably have television for shows that you enjoy and for streaming movies. Additionally, one or both of you may still use a computer and you’re sure to have a cell phone to stay in touch with family and friends.
  • For inspiration, you could go for a drive to see the holiday decorations and lights in your community (an activity that could be shared with your extended family).

Looking outward

There are endless opportunities for expressing your gratitude in outward ways, some of which will depend on your health, your time and your resources.

  • Your health and caregiving life may prevent either of you from physically working at your local food pantry or a children’s function, but a donation is always welcome.
  • Your faith community might have activities that don’t require your presence but still could assist people who are less fortunate than you.
  • Consider making a list of online places where your time or a financial donation could help. You could call your favorite charities to investigate their needs and see how you could help.

There is no surer way to find joy even in a life of struggle than knowing that in some small way, you’ve helped others. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, MJ!

Read more columns from Carol Bradley Bursack
This week, Carol Bradley Bursack offers ways to handle a relative who has suddenly started swearing.

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver and a nationally-recognized presence in caregiver support. She's the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories,” a longtime newspaper columnist and host of her blog at mindingoureldersblogs.com. Carol's an introverted book nerd, so you won't see her mugging in viral videos, but you can easily reach her using the contact form at mindingourelders.com.
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