Do you have that “hard to shop for” person in your family? Do you find choosing the perfect gift for him or her difficult or even impossible sometimes? What would you do if that person had Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia? This person may not need your gift, have storage space for it, or not recognize your kind gesture.
The following are gift ideas for someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia. You're bound to find a gift your loved one will love, no matter what stage of the disease they are in.
10 Great Gifts for Seniors with Alzheimer's: Early Stage
- Family photo albums – Sit with your loved one and share each photo. This helps to save memories and can lead to some interesting conversations! If mom or dad remembers a family vacation in Seattle instead of Miami, don’t get too concerned or offer a correction. Simply enjoy the time spent together.
- Day clock – The best clocks will have a large LED display. This shows the current time, day of the week, date, and AM/PM.
- Simple board game – Complex games will confuse a senior with Alzheimer’s or dementia. They can also be frustrating for you to explain. Keep your choice of games easier and familiar – think of Snakes and Ladders, Checkers, or Dominoes.
- Shoes with velcro straps – You might think that tying your shoes is an easy thing to do. Seniors with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia can forget the steps involved and lack the finger dexterity required. Velcro straps on shoes can be easily tightened or loosened by caregivers and seniors.
- Bouquet of flowers – Fresh flowers can brighten up a senior’s long-term care center room and smell very nice.
- Back-scrubbing brush – This makes baths or showers easier.
- Wide-brimmed sun hat or warm mittens – Depending on where you live, a weather appropriate gift could be something they use every day.
- Key bracelet – Tuck a set of keys inside the bracelet for safekeeping. Engrave the outside with your loved one’s name and your contact phone number.
- Drawings from grandchildren – Invite youngsters to draw, color, or paint a picture. Display the pictures on a wall of your parent’s room. When I visited Dad in long-term care, I saw his neighbor’s wall was almost completely covered!
- Your company – If you can’t think of anything to give, give your parents the gift of a personal visit. There are plenty of activities to do with a loved one who has Alzheimer's.
10 Great Gifts for Seniors with Alzheimer's: Mid Stage
- Coloring books – Unleash your parent’s creativity! Holding crayons will also help a senior maintain fine motor skills.
- Home cooking or baking – Ensure that your parent eats all the food in one sitting. Leftovers may attract bugs to your loved one’s room. Ensure you take what is not eaten back home with you.
- Puzzles – Choose any design or picture you like! Bigger puzzle pieces will be better for older hands to handle and manipulate.
- Automatic pill dispenser – Taking medications can become par for the course for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Prescribed pills can, however, be easily forgotten. A pill dispenser can help with medication management. Caregivers can load up a pill dispenser and set the alarm. When the alarm sounds, the senior will be reminded to take the pills.
- Medic alert bracelet (or necklace) – This isn’t a fashionable accessory. Engrave the bracelet with a senior’s medical condition. In the case of an emergency, medical responders will know what to do.
- Something handmade – Maybe your loved one would enjoy a knitted scarf or a personalized bird feeder for their yard.
- Concert tickets – Music is an important part dementia care and can help you connect with your loved one. One year, I was struggling to find a Christmas present for my father. Dad's Alzheimer’s was advancing and I couldn’t think of any appropriate gift. I decided to treat Dad to a Christmas concert, but had no idea of how he would respond. Judging by his broad smile while the music played, I had found a perfect gift for him!
- Bath soaps, lotions, and fragrances – Dry skin is a problem for seniors so pick out a lotion in their favorite scent.
- Larger print books – Larger print (like this …) can be much easier for older eyes to read. You can read and enjoy the stories together.
- Your company – I’ve recommended this before, but it bears repeating. It is a simple thing to do and can be very appreciated. Try having your kids use these 48 questions to ask elderly grandparents.
10 Great Gifts for Seniors with Alzheimer's: Late Stage
- Stuffed animal – You don’t want to gift a real animal to a senior with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. There are alternatives. There are new technologies for seniors, like robotic pets. A robotic cat will cuddle, purr, and meow but can be expensive. A stuffed animal can be an excellent – and cheaper - substitute. As with board games, choose a familiar new “pet” like a kitten or puppy.
- Weighted laptop pad – Place this pad on a senior’s lap to help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. These pads are portable. Bring the pad along to use in the car or while waiting in a doctor’s office.
- Watercolor kit – It can be difficult to communicate during late-stage dementia. Your loved one may not be able to express themselves with words, but they can often communicate well through art.
- Terrycloth bathrobe – Warm, fuzzy, and the perfect thing to slip into after bathing!
- Slippers – Look for a pair of slippers with non-slip soles.
- Blanket or duvet – As with a laptop pad, look for a heavier blanket. When covering the senior, this can be more calming.
- Small portable stereo – Insert a compact disc of nostalgic songs and watch the reaction! Music is a powerful stimulant for seniors with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Include headphones so as not to disturb other residents or care home staff.
- Adaptive clothing – An example of this is open-back shirts, which are struggle-free.
- Twiddle muff – Muffs keep hands warm in the winter. Twiddle muffs keep fidgeting hands “busy.” Twiddle muffs are knitted tubes with items attached to the outside. Items can be buttons, small bells, keys, or anything with a distinct feeling.
- Your company in a visit – Once again, something simply being with your loved one can be the best present.
Gift-buying for aging parents shouldn’t be a hard thing to do. With thought and creativity, family caregivers can often find the process fun. Borrow any of these recommendations or think of something else. Whether for Christmas, a birthday, or “just because,” it’s not that difficult to find a perfect gift for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.
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