Do you have that “hard to shop for” person in your family? Choosing the perfect gift can be difficult or impossible. What would you do if that person had Alzheimer’s or another dementia?
This person may not need your gift, have storage space for it, or recognize your kind gesture.
The following are gift ideas for someone who has Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Where appropriate, please also note accompanying hyperlinks where you can learn more about these products or purchase them.
15 Great Gifts for Seniors with Alzheimer’s: Early Stage (Mild)
- 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. You could also create albums of old family letters or recipes.
- Day clock. Day clocks will, ideally, 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 board games easier and familiar – think of Snakes and Ladders, Checkers, or Dominoes.
- Shoes with velcro straps. Tying your shoes may seem easy, but 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 room and smell nice.
- Back-scrubbing brush. This brush makes bathing or showering easier.
- Wide-brimmed sun hat or warm mittens. Depending on where you live, a weather appropriate gift could be something the senior would 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.
- Picture dial phone. This clever device makes phone calls easy! Photos of family, friends, and emergency contacts are displayed on the phone. When a picture is pressed, the speed dial mechanism calls the person! No need to remember a list of important phone numbers or fumble with the phone’s numbered touch pad!
- E-Z Out door handle. Seniors with early-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia begin to lose their memories as well as physical strength and balance. Attach this door handle in your car to help mom or dad get in or out.
- Wine of the month. If you parents have a passion for wine, register mom / dad in this club to receive a bottle of quality wine each month. Red, white, rose, and dessert wines are all offered – something to please every palette. Excessive alcohol consumption can have negative effects on a person. Therefore, please limit wine drinking to one glass (175 ml) per day.
- A memory box. Pack a memory box with small, special mementos, and add or replace items as the dementia progresses. Memory boxes shouldn’t be overly large. An empty shoe box would work well.
- Ice cream. Treat mom or dad to tasty ice cream. Whether served in a cone or a bowl, ice cream is delicious and can be easily swallowed.
- Drawings from grandchildren. Encourage 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. A great idea for visiting grandchildren is to ask grandparents these questions to learn more about them.
15 Great Gifts for Seniors with Alzheimer’s: Mid Stage (Moderate)
- Coloring books. Unleash your parent’s creative juices with a coloring book! Holding crayons will also help a senior maintain fine motor skills.
- Puzzles. Choose any design or picture you like! Bigger puzzle pieces will be better for older hands to handle and manipulate. Fewer puzzle pieces will result in easier solving.
- Automatic pill dispenser. Taking medications can become routine 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 fill 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). Engrave the bracelet with a senior’s medical condition. In the case of an emergency, medical responders will know what to do.
- Bath soaps, lotions, and fragrances. Seniors can suffer from dry skin so pick out a bath lotion in their favorite scent.
- Sports memorabilia. Did mom or dad cheer on the Green Bay Packers or the Boston Bruins? A team jersey or baseball cap can be displayed or worn and can help promote long-term memory retention.
- Larger print books. Larger print (like this …) can be much easier for older eyes to read. You can read and enjoy the stories together.
- Something handmade. Perhaps a knitted scarf or a custom-built bookcase?
- Concert tickets. Music is an important part of 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 treated 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!
- Gift card for meals out. What is your loved one’s favorite restaurant? Purchase a gift card to both save your loved one some money and to recommend a joint activity where the whole family can dine out.
- Home cooking or baking. Something inexpensive yet appreciated is making your mom or dad’s favorite dish for them! Make sure to put the leftovers in the fridge to avoid attracting any critters.
- A visitor’s journal. Leave this in your loved one’s room at long-term care centers. Visitors can sign in and leave a comment (or two) about their visit.
- Familiar books. If your loved one was an avid childhood reader, shop for book titles which he/she will have read as a youngster.
- Costume jewelry. Perfect for the senior who still likes to dress up! The different colors, shapes, and sizes of the attached beads can all be interesting for someone with dementia.
- Your company. I’ve recommended this before, but it bears repeating. It is a simple thing to do and can be very appreciated. Seniors at this stage may need repeated instructions … try asking them to stuff Christmas cards into envelopes.
15 Great Gifts for Seniors with Alzheimer’s: Late Stage (Severe)
- Stuffed animal. Gifting a real animal will be inappropriate, but there are alternatives. A robotic cat will cuddle, purr, and meow but is expensive. A stuffed animal is an excellent – and cheaper – substitute. As with board games, choose a familiar “pet” like a kitten or puppy.
- Weighted laptop pad. Place this pad on a senior’s lap to help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. The portable pad can be brought 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 through art.
- Terrycloth bathrobe. Warm, fuzzy, and the perfect thing to slip into after bathing!
- Lap robe. If your senior remains confined to a wheelchair, this is a good option to a standard bathrobe. Lap robes, typically, are fitted to the specific wheelchair size and model
- Slippers. Look for a pair of slippers with non-slip soles.
- Blanket or duvet. A heavier, and more substantial, blanket covering the senior can be more calming.
- Portable stereo. Insert a compact disc of nostalgic songs and watch the reaction! Music is a powerful and fun stimulant for seniors with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Include headphones so as not to disturb other residents or care home staff.
- Manicure or pedicure. Properly-cared for nails look better and feel better! Treat your loved one to a professional mani/pedi. Often, these are accompanied by a gentle massage of hands or feet which can feel superb! Your loved one may feel uncomfortable going out. In this case, a home-use kit is perfect.
- Adaptive clothing. Open-back shirts are struggle-free. Sweat suits are loose fitting and comfortable to wear.
- Twiddle muff. Twiddle muffs are knitted tubes with items attached to the outside. Items can be buttons, small bells, keys, or anything with a distinct feeling. Twiddle muffs keep fidgeting hands “busy.”
- Lockbox. Unfortunately, residents’ possessions in a dementia care home can go missing. Other residents may be attracted to displayed items and wander off with them. With a lockbox, you can secure your loved one’s valuables and pull these out for sharing each time you visit.
- A location device. Seniors with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease are prone to wandering. Provide mom or dad with a tracking device to wear and provide you considerable peace-of-mind.
- A handheld massager. Reduce any pain or soothe away stress. These devices come with a variety of accessories that easily pop on and off the rotating head.
- Your company in a visit. Once again, simply being with your loved one can be the best present. Remember though the senior’s physical and mental abilities will be greatly reduced. Try sitting together and watching a travel video.
Tips for Successful Holiday Gatherings
Families often gather together for holidays. However, these gatherings will likely require adaptation when seniors are involved. For everybody’s increased enjoyment, please consider the following recommendations:
- Access to the home. Are there stairs to enter or exit the home? I once lived in a third-story walkup apartment (with no elevator). While Dad came over occasionally for family dinner, our visits proved to be far easier at my sister’s home which had a ground level entry. Consider tight corners. These may be difficult for a senior with a walker to navigate through. Replace dim lighting or add brighter lighting to help show the way to a senior with reduced vision. Declutter inside the home to reduce tripping hazards. Clear the sidewalks of any ice and snow for a safer entry and exit.
- Self-care. Caregivers for seniors with Alzheimer’s or another dementia need to manage their own health year-round. Caregiver self-care needs to be a priority at the holidays. No matter what the celebration, holidays can prove to be very busy times and perhaps even including some emotional “hot buttons”. Caregivers need to regularly step back and focus on themselves as they run the risk of becoming overly stressed and burnt out.
- Changing customs. Annual holidays fall on the same dates each year, but family celebrations may change. Depending on the circumstances, mom or dad may not be able to participate at the same level as before. In this case, assign the job to someone else in the family, modify the custom, or drop the custom entirely.
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. 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.