If you have a loved one with some form of dementia, no matter the stage, the holidays can present a special challenge. You want to make sure your family member feels part of the festivities, but it can be a puzzle to know the ideal gifts for people with dementia.
Fortunately, dementia experts from the Alzheimer’s Association and others who work with memory care residents and patients have done quite a bit of research into this subject. They’ve collected lists of tried-and-true options that have shown great success in sparking enjoyment and mental stimulation in those with various dementia types and stages – and that’s good news for your holiday shopping. This article will help make your gift-giving decisions easier.
Consider the Dementia Stage When Choosing Gifts
Gift-giving and receiving during the holiday season is a joyful experience. Choosing a gift for a loved one with any type of dementia, however, should be done mindfully. Family members and caregivers buying gifts for people with Alzheimer’s disease, or any form of dementia, should first consider the person’s stage of progression.
Those in the early and moderate stages can benefit from simple memory helpers or activities that help keep them mentally and emotionally engaged. In the later stages of dementia, gifts of comfort and security are exactly what a loved one needs most.
The gift guide below offers several unique gift ideas for people with dementia. To make your selection even easier, we’ve divided them by stages, i.e., early/mild, mid/moderate, late/severe. Of course, there is overlap between stages, and you and your professional caregivers will know best what is appropriate for your loved one. If you need more help identifying the stage your loved one is dealing with currently, consult with their medical team. In the meantime, you can also review this quick reference guide.
Appropriate Gifts for Each Stage of Dementia
Early/Mild Stage Gift Ideas
- Digital Photo Frame with Video Call Answering
Digital photo frames are an innovative and easy way to help ease the isolation and loneliness that seniors often face – especially those with relatives in a different city. The system is always on and connected, showing photos that you load when you’re not video chatting. The senior doesn’t have to log in, so there are no passwords to remember. Plus, there’s an auto answer mode, so when you call in, they can receive your call without even pressing a button. Easy peasy. Here are three popular brands to check out:
- Robotic Pet Companions
A live furry friend isn’t always realistic for seniors, especially for those with mobility or cognitive issues. But experts have found that many seniors with dementia find comfort in having robotic pets to talk to and stroke, which seems to have a calming effect on agitation and confusion. These lifelike creatures have soft, warm fur along with movement, sound, and even heartbeats and breathing motion.
Here are three popular sites to check out:
- Day & Time Extra-Large Display Clock
For seniors with memory issues, not remembering the day of the week, date, time (plus AM/PM) and month can be upsetting, not to mention embarrassing. Having a day clock nearby with an extra-large LED display is both comforting and empowering at any hour of the day or night. Several sites offer these clocks, including this one at Amazon.
- Memory Phone – Press a Photo to Dial
Though they’ve used a telephone for their entire life, the “how-to” slips away little by little for people with dementia. Fortunately, today’s clever memory photo phones take away some of the difficulty by replacing numbers with photos. You simply place the photo in a slot, program the coordinating phone number, and then all grandma has to do is press the photo to call her son, her doctor, or anyone else. Check out this model to see how it works.
Dementia research has proven time and again that music holds one of the biggest keys to opening up the minds of dementia patients. For that reason, CDs or any kind of preloaded musical gifts that take your loved one down memory lane will be greatly appreciated. Music from their past evokes positive emotions; it can unlock happy memories, encourage singalongs and story sharing, and have calming influences.
Mid/Moderate Stage Ideas
- Christmas Music Concert Date
Just like CDs, a trip to a holiday concert can evoke emotions and happy memories from your loved one’s past – perhaps even some stories you’ve never heard before. Don’t be afraid to take your senior with dementia to a concert this Christmas, and enjoy seeing the light come back into their eyes as they listen to familiar holiday tunes. It will be a memory you’ll cherish forever – and a perfect gift for your loved one.
- Make a Photo Storybook Gift
Custom photo books are easy to make online and come in a variety of sizes and styles, even as sturdy board books. They’re a wonderful way to help work on cognitive skills with your loved one with dementia, since they address connecting words with familiar images. Fill them with family pictures, objects, hobby items, or anything your loved one might enjoy looking at. Keep the text simple but fun and informative, as you would for a child’s first book. They’ll enjoy flipping through their custom book again and again. Here are three popular book-creating sites to check out:
- Retro-Style One-Button Dementia Radio
How cool is this? An AM/FM radio specially designed to be completely controlled by the touch of a single button! To set it up for your loved one, you’ll remove the cover, choose the station, set the volume, then store the control knob and replace the cover. After that, your loved one simply pushes the button to turn the radio on and pushes the same button to turn the radio off. Music can also be downloaded and played using a USB memory stick (MP3 format only). When using a USB stick, the front cover panel will remain off. Check it out at Mindcarestore.com.
- Redware Dining Set
It’s been found that red dinnerware and utensils seem to increase food intake among Alzheimer’s patients by 24% and liquid intake by 84%. Amazing, right? Here’s an affordable set that might just make a difference in the eating habits of your loved one with dementia. It includes a drinking cup, inner lip plate, partitioned plate with lid, plus an adaptive grip fork and spoon. You can order it at the Rehabsupplyshoppe.com
Late/Severe Stage Gift Ideas
- Lap Robe or Fluffy Blanket
Seniors in the later stages of dementia are often confined to a wheelchair and it’s not uncommon for them to have an intolerance to cold temperatures. The gift of a wheelchair blanket, often called a “lap robe,” because it’s specially designed to work with the structure of a wheelchair, will be greatly appreciated. Here are two sites to check out for gift ideas:
- Adaptive Clothing
Dressing patients with dementia can be challenging, and keeping them from removing items of clothing can also become an issue. Adaptive clothing solves these concerns with designs such as open-back shirts, jumpsuits with back zippers, step-in styles, over-the-head styles, loose fitting sweatsuits, etc. These make great gifts for your loved one and can be quite helpful for the caregivers who work with them every day. Here’s a good site to check out for gift ideas: buckandbuck.com
- Aromatherapy Oils
The gift of your touch is invaluable and is especially soothing for a loved one with dementia. Plus, calming scented lotions and oils provide wonderful aromatherapy for both women and men; they also hydrate typically thirsty senior skin. In patients with dementia, essential oils, for instance, boost memory, ease agitation and improve overall mood. Peppermint oil is energizing, while rosemary is uplifting and stimulates the mind. Lavender is calming and eases anxiety.
- Art Kits
Art kits of all kinds like beading, simple paints and models, finger paints, non-toxic clay, etc., are a wonderful way for late-stage dementia patients to express themselves without rules. Often at this point, they can’t speak words, so art becomes a new way to communicate and feel a sense of purpose and even pride.
- The Gift of Your Time
The best gift of all requires no shopping and no wrapping. It’s you. Time spent visiting, sharing, talking, laughing, looking through family photos, or even watching old movies together is just what the doctor ordered. If you can take a walk outside together, even better. Nothing stimulates every sense more than just being together.
When Your Loved One Is Ready for Memory Care, We’re Here.
There will come a time when all the love and care you can give simply won’t be enough. Your loved one will benefit from – and require – what only a trained, professional caregiving team can provide. When that time comes (and it will be different for all), one of the best places to consider is the memory care community at Fellowship Village. Our innovative household model creates a secure and familiar homelike atmosphere, where every minute of every day, a nurturing team member is available to help your loved one.
Our care philosophy is person-centered from the way we shape our physical environment to our organizational structure to our celebration of interpersonal relationships between residents and the entire caregiving team. We invite you to visit our Memory Care page and then contact us to learn more.