Holiday Gift Ideas for a Loved One with Dementia
What’s a good holiday gift to give to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia? That’s a popular question this time of year, and one often asked by family members of our residents here at The Nathaniel Witherell.
Allen Brown, Witherell’s executive director, suggests giving “a gift that matches the person’s lifelong or current interests.” He explains, “It’s important to factor in the stage of dementia that the person is in to make sure the gift can be safely enjoyed and matches his/her ability level.”
Below are some suggested gifts for those in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia:
Gifts that center on reminiscence can bring great joy to those living with dementia. For example, if your family member grew up in the ‘40s, you could burn a CD or create an iPod playlist of his/her favorite songs or artists from that era.
“Music or songs associated with personal events in your loved one’s life can trigger remembrance of lyrics and the experience associated with the music,” says Brown. “In addition, music has been shown to calm chaotic brain activity, enabling the listener to focus on the present and regain a connection to others.”
Also consider framed photographs or a photo collage. You can copy photos of family members and friends, insert the names of people featured, and put in frames or a photo album created specifically for your loved one. There are also digital photo frames, which you can preload with treasured family photos and easily update with pictures taken at upcoming events and celebrations.
Sensory stimulation gifts
Stimulating the five senses may bring back pleasant memories for your loved one. Thoughtful gifts to consider include: scented lotions, a fluffy bathrobe in a favorite color, or a plant with bright, colorful blooms. “Gifts that engage the senses can provide those with Alzheimer’s and dementia positive emotions that they may no longer experience regularly and help them reconnect with the outside world,” says Brown.
Warm blankets and comfortable clothing
Comfortable, easy to remove, and easily washable clothes are another great gift idea. According to Sally Van Leeuwen, Witherell’s Volunteer Coordinator, every holiday season Witherell staff gather gift requests from residents to pass on to two local churches, St. Michael’s Church and Sacred Heart Church, both in Greenwich. “Topping the wish list are sweaters, sweatpants, nightgowns, nightshirts, and robes. Fleece blankets and bed comforters are also very popular,” she says.
The gift of your time
While gifts are wonderful to receive, spending time with someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia may be the best gift of all. Going for a stroll in a favorite park, playing a simple game, listening to music, or looking through photo albums are all delightful ways to spend time together. And, of course, a bug hug is always appreciated!
The entire team at The Nathaniel Witherell extends our warmest wishes for enjoying time with your loved ones this holiday season!