5 Holiday Gift Ideas for Seniors Living with Dementia

One of the most fulfilling parts of the holiday season is finding just the right gift for your loved ones. But this can be difficult if you have a senior loved one who is living with dementia. Alicia Seaver, Vice President of Memory Care Operations of Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham, says that finding the right gift for someone with dementia is a balancing act between wants, needs and abilities.

“As with any gift you give, you want to assess where your loved one is in their dementia journey as well as their own personal preferences,” says Alicia. “Someone who’s in the early stages of dementia may appreciate gifts that help make routines a little easier or help them exercise and retain their abilities. For someone in later-stage dementia, comforting objects like fuzzy slippers or blankets may be more appropriate.”

The number of gifts you can purchase or create are seemingly endless, so we’ve broken down ideas into categories that either assist the individual, spark memories or opportunities to reminisce, exercise their mind or body, engage their interests or comfort the individual.

Adaptive Clothing

Manual dexterity is one of the abilities that individuals with dementia begin to lose in the early or mid stages of the disease. Items like zippers, buttons and ties can easily become impossible to manipulate. Gifting an item of clothing that’s both comfortable and easy to put on will help them maintain their independence and cause one less frustration. Clothing with elastic waistbands, velcro zippers or pull-on items can all make dressing a little easier. There are also a variety of options that are side-opening or open-back so that clothing doesn’t have to be pulled over heads or up legs.​
Comforting Items

Comforting items fall into two subcategories: items that are designed to comfort, and items that are comfortable. Everyone loves to be pampered and comforted, and individuals with dementia are no different. There are many products available designed to soothe children with ADHD and autism, and many of these items have been adapted to the benefit of those with dementia as well. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Weighted blankets are designed to put gentle pressure on a person’s body, which releases serotonin in the brain and creates a sense of calm and well-being. This can be a comfort to someone with dementia on days when they’re fearful, upset or simply need a little comfort.
  • Stuffed animals are a great alternative to real animals, and can often be a reminder of cherished pets from the past. Many people with dementia have a “stuffy” or other item that can be a therapeutic tool. If you’re looking to spend a little more money, there are high-tech items like the Sony Aibo (a robotic dog) or Joy for All cats and dogs, which act and react in very similar ways to their live counterparts.
  • Cozy clothing like plush bathrobes, slippers and fuzzy slippers help seniors keep warm and comfortable – and just plain feel good, too. Blankets and lap robes are perfect solutions for seniors in a wheelchair to remain toasty.

ADL Aides

ADL stands for “activities of daily life,” such as getting dressed, bathing or cooking (just to name a few). These gifts encompass items that help your senior adult function a little better, accomplish a task easier or help them remain healthier and safer. Just a few ideas:

  • Digital wall clock. Forgetting the time and date is a common issue for people with dementia. A large digital wall clock that displays the date can be placed in a prominent area and will help them orient themselves on the days that they need a little prompting.
  • Wall calendar. A reusable wall calendar is a great place to write down things like doctor’s appointments and other important tasks. A whiteboard with an attached marker and eraser can help them note the passing days and easily make additions or changes.
  • Automatic pill dispensers. Taking multiple medications at various times of the day is standard for individuals with dementia, but it’s easy for them to forget a dose or potentially double-dose. Automatic pill dispensers allow seniors or the caregiver to fill up for the week and set alarms for when pills are dispensed so the senior is reminded.
  • Security tools. This can encompass a wide variety of things, like a key bracelet that can house an extra house key along with your loved one’s name and information, an easy-open door handle to help those with deteriorating motor function, a medic alert bracelet or necklace … the list goes on and on. For more high-tech options, you can purchase a security system or a GPS tracker that beams to your phone to help keep your loved one from wandering.
  • Picture dial phone. This clever phone allows you to pre-program numbers into the system and assign a picture to each one so that your loved one knows who they’re calling.

Crafts & Puzzles

Boredom happens to all of us, and it’s very easy to occur in those with dementia. As their abilities shift and lessen, they may lose the ability to perform favorite tasks or hobbies, which can be frustrating and saddening. Participating in engaging and fulfilling activities help exercise our brains and can even help those with dementia retain the use of their remaining abilities for a time.

  • Crafts are always fun for anyone of any age. If your loved one enjoyed creating art when they were younger, a coloring book or a paint-by-numbers kit may be a good option. There are also simple knitting activities or other fun craft kits that can liven up a rainy day or be a fun option for the whole family.
  • Simple puzzles and games are great daily activities that help strengthen memory, give the individual a sense of control and provide opportunities for family to participate in a meaningful activity.

Memory-based Gifts

The idea of a memory-based gift may seem tricky, since dementia is characterized by the loss of memory. However, your loved one still has the capacity to remember meaningful moments and spark memories from their past. Here are some meaningful ways to help them strengthen their memory and connect with your loved one:

  • Photo books or digital photo frames are a great way to keep smiling faces of loved ones in front of your senior. Tangible photo books can be flipped through and discussed together, but digital photo frames can easily be switched out and loaded with a variety of pictures whenever and wherever.
  • Music is one of the best ways to connect with those who have dementia. In fact, because memory is processed in a different area of the brain that isn’t generally touched by the disease, individuals can even experience moments of clarity, sing along with the music or even perform abilities (like clapping) that they may have lost. A music-playing device like an iPod, loaded with all their favorite songs, can get them dancing, calm them down or improve their mood.

Exceptional Care. Fulfilling Lifestyle.

Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham provides assisted living and memory care that is comfortable, positive, safe and engaging. Exclusively dedicated to caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia or memory impairment, we’ve created a wellness-focused lifestyle that promotes dignity and individual preferences. Our memory care professionals receive specialized and ongoing training designed to help residents maximize their independence in a secure, calm environment – making a truly positive impact on the lives of our residents each and every day.

Dedicated Memory Care

No matter what level of care or service is needed, residents and families can rest assured that our programs address the various stages of memory decline, allowing residents the opportunity to age in place.

Personalized Services

At Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham, our services are designed to recognize and adapt to the unique challenges and individuality of each resident, while ensuring comfort and safety. We believe in a full-service approach to care and provide a high level of personalized attention for every resident through all stages of memory loss.

Contact us today to learn more.

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