When my mother was alive, every year as the holidays approached I found myself struggling to come up with gift ideas for her. She was living with Alzheimer’s, and I wanted to get something useful that she would enjoy. Not something that would end up in a drawer or closet never to be seen again. However, as her dementia progressed, the options dwindled, requiring more and more creativity.
The good news is that in recent years, there’s been an increase in items designed specifically with dementia-related needs in mind. In fact, a simple search on Amazon yields many great products; search for “Dementia Products” or “Dementia Gifts.” There are also online stores such as The Alzheimer’s Store and Best Alzheimer’s Products that specialize in these products.
When shopping, look for:
- Items that are stage appropriate. Don’t buy a 1,500-piece jigsaw puzzle for someone in the moderate-to-late stage. Instead, look for puzzles with 12 to 36 large pieces designed specifically for people living with dementia.
- Things related to old hobbies, interests, or even their career. For instance, someone who loves animals might enjoy a coffee table book filled with fun photographs of dogs or cats.
- Items and activities that promote sense of purpose, creative expression, and use of stage-appropriate cognitive abilities.
- Items that help your loved one maintain a sense of independence.
Choose one or two gifts that you think will be a hit. Too many packages may be overwhelming and could lead to agitation rather than enjoyment. It’s also a good idea to avoid opening gifts with a big crowd. Instead, set aside some special quiet time with your loved one and exchange presents with no more than two or three people at once.
Keep your expectations reasonable. If they aren’t interested in the gift, set it aside and try again later. The key to enjoying the holidays is flexibility. My biggest disappointments came when I painted a picture of the perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas in my mind. Things may not be quite the way they used to be, or even the way you wish they were, but try to focus on what you have rather than what has been lost. Treasure these moments, and remember that the best gifts you can give are time, love, and affection.
Below you will find some ideas listed to help jumpstart your shopping list.
Just for Fun
- Crossword puzzle and word search books (early stage)
- Mindstart easy word search puzzles (more advanced stage)
- Word Search Grab ‘n Go for Alzheimer’s & dementia (more advanced stage)
- Jigsaw puzzles (early stage)
- Puzzles designed for Alzheimer’s and dementia; Springbok, Mindstart puzzles (more advanced stage)
- Finishing Lyrics or Finishing Lines books
- Matthew Schneider’s Alzheimer’s/Dementia/Memory Loss Activity Books
- Game ideas: Quirkle, Bananagrams, tic tac toe, checkers, dominos
- Audio books
- DVDs of classic movies, television shows, or concerts from a specific era
- Homemade “coupon” for an outing or experience – lunch at favorite restaurant, movie, concert, sporting event, museum, spa service, or in-home DIY spa day
- MP3 player loaded with favorite music, CDs
- Individually packaged edible treats
- Coloring books
- Watercolor paints
- Modeling clay
Around the House
- Big button phone with photo speed dial buttons
- Digital clock with large display
- MedCenter talking alarm clock
- DayClox calendar clock
- Day of the week clock
- Amazon Echo
- Birdfeeder and bird identification book
- Big button universal remote control
Cozy & Comfortable
- Fluffy bathrobe
- Soft blanket or afghan
- Heated throw
- Warm socks
- Slippers with nonskid bottom
- Essential oil diffuser and lavender, lemon, or peppermint essential oil
- Memory book, scrapbook, or memory box
- Digital frame loaded with favorite photos
- Framed photos
- Coffee table picture books related to a favorite pastime or memory
- Conversation cards
- CDs or DVDs – Nature sounds
- Liquid motion bubbler
- Stress or sensory ball
- Twiddle Activity Muff
- My Comfort Companion therapy doll
- Believable Babies lifelike therapy dolls
- Memorable Pets, stuffed animals
- Sensory stimulation gel pad
- Tangle therapy
- Busy Board activity board
- Fidget aprons, pillows, blankets/lap pads
Ann Napoletan is Founder of Marilyn's Legacy, dedicated to increasing Alzheimer's awareness and raising funds to fight this disease and support caregivers. She is also the founding moderator of the UsAgainstAlzheimer's Caregiver Support Group.