Gift ideas & wisdom from an Alzheimer holiday veteran
This time of year can be particularly busy and stressful for most of us. However, it’s also the best time of year to sit back and remember the past year. I’m always a little nostalgic for Christmases gone by. When you are living with a person with Alzheimer’s disease, it can be particularly sad; traditions aren’t the same or aren’t there anymore. My mum, Jane, would make sure there were a few handmade ornaments on the tree every year. One year, she taught her 8 and 3 year olds how to make origami – let’s just say they didn’t look exactly like the turtle doves she had hoped for.
Although Christmas isn’t the same without her organization, such as “theme-ing”, ridiculously overdone family photo shoots, and ‘That’s What I Call Christmas’ CD on repeat, we still like to make it special. We still do presents on Christmas morning, making sure Jane has her favourite holiday music on, we use her recipes and watch the same movies we always have. We’ve become experts on making the holidays fun and enjoyable for Jane. We’ve picked up some tips and tricks for other caregivers or friends of those living with Alzheimer’s, and I’d like to share them.
Although the holidays may be busy for us all, the most important part of the season is spending time with loved ones. If you are visiting with or hosting a guest with AD, the best advice I can give you is to be to be kind, welcoming and patient. I know Jane lights up when she’s surrounded by the warmth of friends and family, and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.
Early Stage Alzheimer’s or Dementia
- Photobooks/ Photo Albums – Keep an eye out for group deals on websites like Groupon. Photobooks are always a great way to capture the last year in photos, and provide a fun activity for everyone to go through when they are opened.
- Memory Phone – These are fantastic and have just come on the market recently. These phones have pictures instead of number pads and can store 10 names (alternating versions available). They have loud rings as well as visual indicators and emergency call functionality.
Middle to Late Stage Alzheimer’s
- Comfy Clothes – Anything easy to put on, sweaters with zippers, comfy pants, warm socks. Caregivers begin to struggle with dressing in these stages, so anything that can make it a little easier and more comfortable is great.
- Scented Lotions & Bath Soaps – Making bathing enjoyable and calm is important. Anything that provides positive sensory stimulation for the person will be greatly received. If they loved the smell of lavender, make sure they have a nice scrub with that scent. Keep the person feeling special, peaceful and dignified.
Any Stage of Alzheimer’s
- Music – CD’s, iPods, Musical DVDs… anything that can play their favourite songs. There is such great information available about music and memory. Jane loves her iPod Shuffle with the Mamma Mia song track. Caregivers and persons with Alzheimer’s disease in Toronto may be eligible for the Alzheimer Society’s Music & Memory Project – more information here: http://www.alzheimertoronto.org/ipod.html
- Time – The best gift by far, is going to spend time with the person. If they are communicative, engage in conversation, take them to a movie, do whatever makes that person happy. If they are non-communicative, sit with them, listen to their music, tell them about your day, make them feel calm and loved.
Merry Christmas/Season’s Greeting/Happy Holidays (…and every other seasonally appropriate wish)!
Looking for more gift ideas? See our other post.
Carolyn Porier is one of the founders of Memory Ball, a Toronto fundraiser in support of the Alzheimer Society. Carolyn founded the event because her mother was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease. Her grandfather also had the disease. Learn more about Memory Ball.