The holiday season is upon us, and many of us are on the hunt for the perfect gifts for the special people in our lives. If someone on your list has dementia, it can be challenging to think of gifts that are appropriate given the person’s changing abilities. But no matter the stage of the disease, the right gift exists that can bring them joy and support their quality of life.
While you’re making your list and checking it twice, read on for some important tips and ideas to consider.
For those in the earlier stages of dementia, ideal gifts are ones that can stimulate the mind, encourage remembrance and promote socialization. These can help keep the person active and slow the progression of the disease. Assistive products for independent living can also be helpful.
For those in the middle to later stages of the disease, simple gifts that provide sensory stimulation are often the best choice. These kinds of gifts can help promote pleasant memories and feelings.
No matter the stage, keep in mind that just because the person has dementia doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy some of the same things they used to. Think about the person’s unique interests, likes and dislikes and try to personalize your gift as much as possible.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
Scrapbooks and photo albums
Photos are a great way for people with dementia to reminisce on pleasant memories. They’re also a fun, engaging activity that can spark conversations among everyone at your gathering and help include the person with dementia in the festivities.
Alternatively, consider giving a framed photo. Whether it depicts moments recent or bygone, something that the person can display in their home is something that can bring recurring joy.
People with dementia can struggle with dressing, so anything that can make it a little easier and more comfortable is a great idea. Look for items that are easy to put on, such as sweaters with zippers, comfy pants or warm socks.
Music and video
Music can be a powerful source of joy and comfort for people with dementia, and for those around them, at all stages of the disease. Look for a CD or music DVD from the person’s favourite artist or group. Or, for a truly personalized gift, create a playlist with the person’s favourite songs and load it onto an MP3 player.
Another great option is a DVD of the person’s favourite movie or TV show, or a set of classic movies. If the person is in the more advanced stages, consider nature or other soothing videos that are stimulating for the eyes and ears.
If they use a streaming service such as Apple Music, Netflix, Spotify or Google Play, consider getting them a gift card that can help pay for a subscription or digital purchases.
Books and magazines
Great options for the reader on your list can range from the latest book by their favourite author to a magazine about their favourite hobby.
If you find that the person previously loved reading but now struggles, consider getting an audiobook. Many popular books today now have an audiobook version, whether on tape, CD, MP3 or streaming online. More publishers are also beginning to acknowledge the need for books specially designed for people with dementia. These books have large print, thicker pages and emphasis on visuals.
If the person is in the more advanced stages, consider reading them their favourite book aloud instead.
Games and puzzles
Look for activities that stimulate the brain or promote social interaction such as games and puzzles. These can range from simple to more challenging based on the stage of the disease and the person’s abilities. Try games that use brightly coloured and identifiable cards and pieces, such as Uno or Checkers.
Scents and soaps
These items can help keep the person feeling special, peaceful and dignified. Anything that provides positive sensory stimulation for the person will be greatly received, regardless of the stage of the disease. If the person loved the smell of lavender, for example, look for a nice scrub, lotion, cologne or aftershave with that scent.
There are a variety of products that have been designed to help people with dementia perform certain tasks or continue to enjoy certain activities, such as clocks, calendars, phones, books, games, puzzles and more. These can be purchased from a specialty store or, if you’re feeling creative, you could DIY (do it yourself). For example, you might create a memory calendar for the upcoming year with family photos and important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries.
The best gift by far is simply spending time with the person. Take them out for lunch, go see a movie together, do whatever it is that makes that person happy.
Gift cards are sometimes seen as impersonal, but they can be a great opportunity for social time together. If the person is in the early or middle stages, take them out shopping so they can use their gift card, giving them both choice and a social activity.
If the person is in the more advanced stages of the disease, simply spend time with them. Listen to their favourite music, tell them about your day and make them feel relaxed and appreciated.