Home > Activities, Caregivers > Christmas Gift Ideas for Persons With Dementia

Christmas Gift Ideas for Persons With Dementia


Yesterday, I presented several ideas for including persons with dementia in the holiday celebrations.  Today, I wanted to spend a little time thinking about unique ideas for gift-giving, not only for those who are afflicted with dementia but also for those wonderful souls who have devoted their lives to caregiving.

The giving of gifts can, in itself, provide a wonderful form of reality orientation for the person with dementia.  This is true, not only for Christmas, but also for birthdays and any other holiday.  The presence of wrapped gifts is a visual reminder that the day is a special one, and I have seen very few people who don’t smile brightly when given a gaily wrapped package just for them.  The occasion can be used as a reminder of past holidays, favorite gifts from childhood, memories of anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, and so on.  Or, it could be a reminder to the individual that he is a father, and has children who care about him.

When selecting gifts for a person who has dementia, there are a couple of things that would be helpful to remember.  Especially in the earlier stages of the disease, try selecting a gift that will make life easier for your loved one, and will help her maintain a degree of independence.  It could be a watch with an alarm to help her remember to take her medicine.  Or how about a tool that will make it easier to put her shoes and socks on?  One of those handy organizer books could also come in handy, with sections to write down appointments and phone numbers, as well as other important information.

Another good idea is to give the person something that is fun and engaging, that will provide sensory and/or cognitive stimulation.  In the earlier stages of the disease, gifts can be similar to what you might have given her before she began to develop symptoms — jigsaw puzzles, craft items, books of short stories, etc.  You should take her interests into consideration.  As the dementia progresses, gifts should still take her interests into consideration but should be less challenging to her, so that she doesn’t become discouraged.  They should allow her to exercise both her brain and her body.  Remember, too, that her attention span will most likely be shorter than it was previously.

Sometimes, the best gift you could give a person with dementia is the gift of yourself.  Even if you are busy with your own family and hectic holiday schedule, try to plan a couple of hours when you can visit.  She will always appreciate your company, even if she may not be able to tell you so.  Go for a walk, sing some familiar songs, look at albums of family photos, or take a well-behaved pet along for additional stimulation.  If you can’t be there in person, a phone call near Christmas will almost always be appreciated.

Early Stages of Dementia —

—  DVDs of classic movies and TV shows

—  Books with crossword puzzles, math games, strategy games

—  Membership to a health club/services of a professional trainer

—  Books that provide information about the disease

—  Music CDs, especially those that stimulate reminiscing

—  Reading material according to her personal interests

Middle Stages of Dementia —

—  Telephone with photos of often-called people instead of numbers

—  Activities to inspire reminiscing

—  Activity books at her level of functioning

—  Manipulative devices that encourage use of the hands and arms

—  Simple games and puzzles

—  Anything that stimulates the senses

—  Toiletries or other items that will pamper her

Latter Stages of Dementia —

—  Videos involving nature or other subjects that will stimulate the visual and auditory senses

—  Dolls or stuffed animals, especially realistic ones

—  Weighted lap pad or apron

— Special clothing that makes dressing easier

And don’t forget caregivers when it comes to gift-giving.  Caring for someone who has any kind of a disability can be exceptionally rewarding, but the caregiver can also easily become emotionally or physically stressed.  Be sure to give them something to let them know that what they are doing is appreciated, and that will make life easier for them.

A couple of things that would be appreciated by almost any caregiver are help, and a break from her routine.  If you’re not able to be there to take over in person, even for an hour or so, there are things you can do indirectly.  Arrange for the person with dementia to spend a few hours at an adult day-care center, or pay for a home health aide to come into the home.  Or, consider something that would lighten up the caregiver’s work load in other ways.  Hire someone to come in and clean house or bring in a meal.  Or arrange for the caregiver to have a day at the spa, or even just some time off to go to a movie.  Many cities have services that will pick up and do laundry, or deliver groceries.

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