Updated: Jan 14, 2020
Around the holiday season, I tend to get asked about gift ideas from loved ones of individuals coping with memory impairment. While people typically think of gifts such as enlarged clocks, special phones, or medication dispensers, I like to keep holiday gift giving fun! I plan on having a blog post in the future devoted to the above mentioned products and ways to approach introducing your loved one to them, but for now I would like to focus on tips for selecting that special holiday gift!
The first thing to consider when selecting a gift is what stage of the disease progression your loved one is in. Gift recommendations will be different based on whether your loved one is in the early, middle, or later stages of the disease. Below are a few of my favorite gifts based on stage.
1. Large personalized photo wall calendar
2. Favorite reading material - novels or magazine subscription
3. A nice pullover sweater
Who doesn't enjoy a personalized wall calendar with photos of the ones we love? I specifically like the calendar linked above because of its larger size, bold font, simple style, and the ability to put photos on special dates for important visual reminders. If your loved one enjoys reading, I always recommend sticking with books from their favorite authors or genres. I also like the idea of a magazine subscription for your loved one (personalized to their interest) to enjoy throughout the year. If you are struggling with ideas, the Reminisce Magazine is wonderful for bringing up memories from childhood and can also be a great conversation starter for visitors. Clothing that does not require buttoning, zipping, or snaps such as a cozy pullover sweater is also another great gift choice. When it comes to experiences, I find families to be hesitant. However, experiences can stimulate the senses and decrease social isolation for both the individual coping with memory impairment and their family/caregivers. Talk to caregivers prior to purchasing experiences for their thoughts whether they feel your loved one would enjoy going out. Experiences could include a concert, the symphony, going to see a movie, or going out to dinner at their favorite restaurant. Finally, I get a lot of questions regarding technology devices. I have had several past patients have success with the Amazon Echo for playing their favorite playlist, or getting information such as the weather or day. This success has come through frequent and consistent training and cues and support from caregivers. If your loved one does not have daily support with use from caregivers then I would not recommend it. However, I have had patients in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities enjoy them as the device can also be used throughout the disease progression with caregiver assistance.
4. Coloring books for adults
5. Re-usable watercolor painting sets
I absolutely love individualized photo books, specifically pictures from your loved ones' past (such as when they were young adults). When creating a personalized photo book I recommend sticking to one large photo per page. Minimal language is best, so if you want to describe a picture, use short phrases to caption. The simplified photo book (linked above) is one of my favorites for making books with family members’ pictures. A great layout is having a photo on one page and a label on the other page (such as, "Carson, grandson”). Pre-loaded digital photo frames are also another great gift choice for your loved one. Another great gift idea for individuals in the middle stage of the disease progression are coloring books for adults. There are several coloring books on the market geared towards adults but you want to consider design complexity. That is why I recommend the one above the most. Another item I love are the re-usable watercolor sheets. You don't have to worry about cleanup and the sheets can be enjoyed again and again!
1. A weighted blanket
2. Comfy slippers with non-slip soles
3. Favorite music pre-loaded on an electronic music player with over the ear headphones
4. A cozy shawl/ cardigan sweater
5. A sensory lap mat
Gifts for individuals in the later stage of the disease progression should focus more on sensory stimulation and providing comfort. One item that is known to reduce anxiety, while also providing comfort, are weighted blankets. I like the weighted blanket linked above as it comes in different sizes and has a soft removable cover. Additional comfort items include warm slippers with non-slip soles, a shawl or cardigan sweater which are all items that allow ease for caregiver assistance. My absolute favorite sensory stimulation gift recommendation is music. Music is beneficial across all stages of the disease, but I especially love it for individuals in the later stage. Music should be individualized with songs familiar from your loved ones past and can be pre-loaded on an electronic music player ready to go. If you are looking for headphones, I have found the ones that fit over the ears to work best. Sensory lap mats are another great gift for this stage of the disease progression. I prefer ordering the mats from Etsy as that way the mats can be both personalized and individualized for your loved one.
Do you have other gift ideas for individuals coping with Alzheimer's or dementia? The Memory Compass would love to hear them! If you have any additional questions feel free to contact us!
By: Jessie Hillock, M. A., CCC-SLP
Owner of The Memory Compass LLC
A mobile private practice in Zionsville, Indiana and surrounding communities providing in-home outpatient Memory Therapy and Family Coaching to individuals and families coping with Alzheimer's, dementia, and other memory impairments.