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Thoughtful Gifts for Persons with Dementia

As the holidays approach, you may be wondering what kind of gift to give to a friend or relative who is living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.

Gifts that produce feelings of calmness and contentment go a long way toward reducing the fidgeting, irritability, anxiety and even anger that some people with dementia may experience.

Choose gifts based on the individual’s interests as well as where they are in terms of early, mid-stage or late dementia.

  • Stuffed Animals: A stuffed animal that reminds them of a favorite pet can rekindle memories. It gives the person something to cuddle and nurture and provides an opportunity to give hugs.
  • Dolls: Similarly, lifelike baby dolls can soothe and calm and provide a focus for your loved one’s attention. Dolls can also provide the opportunity for nurturing and caring for others, providing a sense of meaning and purpose.
  • Weighted Blankets: Weighted bed and lap blankets have been shown to reduce agitation and help some people sleep better.
  • Chunky Knit Blankets: A knitted blanket could be the perfect gift for someone who spends time reading or watching television and would appreciate curling up under a warm blanket.
  • Fidget Toys: Fidget toys come in a variety of types and help relieve boredom by providing tactile and visual stimulation. Dementia busy boards can be placed on a table or a person’s lap and include sliding tiles and doors that open and close. Fidget blankets are made of squares of fabric with movable pieces like zippers and Velcro strips. Handyman boxes include hooks, latches and hinges to play with.
  • Therapy Dough or Kinetic Sand: A gown-up version of play-dough, Therapy Dough or Kinetic Sand can be squished, squeezed and shaped, and comes infused with essential oils that promote relaxation and calmness. Most are also non-toxic.
  • Comfortable PJs: Select a cozy nightgown or pajamas in your loved one’s favorite color and pattern knowing that it will keep them warm and comfy. Some nightwear comes with Velcro fastenings rather than buttons making items like PJ tops easier to navigate.
  • Photo Albums: Choose photos of family members, pets, places they’ve lived, favorite restaurants and vacation spots. The photos help to rekindle memories and provide the giver and recipient with opportunities to reminisce. Try not to worry if your loved one mis-identifies the people in the photos; the idea is to engage and promote thoughts and conversation.
  • Chocolate or other favorite candy: Small boxes that provide opportunities for the person to choose their favorite can help to promote independence. Often the small confections are just the right size to satisfy the appetite.
  • Spending Time: Spending time with a person with dementia is no-cost gift that will enrich their as well as your own. Ask them to help put up holiday decorations, bake cookies or traditional favorites with you, open Christmas cards, or take a drive to look at holiday lights.

The holiday season offers many opportunities to show your loved one how much you appreciate them. Choosing a gift that is simple, useful and engaging and compatible with their interests and capabilities is sure to delight them.

Resource: A quick Internet search for gifts for individuals with dementia will turn up an endless array of items suitable for special occasions throughout the year.

Mary Bates, MS, CT, is a Certified Dementia Practitioner. She is the Assisted Living and Memory Care Director of Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite care.

Through this column, Mary will share the experience, knowledge, and resources she and her team rely on, anticipating that it will be useful for anyone living with, caring for, or coming into contact with a person with dementia. Send your questions to Understanding Dementia at Summit, 56 Summit Drive, Whitefield, NH 03598 or email Mary will share information and answer as many questions as possible through this column.

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