Choosing a holiday gift for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be a frustrating challenge, and only becomes more so as the disease progresses into later stages. It can be difficult to find something that is both appropriate and enjoyable. The task becomes simpler if we draw on our knowledge of the disease for inspiration.
When selecting a gift, consider the unique individual’s needs and limitations, as well as what you want your gift to achieve. Gifts that evoke a strong long-term memory, respond to a shared experience, or occupy leisure time will all be meaningful to someone with Alzheimer’s even if they don’t fully appreciate the occasion. Be careful not to purchase gifts that might emphasize your loved one’s failing skills, resulting in frustration or distress.
People in Early Stage of Alzheimer’s by and large live active, normal lives, but may begin to notice small changes and interruptions in their memory skills. They are often aware that they have some memory problems, but retain good communication skills and strive to maintain their independence as much as possible. Good gifts for this stage are items that can assuage some of the short-term problems caused by initial memory loss.
- Day planner or wall calendar
- Photo albums or scrapbooks inscribed with names and dates
- White board for notes
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Tickets to a live performance event you can attend together
- Frozen homemade meals
By Mid-Stage, a person has usually developed some difficulty communicating and needs increasing assistance with every day activities. They may also experience a shorter attention span. Wandering is common to this stage. Ideal gifts for a loved one in Mid-Stage will promote the preservation of skills, encourage independence, and facilitate socialization.
- Comfortable, easy-to-wear clothing (elastic waist pants, Velcro shoes)
- CD’s of favorite music
- Short car trips to familiar places
- Picture books
- Box filled with a variety of objects in different sizes and textures for sensory stimulation
An individual’s communication skills, attention span, and mobility will all be significantly impaired by the time they reach Late Stage. They may no longer be able to recognize friends or family, or have an accurate sense of self, thinking themselves much younger than they are and living in the past. Gifts for a loved one in Late Stage should focus on sensory stimulation and require very little attention—in short, make the individual feel good with as little effort as possible.
- Pet visits
- Stuffed animals
- Colorful mobiles to hang in the window
- Floral arrangements
The disease will progress differently for each individual, so it is important to keep their unique needs and capabilities in mind when gift shopping. Even if they don’t recognize the occasion or the significance of the gift, they will appreciate the love included in the gesture.