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Holiday Shopping For a Loved One With Dementia

For many of us, along with the holidays come gift lists. “What should I get for mom?” can be a challenging question for many adult children, especially if mom struggles with a dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

As you head off to the stores (or laptop) it’s important to consider the level of cognitive awareness mom or dad still has. For instance, someone experiencing mild impairment may still enjoy a book, a gift basket of tasty treats, a pretty scarf or even some cologne or after shave. Those experiencing greater impairment may appreciate gifts that appeal to their basic senses. So, a flowering plant, some recorded music, or soft throw blanket may be more appropriate. You will need to assess and make that determination and let other family members and friends know as well.

With that in mind, here are some gift ideas to get you started:

  • Photo albums: These can be the old fashioned bound albums or newer digital, backlit photo frames that can be adjusted to show an image for a period of time before moving to the next one.
  • Collection of music: Favorite oldies can be burned on a CD or loaded on another sound device for mom or dad to enjoy. Make sure that it is easy to operate.
  • Games: Popular card games for seniors such as “I Got It” or board games such as “The UnGame for Seniors” can be fun and relaxing and encourage interaction with family members.
  • Art balls: Designed with bright colors, they can be twisted into interesting shapes. They provide an eye-pleasing way to release restless energy.
  • Plants: A low maintenance plant, such as a philodendron or flowering succulent can freshen up a bedroom and provide a sense of purpose for your loved one as he or she cares for the plant.
  • Clothing and blankets: Consider items made out of soft materials, such as chenille and combed cotton. They are pleasing to the touch and will keep your loved one comfortable and help reduce anxiety.

If your mom or dad is in the mid to later stages of dementia, consider tucking in a small stuffed animal along with your other gifts. If presented properly it can bring great pleasure. After all, most of us will admit to still enjoying the touch and look of a stuffed animal. Those with mid to later stages of dementia often enjoy them, and they find the feel of the soft plush fabric pleasing and soothing to the touch.

Of course, while the above list is great for gift giving, there are many more practical aids you should also consider providing for your loved one to help them with daily activities such as grooming, taking medications and overall comfort.

While you are in the holiday spirit, don’t forget to give yourself the gift of time. Make it a point to schedule a week or two of short term “respite” care for mom or dad. It will give them a nice change of pace and allow you to take some time to recharge and tend to your personal health and relationships!