Choosing Appropriate Gifts for Alzheimer’s Patients and Family Caregivers
‘Tis the season of giving, but finding an appropriate and enjoyable gift for the person in your life who has Alzheimer’s disease can leave you in a quandary. Gifting a caregiver isn’t quite as challenging, but it also takes some thought. Then again, that’s true regardless of life’s station — it’s the thought that counts.
A present, no matter how big or small, or how much it cost, is a demonstration of your thought process. Your loved one or friend receives a beautifully wrapped present, and before even opening and viewing the contents is touched, because it demonstrates that you were thinking of them. It’s a validation.
With all the hustle and bustle of your busy life, during a suspended moment in time, your thought process was dedicated to them. “It’s not the gift that counts, but the thought” isn’t something we apply only to presents deemed worthy of regifting. It is an appreciative nod to the giver’s consideration and thoughtfulness toward the person who is gifted.
Obviously, we all want to present the perfect gift, that “wow” present that floors a friend or family member. However, for those who have Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers, it is the thought that counts. They need to know that friends and family members continue to validate their existence beyond the disease and caregiving.
Gifts to ponder for people with Alzheimer’s disease
Think about the stage of the disease your friend or family member is currently experiencing. You wouldn’t give the same gift to a person in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease as you would to someone in an early stage. In early stage Alzheimer’s, the disease is less noticeable. The person is highly functional, though they’ve been diagnosed with dementia. This individual will enjoy the same type of gifts this Christmas as they did the previous year.
A friend with dementia might have cooled it on some activities they once loved. A once avid cook may find gourmet cooking a challenge, for instance. Avoid gifts that are reminders of what’s been lost. Rather than giving Julia Child’s cookbook, present them with a book or movie about the famous chef’s life.
Appropriate middle- to late-stage gifts
Once a loved one has progressed beyond early stage Alzheimer’s, give them presents that will be comforting or meaningful in everyday life. Tactile gifts for sensory perception are appropriate. A lovely warm shawl or blanket, a nubby bathrobe, or comfy pajamas are great choices.
Music has been proven to help people with dementia. Don’t rely on streaming services that require songs to be downloaded unless you’ll do that prior to gifting. The caregiver doesn’t have time to go through your list of downloadable songs and download them to a device. And someone in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s doesn’t have the ability.
Purchase a CD or an old-style vinyl and record player. Choose a genre of music from the person’s time period, which is more likely to deliver comfort and cause them to remember happy events from the past.
I wasn’t a fan of stuffed animals or baby dolls for my mother. It didn’t seem to befit her, and I wished to keep her in reality as much as possible. However, there’s certainly nothing wrong with gifting a doll or stuffed animal. But speak with the caregiver about it first. It may or may not be an appropriate gift for some people.
Steer away from practical gifts like medication dispensers, paper underwear, and toenail clippers. Instead of gifts that a person with Alzheimer’s disease needs, present the caregiver with a gift card to be used for those items. It’s less embarrassing or intimately invasive.
Gifts for caregivers
Remember caregivers with thoughtful gifts that don’t scream caregiving. Providing care is only part of who that person is. Who was your friend before caregiving? Did they love perfume, makeup, and mystery novels? Were they a sucker for a tear-jerker, or were they a clothes horse? Some of their opportunities have changed, given they’re more isolated, but they are the same person they were prior to caregiving. Gift to that person.
Practical gifts for caregivers
Gift cards to favorite haunts may not be practical gifts for caregivers who are unable to leave the house. Gift a couple of caregiving hours through an agency or provide the caregiver with a homemade coupon for “Grampa-sitting.” Encourage them to redeem the coupon and sit with Gramps while the caregiver goes shopping or to the movies, or even just takes a nap.
Give grocery delivery service or gift the family with a meal from your kitchen.
The gift itself is the time you’ve taken to remember a person who may feel forgotten. And that counts.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.