(The translation is generated by Google Translate and it might contain inaccuracies.)

Get tips for gift giving with dementia for caregivers and those living with the disease.

A gift-giving guide for people living with dementia

At the holidays, we often get as much enjoyment out of finding the perfect gift for our loved ones as we do receiving gifts from those we love.

When our loved one is experiencing dementia, it can take more creativity to find that special gift that gives them joy. 

Hollie Glover, director of family education and support at James L. West Center for Dementia Care, offers gift-giving guidance for your loved one living with dementia and for caregivers.

Giving the gift of music

When thinking about a gift for a loved one with dementia, think about the things that give them joy at their current stage in the disease.

Everyone has a soundtrack for their life, most often developed between the ages of 10 and 25. Look back at what the popular music was during that time in your loved one’s life and look for CDs and audio files from that time frame.

“If they were a teenager in the ‘60s and ‘70s, get a compilation of music from those years,” Glover says. 

Find images of old album covers, particularly of albums your loved one may have owned at the time, and make a wall collage or a photo album of those images. 

Fill a collage photo frame with copies of pictures from their past. Create photo books with captions using photos of shared memories.

Giving gifts with a purpose

Throughout the stages of dementia, your loved one’s interests and abilities change. A gift with therapeutic value that connects to their past vocation or a hobby may spark joy and hours of purpose and meaning.

Take an old toolbox. Remove all the dangerous items and fill it with things to sort into containers, like nuts and bolts.

You can do the same thing with a sewing kit and fill it with buttons to sort by color or size into small plastic containers. Yarn and fabric also make good purposeful gifts that stimulate the senses.

Find games with giant pieces like over-sized cards or dominos, building bricks, Jenga or Connect Four. You can find many of these at dollar stores or online.

“Games with giant pieces are often easier for them because they are losing their fine motor skills,” Glover says.

Coffee table books are also a good option. They often have large photos and cover historical events or scenery from famous places. During the holidays, they are often easily found in book stores.

“Coffee table books are fantastic for people with dementia because they’re large, they have big pictures, there’s not a lot of words, and it’s something you can do together,” Glover says.

She encourages engaging in conversation with phrases like, “I was thinking about the time that we…” 

Glover says kits to build items like cars, airplanes, or bird houses or for making tie blankets, Christmas ornaments or other simple crafts can also be good gifts.

Gifts that calm and engage

Giving gifts that provide comfort, make life easier or help calm your loved one are also great options.

“If they are having a hard time filtering out background noise, you can get them noise canceling headphones for when they’re watching TV,” Glover says.

TV ears are another gift that may help make TV watching more enjoyable.

Sensory stimulation pads, pillows or blankets provide tactile stimulation for those living with dementia and help calm fidgeting. The pillows or blankets feature zippers, buttons, ties, and velcro that keep the hands busy opening and closing, buttoning and unbuttoning. 

Nostalgia picture sets or reminiscence cards also provide great opportunities for engagement. The cards typically have a photo of an old item, such as a vintage car, with some information about the item.

“Those are so much fun,” Glover says. “You can get some of the best conversations going with reminiscence cards.”

Weighted or heated blankets or throws can also make great gifts. They can create a cocoon effect and make the person feel safe. Caution should be taken with any heated blanket or throw. It should be the kind that will turn off after a period of time and that has a low heat setting.

Remember the caregiver, too

Christmas looks very different for the caregiver than it has in the past, and a thoughtful gift can bring joy.

Gift certificates are a great option and can be used at any time. If you give a salon, spa, massage, theatre or restaurant gift card, be sure to offer to stay with their loved one so they can go and enjoy without worry.

Ready made meals, food delivery services, or meal plans like Hello Fresh may also be good options to help take some of the stress out of everyday life.

Offer to engage with their loved one while they run errands or take the afternoon off. Or offer to buy their groceries, mow the lawn, clean the house, take their pet to the vet, or bring a Bible study to their home.

Sometimes just offering a listening ear is a welcome gift.

For more tips or links to helpful resources, check out the Holidays and Dementia training on demand.