According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 15 million family members and friends are now serving as unpaid caregivers for the 5.4 million people who are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. This means that most of us know someone who is living with or caring for someone who has been touched by the disease. Chances are that this holiday season you’ll be considering gifts for some of these parents, grandparents, relatives or friends. The Alzheimer’s Association offers these ideas to add to your shopping list.
Gifts for family caregivers
The best gifts you can give someone who is caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s are those that relieve stress or provide a bit of respite for the caregiver.
- The gift of time: For a cost-effective and truly meaningful gift, create coupons for cleaning the house, preparing a meal, mowing the lawn or shoveling the driveway, or for providing respite time that allows the caregiver time off to focus on what they need.
- Gift certificates: Give gift certificates for restaurants and laundry/dry cleaning services, especially those that deliver; lawn care services; computer/technology support; housekeeping services; or personal pampering services, such as massages, facials and manicures/pedicures.
Gifts for people living with Alzheimer’s
In the early stages:
- Items to aid memory: Magnetic reminder notepads; Post-it notes; baskets or trays that can be labeled within cabinets or drawers; a pocket-sized diary or notebook; erasable white boards for important rooms in the house; a calendar featuring family photos and marked with special family occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries.
- Items that may help with daily activities: Memory phone that can store pictures with the names and contact information of family and friends; an automatic medication dispenser that can help the person living with Alzheimer’s remember to take their medicine; night lights that come on automatically when it gets dark; a clock with the date and time in large type.
- Entertainment: Give DVDs of the person’s favorite movies, or musical compilations of the person’s favorite tunes. Plan an outing to a movie, play, concert, sporting event or museum, or organize a holiday outing with the person’s friends and family. Arrange for activities such as scrapbooking or other craft projects that are social in nature.
Giving electronics may seem like a good idea to make life easier for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but that isn’t always the case. If you decide to give someone with the disease a new piece of electronic equipment, remember to review the operating instructions with them slowly and more than once. Make a copy of the instructions for the person and for yourself, so you can talk them through the process on the phone if needed.
In the middle to late stages
- Items that provide sensory stimulation: In the later stages of the disease, sensory stimulation may bring back pleasant memories, so gift ideas include scented lotions, a soft blanket or afghan to keep the person warm, or a fluffy bathrobe in the person’s favorite color.
- Clothes: Clothing should be comfortable, easy to remove and easily washable, which might include sweatsuits, knits, large-banded socks, shoes with Velcro ties, and wrinkle-free nightgowns, nightshirts and robes.
- Music: Research shows that music has a positive impact on individuals with Alzheimer’s, bringing back memories of good times, increasing stimulation, and providing an opportunity for interacting with family members.
- Framed photographs or a photo collage: Copy photos of family members and friends, insert the names of the people in the photo, and put in frames or a photo album.
Source: The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading global voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care and support, and the largest private, nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research. Visit the Alzheimer’s Association website (www.alz.org) to find resources and support for people with Alzheimer’s and family caregivers.