What do you get for the person who has everything? At some point, nearly everyone buying Christmas gifts for seniors has asked this question. But the answer gets even more complicated when Alzheimer's, stroke, or another terminal illness is in the picture.
Good news: there are a number of meaningful, practical gift options for older adults whose abilities, personality, or understanding of the holiday season has been altered by a difficult diagnosis. Here's a shopping list to help you find Christmas presents for the seniors you love. And as an added bonus, most of these gifts can lead to quality time together!
Puzzles: Changes in vision or fine motor skills can make doing a puzzle more frustrating than enjoyable. "The MindStart puzzles work great for anyone who needs something simpler but is an adult, and does not want to use a child's puzzle," says geriatric occupational therapist and MindStart's founder, Monica Heltemes. "All MindStart products are designed to utilize the abilities the person with dementia still has, so they can remain active and engaged in life, despite their limitations." Set up a card table devoted to the puzzle(s) so you can work together when you visit them at home or in a senior living setting.
Books: Was your grandfather an avid reader before he was diagnosed with macular degeneration? Enter audiobooks. On the high-tech side, you can pre-load a Kindle, Nook, or any other tablet with some of his favorites, or even a newer novel you'd like to read together. Low-tech? A basic CD player with a stock of books on disc (which can be rented for free from your local library) works too.
Adult coloring books have become extremely popular among adults of all ages, and they carry many research-supported health benefits for caregivers and seniors alike. Gift a book of designs that would speak to your relative's interests—nautical scenes, flowers, animals, cityscapes. The possibilities are endless. And how much fun would it be to have a coloring/painting date with Grandma once a week?
Games: Jog their long-term memory with trivia, Sudoko, or crossword puzzle books and cards. Get everyone talking and laughing with a fun group game like Apples to Apples. Check out MindStart's offerings, which include classic favorites like Bingo and a version of Scrabble, "What's Your Word?", adapted for people with dementia.
Music: There is little in the world that can reach people wherever they are the way music can. Whatever their ability or level of comprehension, music speaks, restores, comforts, and connects. Check out the amazing work done by Music & Memory, an organization that brings music to people with Alzheimer's, and follow their lead by creating a special playlist to pre-load on an iPod, MP3 player, or other device.
Necessities: No need to shy away from the practical. Wouldn't you rather buy a Christmas gift that would be used daily instead of something that just takes up space? Mandy Chamberlain, occupational therapist at SeniorsFlourish, recommends colorful compression stockings available through most online retailers such as Amazon or WA. "Just because your loved one has to wear compression stockings, they don't have to be boring! But be sure to know how much compression they need prior to ordering," says Chamberlain.
Bath lifts are also a great option for those who miss the benefits of a long hot soak, or who cannot physically get in and out of the tub, says Chamberlain. "They are more cost-effective than purchasing a walk-in bathtub and can be safer than a non-handicapped accessible walk-in shower," she adds. Review her comparison of the top three lifts on the market.
Time: Never underestimate the gift of quality time. Many older adults would rather you come visit empty-handed than not come visit at all. And even when traditional conversation is impossible—due to Alzheimer's or a stroke, for example—don't worry about filling up the time with talking. Your presence is the best present.
This season and always, give the gift of staying in touch through tech! Find more Christmas presents for seniors among GreatCall's user-friendly options.
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