There are three keywords regarding gifts for people with dementia: familiarity, "old faithful" and success.
- Familiarity - For someone with Alzheimer's or other form of dementia, a gift that is already familiar to them requires little explanation and is always accompanied by long term memories. This alone is a formula for success.
- "Old Faithful" suggests that if it worked before, it will work again, i.e., if Mom liked the red sweater last year, then she'll probably like it again this year. The seemingly inappropriateness that you are repeating the gift may no longer apply (or find one that is slightly different).
- Success refers to the fact that with this disease, success is a rarely achieved feeling, so simple, easy-to-understand games and products bring success much closer - for both the gift recipient and the gift-giver.
If you can find a present that shares all three of these characteristics, you've hit the ball out of the park. Keep in mind also, that everyone is different and people may be in different stages of the disease. But there's one more ingredient, that only you are the expert in, that is - knowing your loved one and what works best for them.
Here are a few gift suggestions:
- Simple Puzzles - For the puzzle lover who may no longer be able to assemble the 1000 piece puzzle, consider a puzzle of fewer pieces, such as 12 or 24.
- Warm Clothing for Chilly Days and Nights - People in the later stages of dementia may no longer be able to communicate discomfort, though they may feel the cold just as much as you or me. Plus, older skin thins as we age and the insulating layers of fatty tissue beneath diminish. Look for light-weight, fashionable warm materials that are as pretty (or handsome) as they are functional.
- Hobby-related Gifts - For the man who always toyed with projects in the workshop then something as simple as a tool box is a sure and practical winner. For most, this gift is an item of pride, familiarity and function.
- Gifts That Solve a Problem - For many with dementia, the TV remote is as much an obstacle to watching TV as finding a good show to watch, despite the 300 channels we have to choose from. All the extra buttons - for video, DVD, etc. - are very confusing. But there are remotes that offer only a few buttons - for volume, on-ff and channel selection only.
- Calming Comfort - Though it may be hard for many of us to fathom, people with Alzheimer's regress, that is, as they lose their short- and mid-term memory (leaving only their long term memory). To us on the outside, they seem to move backwards in time. What is most familiar and comforting to them are now items that generated those feelings many years ago, perhaps even when they were children. As such, soft, tactile stuffed animals and dolls once again offer the warmth and comfort they did once before. They require no explanation, they do so much and they certainly generate smiles.