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Gifts for Those with Early Alzheimer's or Dementia

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Updated November 20, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Perhaps you’re thinking about the upcoming holidays. Often, finding the right gift for a person with Alzheimer's or another dementia is a challenge. Well, look no further. Here’s a list of gift ideas to get you started.

  • Notebooks/Sticky Notes
    Often in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or other dementia, your loved one is working very hard to remember something, whether it’s an appointment, if they took their medications or who they called on the phone and why. For all of us, it can be helpful to write things down to help remember them. Perhaps your family member or friend would appreciate a few notebooks or packs of sticky notes to keep track of things.

  • Date Clock
    The Alzheimer’s Store offers clocks that display the date, time and day of the week. Knowing for sure what day and time it is can be very reassuring and helpful to your loved one. Since it’s always displayed in the same place on the clock, your loved one doesn’t have to guess or hope that the television station they have on happens to announce the date and time while they’re viewing.

  • Pill Box
    Concerned about ensuring proper medication dosing and timing? A pill box may be the way to go. A pill box is a relatively inexpensive way to keep track of which medications need to be taken at which times. The box has the days marked on it, and some will have a separate box for morning, afternoon, early evening and bedtime. The box is pre-filled by someone else (often a family member or a nurse) so that the individual knows that if the medication is gone for that time of day, he must have already taken it. The box does require the ability to accurately determine the time of day and day of the week. For some, this may not provide enough assistance.

  • Puzzle Book
    If your loved one enjoys doing puzzles or word searches, buy a book of them. Make sure they are at her level so she can still feel a sense of accomplishment at completing them.

  • Home-Cooked Meals
    Perhaps you could bring your neighbor a home-cooked meal periodically. Drop in for a chat and bring a bowl of soup or a casserole. The food and the company will be appreciated.

  • Meals on Wheels
    If your grandmother is struggling to stay in her own home but isn’t able to prepare food or doesn’t remember to eat at mealtimes, perhaps Meals on Wheels would be a great gift for her. You can order one or two meals per day, and the prices are quite reasonable compared to restaurant food. As an added benefit, they’ll deliver the food right to her door. Healthy food and having one more person checking in on her during the day can help keep her in her own home longer, which to many, is quite a gift.


  • Housekeeping
    Sometimes our loved ones struggle with maintaining their home. And yet they are determined to stay put. I can’t blame them, can you? One way to support them in their quest is to offer your own services or a professional cleaner’s services to assist them in caring for their home.

  • Cookies in the Mail
    Live far away? Bake a batch of cookies and mail them to your loved one. They’ll enjoy receiving a package, and it’s a great way to remind them that you love them. Add a chatty letter to your package. A word of caution: If he or she has diabetes or another disease that has certain dietary limitations, cookies would obviously not be a good choice. Instead, consider fresh fruit or crackers.

  • New Outfit
    Ladies, most of the time we feel better if we feel we look good, right? Well, just because someone is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia doesn’t mean that feeling changes. Purchase a new outfit that is a similar style to what your loved one usually wears. Your job here is to be encouraging and to give her joy by reminding her that she’s important to you.

  • Guided Fishing Trip
    Does your father love to fish? Find someone to take him on a local fishing trip. You may be fortunate enough to have friends who could do this. You can even hire a private charter captain. Either way, your dad will love the enjoyment of fishing, and you can give him the opportunity to fish without having to worry about the water around him or the possibility of disorientation. The fishing is a gift, as well as the feelings it may provide him of normalcy and accomplishment while doing it.

  • Write a Thank-You Letter
    This is a great gift for anyone. Writing a letter provides you the chance to say something you want to make sure is heard while your loved one can understand and appreciate it. For example, if it’s for your mom, take the time to write her a letter thanking her for who she is and what she’s meant to you. I’ve spoken with many family members who haven’t had the chance or didn’t make it a priority to do this, and then it became too late for their loved one to understand. So, take this opportunity. A few guidelines:
  • Don’t focus the letter on her Alzheimer’s disease; rather, make it about life and your relationship.
  • Be specific. List a couple of things you’re grateful for, activities that you remember or a special characteristic that you hope to display in your own life.
  • Be truthful. If your life wasn’t a fairy tale childhood, don’t fabricate things. Chances are, you may still be able to find something small to thank her for.
  • Tell her that you love her. In some families, "I love you" is a daily expression; in others, it’s a rarely, if ever, uttered phrase. Regardless of where you fit in, I encourage you to take the time to express your feelings while you can. That expression is a gift, for you and your loved one.

Sources:

Alzheimer’s Association. Holiday Gift Guide. Accessed November 08, 2011. http://www.alz.org/national/documents/topicsheet_holidays.pdf

The Alzheimer’s Store. Accessed November 08, 2011. http://alzstore.com/

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