What’s the right Christmas present or holiday gift for someone living with Alzheimer’s or dementia? Being Patient’s editors round up a list of expert-vetted suggestions.
There are plenty of gifts designed specifically for people living with dementia that can be helpful, calming or stress-relieving, whether they’re intended to spur memories, inspire social interaction, or provide comfort and anxiety relief. Here are some of Being Patient’s favorite gift ideas for people with dementia during the holiday season.
1. A ‘Fidget’ Apron
Do you often find your loved one with dementia fidgeting or wanting to do something with their hands? Activity aprons, fidget boxes, fidget cuffs and other similar “fidget” gifts are specially designed to provide tactile stimulation and hand-eye coordination for people living with Alzheimer’s.
The gift: The Special Needs Sensory Activity Apron.
2. A Reminder Day Clock
As dementia progresses, simple tasks — like getting dressed or remembering what day it is — could become more and more challenging. Reminder day clocks can help maintain routines, appointments and independence. A large, easy-to-read screen lists the day of the week, time of day, month and year, and can automatically dim at night.
3. Holiday Gift-Giving Participation
Gift-giving itself can be a way to engage a person living with dementia during the holidays. Instead of buying your loved one with dementia gifts, offer to get them involved in gift-giving if they’re still able to participate in tasks, says Niles Frantz of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Depending on his or her abilities and preferences, involve the person in gift giving,” Frantz said. “For example, someone who once enjoyed baking may enjoy helping to make cookies and pack them in tins or boxes. Or you may want to buy the gift so that the person can wrap it.”
4. Stuffed Animal Companions
Dogs have long been used to help guide, as well as provide companionship and comfort to people with mental health or physical conditions. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, research has shown that having a pet can improve mental health, and help alleviate anxiety and depression. But what if you or your loved one don’t want the hassle of taking care of a pet? Robotic dogs or companion stuffed animals designed to feel like real animals are here to help.
Robotic pets became especially popular during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, helping mitigate loneliness and isolation for people living with dementia.
The gift: The Joy For All Grey & White Tabby Companion Cat from LiveBetterWith. According to LiveBetterWith, the Joy For All Cat is meant to look, feel and sound like a real cat. It purrs, is covered in soft fur and contains sensors that respond to touch.
5. A Music Player or Digital Radio
Playing your loved one’s favorite tunes, or old songs from their era, can be a great way to help spur memories and socializing.
Research has shown that music can be therapeutic in a number of different ways — from improving mental health to helping people heal faster. For Alzheimer’s patients, music has been shown to reduce agitation and even boost mood and memories, marking it as a potential therapeutic tool.
Giving your loved one easy access to their favorite songs, or a playlist of music from the era in which they were young, can be a great holiday gift.
The gift: The Unforgettable Music Player & Digital Radio from LiveBetterWith. A simple interface allows you and your loved one to play music easily, and it comes with a timer that turns the music off after a certain period of time.
6. A Weighted Blanket
Another item that can help reduce some of the anxiety, agitation or stress that comes along with Alzheimer’s or dementia is a weighted blanket. The idea is that the added weight of a heavy blanket can provide comforting pressure that lessens anxiety.
According to the Alzheimer’s Store, “caregivers can use weight therapy to help the person feel comfortable and secure while sleeping, sitting or in periods of confusion or stress … Many have described the added weight of our blanket as the feeling of a hug. Being able to give your loved one a ‘hug,’ even if you aren’t there physically, will help relax and calm during housing transitions, medical checkups or before sleep.”
The gift: The Sensory Weighted Blanket for Anxiety from the Dementia at the Alzheimer’s Store.
7. A Little Caregiving Help
For caregivers and their family members, sometimes the best gift can be simply offering to help lighten the load or assist in caring for the person with dementia. “If friends or family members ask you what you’d like for a gift, you may want to suggest a gift certificate or something that will help make things easier,” Frantz says.
That could include house cleaning, as well as lawn, handyman or laundry services. Another option is volunteering to visit the person with dementia for an afternoon so the caregiver can have some time off.
8. A Life Story Book
As the memory of a person with Alzheimer’s falters, the best gift of all may simply be a way to help your loved one look back on, and remember, their lives.
Scientists say that people’s oldest and most cherished memories can bring joy to recall. Some memories become embedded in people’s brain, and reminiscing about good times in the past may tap into the brain’s power the store these old memories, leading to moments of warmth and pleasure.
LiveBetterWith has developed a simple “Life Story Book” that includes up to 50 memory prompt cards that help “spark vivid storytelling.” You and your loved one can fill in the blanks in each page — writing down when and where they were born, places they’ve traveled, and children they’ve raised — as well as add in photographs and other memorable items.
It’s like a scrapbook designed specially for dementia patients to help spur their memory, and can be a great gift to bring the family together.
The gift: Your Unforgettable Life Story Book from LiveBetterWith.