Help Your Loved One Experience the Joy of Holiday Gift Giving

December 17, 2021

What types of gifts are best for someone you love who has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia? Here we share some ideas from our 50 years of experience at McLean in providing senior care that truly enriches life.

Holiday music and decorations brighten the short winter days. Many of us are planning festive gatherings—and searching for the perfect gifts to show the special people in our lives how much we appreciate them.

But when someone you love has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, gift giving can present new challenges. It may seem the gift options are limited if your family member or friend is not able to engage in many of the activities they used to enjoy, or if they reside in an assisted living community with limited space for personal items. Yet with a little thought and creativity, you can give a meaningful gift that will please you both.

Memory Care Volunteer Coordinator Ann Pavano says:

“It’s so important to focus on your loved one’s abilities currently; what they can do now, not what they used to do.  At McLean, we involve families to design our care very personally so we can meet individual preferences in every aspect of life.  When helping families with gifts for residents at McLean with memory loss we help choose gifts that provide familiar joys and individualized moments to enable loved ones to take part in the Holidays.” 

Here are some tips on sharing the joy of holiday gift giving with those who have memory loss.

The Gift Is in the Giving

Think of how good it feels to give a gift—the eager anticipation as it is unwrapped, and the pleasure the person shows. One of the best gifts you could give someone with memory loss is the opportunity for them to be the giver. This is actually a twofold gift: you’ll be including them in the traditions and generosity of the season, while also spending time with them.

First, suggest the special people in their lives they might like to do something for and the types of gifts that might make them happy. You could guide them to consider thoughtful gifts that you could make together or purchase for them to give. Then, depending on what your loved one is up for, you could even let them help with the shopping or wrapping.

Finally, help your loved one present their gifts. Introduce each gift by calling to mind who it is for and what spurred the idea for it: “This is what you picked out for Bill. You thought he would like it because he has to spend so much time outside and his hands get so cold.”

Other Gift Ideas

Of course, it’s also fun to open presents. There are many thoughtful gifts that would be enjoyable for someone in your life who has Alzheimer’s or another type of memory loss. Focus on things that will encourage fond memories or provide positive sensory stimulation. Here are a few ideas:

  • A box of family photos or old greeting cards can provide hours of reminiscing. Or put together a scrapbook, photo book or framed picture for their nightstand.
  • Get a seasonal wreath or decoration for their door. Be sure to check fire safety guidelines.
  • Banners are great to hang on doors and walls. People like to connect with their favorite sports team or a grandchild’s college team, and a banner may spur conversation.
  • Provide a CD or playlist with music from the genre and era they like. Music is relaxing, and words to well-known songs can often be recalled better than other memories.
  • Scents can trigger happy memories. Find out which perfume, cologne or aftershave lotion was their favorite. Choose a small bottle with an easy-open flip top. Sweet-smelling soaps and lotions also create a soothing environment.
  • Warm, cozy socks, slippers or a lap blanket are relaxing and a necessity for seniors who are on blood thinners or other medications that make them feel the cold more acutely. Choose colors and patterns they like and that will brighten up their room.
  • A small magnetic digital clock for a bathroom mirror can help orient them to time of day in a location where clocks aren’t commonly found.
  • For those who are parents or who worked with infants or young children, realistic baby dolls can connect with their nurturing instinct and provide a sense of calm.
  • To extend the fun of opening gifts, individually wrap a number of small presents and place them in a stocking or basket. Give practical items like lip balm, small packs of tissues, hand sanitizer or a new mask.

Whichever gift you choose, take time to enjoy the simple pleasures of the season with your loved one, such as watching a favorite holiday movie together or singing favorite songs. It will bring comfort and joy to you both.

For more caregiver tips and support, contact McLean online or at 860-658-3786. Our award-winning Memory Care Assisted Living includes a Life Enrichment focus that enhances life for residents and families alike.

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