Christmas is less than two months away now, and many of us have already started buying gifts for loved ones. Coming up with Christmas gift ideas for someone living with dementia can seem a daunting prospect. It can be difficult to find something suitable that will bring pleasure without causing any upset or confusion.
It is important, when thinking about presents for people with dementia, to know what stage of dementia the person is experiencing. (LINK: The Seven Stages Of Dementia) Early on, they may well be able to cope with more complex presents, such as interactive games, craft kits or items that help in their daily lives. Later on, as the disease becomes more advanced, you may be better of looking for gifts that help people reminisce and that stimulate the senses.
Ten Christmas gift ideas…
Here, in no particular order, as ten ideas to help your loved one with dementia celebrate the festive season. If you are unsure what would be most suitable, ask the person’s care team or see if you can find out what the person would like to have direct from them, if they are able to talk to you about Christmas gifts.
Music often provokes strong emotions in us, taking us back to past times when the same tunes were playing. Look for CDs or downloads of favourite bands, musicals, orchestras or singers. You could giver a picture book about the performers or genre of music too, if you think the person with dementia would enjoy looking through it while the music is playing.
2. Movies and TV
In a similar way to music, Tv shows and movies can spark memories and offer reassuring familiarity in an increasingly confusing world. Look for DVDS box sets, or set up a Netflix account for your loved one with a written list of favourite programmes for a carer to set up for them to watch. TV shows and films give a common interest and a convenient point of discussion when visiting your loved one.
3. Photos and memories
We all love leafing through old photos and often, it is the memoires from further back that are the last ones to go for someone living with dementia. Put together a photo album of their life, or dig out old childhood photos for an easy, personalised way to spark memories and bring pleasure. You could create a memory box too and put in old theatre programmes, tickets, sports trophies, clothing, books – whatever you like to help the person recall happy times.
4. White boards and living aids
A white board is a really useful tool for someone with dementia. They can use it to remind them of a daily routine, visitor names, medication regimes and more. Think about other living aids that could help too, such as dressing assistance devices, bath aids, anti-slip mats or kitchen gadgets like tin openers or adapted cooking kit.
5. Medication and health aids
A pill dispenser can be incredibly useful for someone with dementia, as it can help them work out whether they have taken their medication for the day or not. Other ideas in this area include mobility aids, blood pressure monitors, thermometers and first aid kits. Maybe not quite such glamourous ideas, but they will be greatly appreciated and used for a long time to come.
6. Puzzles, crafts and games
Appropriate puzzles, board games and craft kits can be excellent presents for people with dementia as they offer multiple benefits. They can stimulate memories, help with engagement and offer sensory stimulation all at once. There can be hue satisfaction gained from completing a jigsaw puzzle, making a craft kit or winning a simple board game. They also offer a great way to spend Christmas afternoon if you don’t fancy watching the Queen’s Speech after lunch.
Clothing is always a good go-to Christmas gift for any age. Look for garments that are easy to get on and off with simple fastenings. Easy-care fabrics are also a good idea so they can be washed in a care home setting without causing any fuss. Think about the person’s favourite colours, patterns and fabrics to find them something that they will enjoy wearing day in, day out.
8. Fluffy bathrobe, blanket or twiddle muff
Cuddling up in a cosy, warm blanket, dressing gown or robe has to be one of life’s greatest pleasures in the colder months. Choosing something warm and fluffy for a person with dementia can help them feel cosy and protected, as well as offer another source of sensory stimulation. Many people with dementia enjoy fiddling with a twiddle muff, or piece of fabric with different sensory elements, such as loops, buttons, strings, zips and poppers.
9. Doll or cuddly toy
Another Christmas gift idea is to find a lifelike doll or cuddly toy for your loved one to cuddle and play with. Again, memories of playing with dolls in childhood, as well as caring for babies in early parenthood can be amongst the last to fade. If your loved one owned one or more animals in the past, a similar looking cuddly toy could bring back many memories of times spent cuddling and stroking their precious pet.
10. Location device or phone
Finally, investing in a smart phone or device that allows someone to be located is a good option to bring peace of mind to everyone involved in the person’s care. The complexity of the device will depend entirely upon the person’s stage of dementia and capacity to cope, but they may be able to manage a simple phone with a location device already downloaded onto it. Otherwise, having a location device on their person will help reduce stress and alarm, should they wander away.