Finding the right gift ideas is a challenge, Finding gifts for caregivers who needs more assistance than stuff can really make your head explode. Well, I’m here to help. Today I get personal and offer up my list of gifts for caregivers and gifts for those living with Alzheimer’s. I’ve had a lot of practice so you benefit from my experience.
Gift Ideas for Caregivers
“Just for You, a daily self-care journal” guides the writer on a journey of self-discovery while intentionally exploring the seasons of life 365 days a year. Each daily prompt encourages the writer to uncover creative self-care solutions and rediscover personal visions and desires. Ultimately this is a creative tool to boost and inspire the recipient to live their best life by focusing on integrating health and happiness into each day. This journal blends daily writing prompts with monthly ‘fun’ activity pages. Use the blank lines to capture one or multiple years of daily responses. Personalize the journal pages by adding splashes of color and creativity. Whether received as personal gift or offered to someone who needs encouragement, this journal enables a fun and positive ripple effect in just minutes each day by allowing the writer to creatively focus on wellness for the mind, body and spirit.
Assembling simple yet tasty meals that a caregiver can throw in a slow cooker and forget is heaven sent. Once they’re nearly done with the gifted meals you could make a bi-monthly date to shop and do all the prep work with them. The socialization while tackling practical matters is a two-fold gift in itself. This site has some easy suggestions. How about 20 meals in 4 hours? If you need lots of ideas, this site2 has 72 of them with corresponding shopping lists.
Maybe you’re not a cook or perhaps you want to give them something even easier than a plop & go slow cooker meal. We all like restaurant meals but sometimes it’s not easy to go to one. Bring one to them with Uber Eats. UberEats has hundreds of restaurants to choose from. When they open the app, they can scroll through the feed for inspiration or search for a particular restaurant or cuisine. When they find something they like, tap to add it to their cart.
Subscription To A Meal Delivery Service
A meal subscription service is an ideal gift for the out of town sibling to give to the person doing the caring.. Now that it’s just the two of us my husband & I use Blue Apron We’ve discovered flavors and ingredients we never would have tried otherwise. We waste a lot less food too. There are dozens of these services. My friend likes Sun Basket for the healthier options. There’s also Hello Fresh and Home Chef just to name a few of the many services.
One of the most thoughtful gifts you can give a caregiver is time away. There are many home care agencies to choose from you just have to find one that will do short term care. Visiting Angels will provide care for as little as 4 hours. I can promise you those four hours will feel like forever. If you can’t afford a service maybe you can relieve them of chores for an afternoon. Go to their home and make a nice dinner while they relax with their loved one. Just make sure you give them the much needed time for themselves that they need.
Personal Care Services
Find a local nail salon and buy a gift card. This is a gift that works for the caregiver and their loved one. I take my Mom to a local nail salon for manicures and pedicures. I don’t mind doing manicures for her but I draw the line at dealing with old lady feet. Plus, I don’t want to take the risk of cutting her skin and causing an issue, Trained professionals are a blessing for pedicures. You could also do this for hair care, massages, car cleaning, Housekeeping or Yard care – and I’m sure you can come up with even more ideas!
Self Care Themed Subscription Boxes
If you listened to the episode about Senior Delight then you’re already familiar with this specialty gift service. In researching gifts for caregivers I came across a couple more. These can be for either the caregiver or the senior.
Loved1 delivers to seniors a gift box of thoughtfully curated products that focus on healthy living, quality of life, nutrition, and fun. Then, they send the subscriber (usually, adult children of those seniors) an email detailing the items in the box and an Engagement Guide to encourage great discussions and interactions.
Uplift is another gift service, Alexa, the founder can fill a sweet little box with meaningful things that will help you build rituals for self-care and hopefully introduce you to your best self.
Amazon Gift Card
Taking a person living with Alzheimer’s out to run errands can be a real challenge. Amazon has everything and you can even set up scheduled delivery of items they use all the time. This is much better than a midnight run praying your loved one stays asleep while you get that much needed items.
Gift Ideas for those with Memory Loss
Activity books like crossword puzzles or strategy games make nice gifts. Make sure that whatever type of puzzle you get it’s enough challenge to stimulate their brain.
A family photo album that highlights a specific family member on each page. This will allow you to help them reminisce about each person. Make sure their name is prominent so there is no struggle to remember who they are.
Classic movies or TV shows that they love and probably remember every word. Watching something very familiar can be relaxing and soothing after struggling to remember normal things all day. These could be on VHS, DVD or downloaded to a streaming device depending on their level of tech acceptance.
CDs or a specifically designed Mp3 player for the cognitively challenged with all their favorite music is a great idea. Music seems to reach deep into the brain and bring out memories long buried. People with a brain disease seem to respond the most when they hear familiar music. Sometimes they sing along when they haven’t spoken in a long time. Music can be powerful.
Large piece custom photo puzzle. Have a favorite photo or portrait turned into a puzzle. Twice the enjoyment. You can get those made at Walgreens or online at Shutterfly which has lots of options to choose from.
“Images of America” books. I’ve linked some of them from my Favorites Things page, there’s a lot of them to choose from. I’m partial to the one about San Fransisco of course!
Assorted every-day greeting cards and a personalized return address stamp. This thoughtful gift will make it easy for them to stay in touch with those that aren’t living nearby. You could pair it with a calendar of family and friend birthdays and other special days in their lives. Calendars that include a photo on an important date like a birthday is especially touching.
A large display clock that shows the day, date and time. These are quite popular with seniors and there are a lot of options.
An automatic prescription dispenser. This could be a good transition from handling their medications on their own and not being able to remember to take their medications properly. Maintaining their independence as long as possible is good for everyone.
Automatic night lights or better yet the switch plates that have built in night lights from Snap. They’re attractive and don’t take up a much needed plug! We have these all over our house and we love them. You can also get them with regular plugs with USB chargers. They’re super easy to install too which the caregiver will love!
Many of the early stage gifts may also work for those in the middle stages of a brain disease. Other ideas include really soft bathrobes or throws, Grandma & Grandpa Word Searches – there’s lots of options. Make sure to check out my Favorites Things page because I’ve added a lot of great stuff. Buying through our website will also help cover some of the costs or producing this podcast.
Unfortunately when your loved one is in the later stages of a brain disease gift giving is s very fleeting thing. The best thing you can do for them is to be with them and give them experiences that you’ll remember when they’re gone. Of course, those are pretty hard to put under a Christmas tree or exchange on Hanukkah or birthdays.
Some ideas for those of us dealing with this stage are pretty simple. Some loved ones may respond well to a realistic baby doll or stuffed animal. You might recall on the episode of The Committee Cory’s grandmother had a realistic baby doll that she mothered. This is not an uncommon behavior.
Comfortable and easy to put on clothing is always good. I have an upcoming episode on Smart Adaptive Clothing which you might want to check out now. Very stylish and practical everyday items we all need. The sleeves with velcro adjustments are great for us shorties who always have coat sleeves that are too long! It’s a good idea if you’re buying them clothing to buy things that are familiar or similar to what they’re already wearing otherwise they may think the items don’t belong to them. Trust me, I’ve been there already!
Items that area adapted for better everyday living are great too. Specially designed utensils so they can more easily feed themselves or plate guards that prevent the food from getting pushed off the back of the plate make mealtime more pleasant for all involved. If your loved one has trouble drinking from a standard glass they might benefit from a specially designed cup with a lower front that requires less tipping than a standard glass. If they prefer a straw, why not be environmentally friendly with some stainless steel or glass straws? They’re pretty cool and they won’t get stuck in a tortoises nose!
One of my favorite items are aloe infused socks. They’re warm and fuzzy and my heels don’t get all dry and cracked. You can also get aloe infused gloves so now most of the dry skin issues you’re dealing with can be easily solved. There’s even a product that I’ve ordered for myself – a back applicator for moisturizers or medications. I take really hot showers in the winter and have wanted a way to apply moisturizer on my back, who knew that researching gifts for the memory challenged would solve one of my own struggles!
I’ve put quite a few items on the Favorites Things page that have been recommended by many of my guests offline, families I meet in person and things that looked highly useful in helping make caregiving just a little bit easier. I’d appreciate it if you ordered through my website, it doesn’t cost you more and the commission we’ll get from Amazon will go a long way in helping me keep this podcast free to you.
Suggestions for Giving A Gift to Someone with Memory Loss
You probably wouldn’t think that how you go about gift giving could be as important as what you give but it can be. Keeping in mind that someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia has a brain disease that screws up the processing of normal interactions. Remembering this and acting accordingly will go a long way to preventing negative situations.
Gift giving doesn’t have to be relegated to a specific holiday. Everyone likes getting gifts and the attention received while opening the gift is a positive interaction with feel-good outcomes.
Setting the Stage for Positive Gifting
A family gathering can sometimes become busy and boisterous in a good way. However, this overt expression of joy can be misunderstood by an individual who has a brain disease. Jubilation becomes loud noises, glee becomes confusion. Confusion can be caused by the perceptual problems caused by the disease. This isn’t always the case but it’s helpful to keep in mind that our loved ones brain might be faulty when it comes to processing emotions. If your loved one is becoming irritated or nervous it might be time to slow things down a bit. Maybe have the kids read a story or sing songs that they remember. The celebration is all about being together and enjoying each other so modifications might become necessary to achieve this. Making your loved one the center of attention for a little while might help them enjoy the festivities.
Giving feedback about the gift even if you think they should know what the gift is, how to use it, or what to do with it will help them process what they’re seeing. A game might not be immediately recognized as a game and we know that certain games make terrific gifts. Attaching memories to the gift might also help them to appreciate what they’re receiving. For example, if Mom is confused over the jigsaw puzzle you could say “Mom, a puzzle, I remember when I was a kid and we spent hours doing puzzles together!” Don’t ask them if they remember, they may not.
Music is also a terrific gift. Music that they remember can relax them and can provide a path to reminiscence. “Oh, we used to dance to this song all the time, let’s dance now.” Powerful stuff in such a simple gesture.
Play the game, work the puzzle, dance to the music, and talk. Remember old times as much as possible because isn’t that the point of the gift? Keeping things simple and keeping focused on being together are important. By keeping your expectations low you set everyone up for a positive time and that’s a gift in itself.
Long distance caregiving is a situation that many adult children face. Finding a way to be an effective participant in a parents care when you’re miles away is not impossible. Phone calls, handling paperwork, taxes are all items that can be handled from just about anywhere. (Thanks internet!)
How else can we help our loved ones when we have busy & complicated lives far away? First, make a list of what help they need now and project what they’ll need in the future. Write down all the people that you and your loved one know. Who might be best to handle daily care? Who loves to run errands? Ask each person on the list what they feel comfortable doing and don’t ask for more than that.
The next challenge is to make your loved one understand that this long distance caring network is important for them to embrace. Utilizing a service like Lots of Helping Hands to organize who is doing what may allow them to feel secure that help is really there. Frame this network as a way to “give Uncle John something to do” or “help your neighbor Jenny feel less worried about you.” This also allows them to maintain some dignity. Make sure your loved one knows each persons boundaries. A caring network can quickly fall apart if people feel sucked in to doing more than they’re comfortable doing. Giving your loved one the option of accepting friends & family helpers or paying for care might be useful. Lastly, a combination of friends and family plus paid care might be the best option if their budget allows.
Other Long Distance Caregiving Options
Consider the possible benefits of an adult or assisted living community. In a community of 55+ year old residents your loved one may have more options for a caregiving network. Many 55+ communities have systems in place to make sure each resident is regularly accounted for. One near me has a central location for their mailboxes that is monitored by staff.
Assisted living is the most expensive option but might be a good alternative if there are few people that can help. It’s also an alternative to consider carefully if your loved ones care needs are quite great. Visit many assisted living communities, talk to your local senior ombudsman services to help find the right fit. They are the most knowledgeable about each community and what they have to offer. It’s important that the community work with your loved ones needs and personality.
There are even informal elderly care co-housing options that may work better financially for some. Being outgoing and social might be necessary to feel comfortable in this type of living situation.
Co-housing — defined as private homes clustered around shared space with a group of people committed to being a community — is an established phenomenon in Northern California. Co-housing specifically for those over the age of 55 is relatively new, but an excellent alternative to consider. Read ‘This is the future of aging’: Senior co-housing communities provide alternatives.
Whichever care plan you and your loved one choose can always change as their needs change. The most important step is to initiate making a plan.
Listen in to this weeks episode to learn about one dementia daughters journey as a long distance caregiver.
Links to Fading Memories Social Media
Sharing our journey is helpful to caregivers in many ways. Sharing helps me feel less alone and helps me care for Mom in better ways. Hearing other caregiver struggles and being able to help is also a big reason to share our journey. This episode is all about talking about the months just prior to my Dad’s death. Discussing his health issues and how they effected his memory may help others. I’m hoping that by sharing this part of my story it serves as a warning to others who may have similar struggles.
Dad struggled with many chronic health issues, most of which likely were made worse by his diabetes. By not controlling his blood sugar likely lead to his later cognitive problems. Warning all of us about this probability may have made things different. Not knowing of this risk, I question if Dad would have been more interested in taking care of his disease? Unfortunately, we’ll never know.
Starting this podcast was a way to share what I’ve learned over the years, watching Dad care for Mom and caring for my Mom now myself. Podcasting turned into a journey where I’ve learned even more. I’ve created bonds with other caregivers and helped a few as well.
Struggling to connect with my Mom has allowed me to connect with people and resources I was unaware of prior to this podcast. Talking to you and sharing this connections is a journey I am thrilled to have started. I hope that listening is having a positive impact on your caregiving journey.
Blood Sugar & Blood Pressure Links to Cognitive Issues
Researching topics for the podcast I’ve read lots of articles on the need to control our blood sugars and pressure. Learning about these important issues is allowing me to care for myself better as well. Having even somewhat elevated blood pressure causes damage to small vessels that help oxygenate our brains. Depriving our brains of oxygen is bad, we know this. The good news is, research has shown that medication to reduce blood pressure works to help protect you from an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Therefore, it’s important to monitor your blood pressure, keep it in check. Even better is to keep it in check as early as possible.
In addition to controlling blood pressure it’s also important to control our blood sugar. Controlling blood sugar is a challenge for me because I am a sugar lover. Regardless, I have made many dietary changes to achieve a steady blood sugar because I refuse to make it easy for my body to fail me.
It goes without saying that too much sugar (and fat) leads to inflammation in our bodies. This inflammation can then cause the same damage as high blood pressure. This is extremely simplified so I’ve linked a couple of articles I found helpful.
Links to Past Episodes On Nutrition & Lifestyle Choices
Links to Fading Memories Social Media
Join me in my conversation with Ann Campanella, author of the book Motherhood: Lost and Found. Ann’s’ book is an autobiography tracing her life after marriage, through several miscarriages, aging parents, and her mother’s decline with Alzheimer’s disease.
Ready to start a family, Ann was used to setting goals and accomplishing them. After being plunged into an emotional journey Ann finds herself with a challenge to tackle. Reading her book allows us to follow her on this journey; a journey that leads to a deeper understanding of her and what it means to love.
During our conversation Ann and I share our collective advice, our bond as dementia daughters and our shared journey. Hearing this conversation will certainly help any caregiver dealing with dementia. Both of us have found that conversations can have positive effects on those who are participating or listening. Ann is a firm believer that good conversations can change the world.
What better way to change a caregiver’s world than to share a good conversation with them? I hope you enjoy this episode and that it changes your world in some positive way. If you are raising children while caring for a parent you will love reading about Ann’s journey. You can also listen to the audiobook if you lack the time for meaningful reading.
Following the publication of her book Ann found the group AlzAuthors. AlzAuthors.comis a community of bestselling, award-winning authors who have never shaken hands or shared a cup of coffee. These authors come together because Alzheimer’s and dementia have impacted their lives. Together, all AlzAuthors strive to eliminate the stigma surrounding the most important disease of our generation, estimated to affect 47 million people worldwide.
The AlzAuthors collection of books includes memoirs, novels, nonfiction, children’s books, and blogs – and the poignant real-life stories behind these works. They hope to make your life a bit easier. AlzAuthors is an excellent resource put together by people who have walked in your shoes.
Fading Memories teamed up with the Psychology in Seattle podcast host Dr. Kirk Honda to discuss how to talk to children about Alzheimer’s. Talking with Dr. Honda, a professor and therapist was a lot of fun and informative. Dr. Kirk Honda teams up with Humberto (the layperson voice) to bring their 100,000+ podcast listeners an entertaining mix of seriousness and levity.
Talking to children about a seniors diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is tough. Grandma’s memory loss might be scary especially if they haven’t seen her for some time. How do we maintain the loving relationship when faced with the challenges that accompany Alzheimers?
That was my main desire in wanting to talk to an expert and finding one that is also a podcaster makes this episode even more enjoyable. During our conversation I learned that Kirk also had a Grandmother with dementia. Our conversation covered many areas that you might expect when talking to a professional and that was good. I’m confident you’ll get a lot out of this episode.
Talking to Children About Memory Loss
Understanding Alzheimer’s or other dementia’s is challenging enough for adults. For children, watching the disease progress can be scary and overwhelming. The best approach to helping children cope is not an educational one but a reminder that they’re still loved. Grandma is still the same person, but she has a disease that effects her memory. She still loves you even is she doesn’t remember your name. Remind children that it’s important to continue to be affectionate because that’s what Grandma needs the most.
Here are the top things children need to know:
- Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain. It’s not contagious. You won’t get it by hugging or kissing Grandma. It may be beneficial to point out relatives who do not have the disease because children may fear that their parent will end up like Grandma.
- Memory is a very complex process. Explaining memory like a recording on a DVR might help children visualize how the brain works. Alzheimer’s means that Grandma’s DVR doesn’t record all the show anymore. This may help them to understand why reminding them that they answered that question or that Grandma already said that won’t help.
- Things will get worse. In an age appropriate way, explain that this is a progressive disease and the brain will gradually lose it’s power to tell the body what to do. Preparing kids for behaviors they might see as the person gets sicker is kind for all involved.
- Nothing is your fault. Grandma didn’t get Alzheimer’s because you were naughty or got a bad grade. It may help to explain that there are a lot of grandkids whose grandparent has the same disease. There are almost 6 million people in the United States with this disease.
- Be respectful, kind and calm. While nobody can fix dementia, we’re not helpless is an important message. Your loved one will benefit from many activities like singing, looking at old photos, walks in the park. Kids will feel empowered if they’re given positive things to do. Kids learn how to treat the elderly from their parents so it’s important to stay calm, have some pre planned activities and to keep visits to just the right length. Too short or too long invites negative issues for everyone.