We've compiled a list of our favorite gift ideas for loved ones with Alzheimer's and dementia. In the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia it can be difficult to know what might be an appropriate gift. According to the Alzheimer's Association, as memory loss becomes more severe it is important to provide a feeling of comfort and safety.
Because at THW we serve this vulnerable population and many of our staff are touched by this disease in their own families, we often share ideas during the holiday season. Below is a list of our favorites this year:
Sensu Brush: A gift for a mother with Vascular Dementia who lost the ability to paint after a stroke, the Sensu Brush delivers an authentic painting experience on a tablet. The stylus “creates a spring and responsiveness that feels like real painting.” This product was originally released in 2012 and works with most touchscreen devices like iPad, iPhone, Microsoft Surface, Kindle Fire and Google Nexus.
Distraction Blanket: For a mother who suffers from Dementia with Lewy Bodies, “distraction blankets” work well to keep her from pulling out IV’s when she’s at the hospital. They have different things on them to keep her occupied, like velcro, yarn to tie and untie, etc. “She also has some fluffy gloves that my dad puts on her to help keep her from scratching herself when she gets agitated.”
Pigeon Frame: For relatives who live out of the country and cannot visit as often, digital photo frames become a link to family spread far and wide. An architect whose family hails from Columbia loaded up family pictures from family members here in the states and sent to her grandfather in Cali. The new "Pigeons" have the latest Wi-Fi technology that allows family photos and videos to be automatically synced with a Pigeon Picture Frame from anywhere in the world.
Amazon Echo/Ask Marvee: This is a hot gift this year. One of our Senior Interior Designers is going in on one with her siblings for their mom. Their mother will use it to recall music and keep up on current events happening in her native country of the Philippines. Melinda is also considering getting Ask Marvee, a new compatible add-on to the Echo, which is ideal for those aging in place or in an assisted living residence. Families can stay connected, send updates and even call one another. The inspiration for Ask Marvee was the Founder's 94 year-old mother who lost her vision due to macular degeneration. This program gives those hindered by limited vision, mobility and other aging challenges an easy way to communicate with family and caregivers just by using their voice.
Rainbow Scratch Paper: One of our project manager's father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a year ago. He is not the super-techy type but loves sodoku, puzzles and scratch-off lottery tickets. He just recently got into rainbow scratch paper and is very much enjoys it!
Personalized Calendar: Another staff member gives her father (he's the one in the middle) a personalized calendar with all of the important dates filled in for him. She has found that a calendar with pictures from her father’s past and present is a wonderful gift to give each new year. She puts special dates on it for him, and it helps him to remember the important things in his life, past and present, without making him feel dependent.
The Gift of Presence: One of our Senior Project Managers, received his Master’s Degree in counseling and as a part of this he did his Internship in Hospice working primarily with Dementia and the Elderly. Ever since then, he has continued working with Hospice on a volunteer basis. Kevin says that one of the greatest gifts one can give is the Gift of Presence. People may respond with subtle gestures and smiles to show that a human connection has been made. In counseling it is called silent presence. He also found that those in Hospice in moments of lucidity, where they understood their situation and were self-conscious about their condition, often pushed away family members. The sadness of the disease is that it often alienates people from the very ones from which they need comfort . So it is the gift of patience, understanding and unconditional love that was the best gift he could give. We can look closely at our loved ones and sense what we can give to comfort them.