Alzheimer’s and the Holidays, Part 4 – Gifting

A huge part of the holiday season is giving gifts.  Whether you like to give or receive, or both, it is an integral part of most celebrations regardless of beliefs.  Many of us struggle each year to find the “perfect” gifts for those in our lives.  If you have a loved one with dementia, then that perfect gift might be one that you never considered.  The same goes for the caregivers.  Undoubtedly, their needs have changed since caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Probably the most important thing to remember when shopping for someone with Alzheimer’s is to choose something for the person they are now.  For example, if they used to build models, your first thought might be to get them a model kit.  However, depending on what stage of the disease they are in, they might not have the dexterity or hand control to physically put a model together.  They may not even be able to understand the instructions or diagrams which can lead to frustration and anxiety.  A good rule to follow is to speak with the person’s caregiver to best determine the type of gift that would be suitable.

Alzheimer’ offers some gift ideas for the three general stages of dementia:

Early Stage Gifts:

  • Activity books, like crossword puzzles or strategy games.
  • Classic movies and television shows than can stimulate your loved one.
  • Music and CD’s that allow your loved one to reminisce.
  • A memorable photo calendar or album that features special family occasions and family photos.
  • A memory phone that can store photos with the names and contact information of your loved one’s family and friends.

Middle Stage Gifts:

  • Erasable white boards that highlight key rooms or areas in your loved one’s home.
  • A large typed clock that highlights both the date and time.
  • Automatic nightlights that will light for your loved one as soon as it gets dark.
  • An automatic medication dispenser.
  • Simple craft activities that inspire reminiscing.

Late Stage Gifts:

  • Sensory stimulating gifts that can include:
  • A fluffy bathrobe or a soft blanket in a favorite color.
  • Comfortable clothes like sweat suits and shoes with Velcro ties that can make dressing and undressing easier on a loved one.
  • A doll or stuffed animal.
  • Music and CD’s that feature songs from your loved one’s childhood or teenage years.
  • A location device that can track your loved one, if they become disoriented and wander.

Not to be forgotten are the caregivers.  Care giving is one of the most stressful and exhausting roles that a person can have.  It is usually a 24/7 job that doesn’t allow for the caregiver to take care of themselves or their needs.  Giving your time would probably be the most welcomed of gifts, either assisting in errands or actually providing care for the person with Alzheimer’s.

Some thoughtful ideas:

  • House Cleaning This can be done by an individual, a group of friends/family or even a professional service would be appreciated.
  • Prepared Meals  As with the cleaning, this can be done by family and friends or arranged through a professional food service company.
  • Go Shopping  Helping with the daily and weekly grocery shopping would free up much time for the caregiver.
  • Personal Day(s) Arranging a day where the caregiver would be pampered is always a special treat.  If they aren’t into spas, organize a day where they can relax and do what makes them comfortable.

Finding that “prefect” gift for those with dementia and their caregivers can be accomplished with some thoughtful and creative thinking.  Giving your time will always be appreciated; this holds true for most older adults.  Visits and phone calls are always appreciated and welcome.

Natalie Pic

Meet the Author


Natalie has compiled over eighteen years experience providing outstanding care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In addition to being a certified Alzheimer’s and dementia care trainer, McFarland is a licensed continued education instructor for nurses and social workers through the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations. She has also developed several Alzheimer’s research partnerships. Included in those projects were Dr. Virginia Cruz, Ph.D., RN, Associate Professor of SIUE and Dr. George Grossberg, M.D., Medical Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Saint Louis University. Natalie is a graduate of Southern Illinois University.