Since for many this is a big shopping weekend I would like to share some ideas for those on your list who may be one of the 5.1 million Americans suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Those in the early stages of the disease can still lead active lives and are often involved community members. Memory loss is subtle so look for items to help jog it. Make up a basket of colorful post-it notes (my favorite organizing tool) to create quick visual prompts throughout the house and car. Consider a diary or notebook with a beautiful cover and a set of pens to provide a place to write things down so they are safe on the page and not lost in a muddled mind.
Another helpful gift is a combination dry erase/bulletin board. I have one at my desk that I find invaluable to help me remember the tasks I have to accomplish for the week. Calendars that can be customized with family photos and pre-printed with important occasions such as anniversaries and birthdays are much appreciated. Amplified phones with programmable photo memory buttons are great not only for people with memory issues but also for those with hearing and visual deficits. The user needs to merely press the picture of the person they need to contact without having to remember the phone number.
There is a wide variety of pill dispensers on the market today. Automated pill dispensing systems can literally be a life saver for a patient and offers peace of mind for the caregiver. The dispenser needs to be pre-loaded and then will audibly remind the patient when it is time to take their pills. If the button is not pressed to dispense the pills, the machine can call and alert family members that the dose was missed. Automatic night lights that light up in the dark and large wall clocks that display day and date are also great ideas.
People in the middle to later stages of the disease will benefit from items that provide sensory stimulation. A fuzzy blanket, perfumed lotions or scented candles that can stimulate memories (cinnamon-pine-candy apple) are some options. Clothing that is easily put on and off such as elastic waist pants, sweat suits, and shoes with Velcro fasteners will be appreciated by both the patient and caregiver. A thirsty terry cloth robe helps immeasurably after bath time. Just put it on and it absorbs most of the water.
Music has proven to be a great source of stimulation so consider a CD of their favorites. A large frame with photos of family, favorite pets and vacations is good for stimulating conversation and jogging memory. Label the names of those in the photos to alleviate the stress of your loved one having to remember.
Get organized and map out your shopping plan ahead of time, rather than wandering the stores. I know this can be an exhausting and stressful time for caregivers. Here are some gift ideas for them:
•One of the best gifts is that of time. Offer to give then caregiver respite and step in for a bit to take over the caregiving duties. You could combine that with a gift certificate for some pampering such as a spa day, manicure or pedicure, facial or massage.
•Practical ideas such as offering to make meals, clean the house, mow the lawn or shovel snow will be much appreciated by the caregiver who often barely has time to get the essentials done during the day.
By Lynda Shrager
Published Dec 16, 2013