Gifts for Dementia PatientsGifts for Dementia Patients

While dementia-related diseases are generally considered to be progressive and irreversible, there are some activities that seem to help slow the process and, instead, help stimulate brain function, memories, range of motion, and even conversation. Consequently, gifts that engage your loved one more can not only benefit his or her cognitive function, but can also make your visits with them more enjoyable.

Here are four creative ideas for gifts for dementia patients:

1. Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles can be purchased in all sorts of themes and difficulty levels, making them ideal for customization based on the functioning level of your loved one. Puzzles are a great activity to do together, since everyone can participate and it helps fill the time, especially if the patient is non-verbal. You can even custom-create puzzles with family photos at your local Walgreens or from online photo services. Your loved one will feel a sense of accomplishment once the puzzle is complete, making it one of his or her favorite activities. If your loved one enjoys the traditional puzzles, you may want to branch out and try wooden tangram puzzles or binomial cubes.

2. Music

Recent studies show that music from a person’s 20-30s evokes the most memories when played, and can help ease anxiety and spark memories for dementia patients. Today, many people are creating playlists for family members and friends with dementia as a gift, then using visits for music-listening sessions. With a little research, you can discover the top songs from your loved one’s younger years. Consider pop music, dance songs, music they potentially played on instruments, and music from church services. At a visit, start out with just a few songs and watch carefully to see how they respond. These times can be a great opportunity to talk about memories that have been buried; you may be surprised at how familiar music can bring them out. You can even purchase a simplified music player to which you can download your playlist so that your loved one can listen to it at any time.

3. Daily Living Aids

If your loved one is still living at home or is in the early stages of dementia and wants to maintain as much independence as possible, certain tools can help him or her feel more confident and less anxious in every day activities. For example, there is a wide range of clocks that display the day of the week or offer sensory-stimulating light alarms. A gift of a phone with larger buttons and photos placed on the speed dial buttons can make communication less stressful as well. Another helpful innovation is a “talking tile” that allows you to record an audio message on a large button, with the option of adding a label (for example, “Don’t forget to…,“A Message for Mom,” or “For Help”)

4. Art

If your loved one enjoyed creating art, or perhaps you’d like to try introducing a new hobby, consider Aquapaint kits. These paint pages offer outlined drawings that dementia patients can “paint” simply using a paintbrush and water. Once the drawing becomes wet, the colors of the painting appear, giving the patient a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment. The colors eventually fade as the painting continues to dry, allowing your loved one to paint multiple times.

Remember that the number one gift for a loved one is your time; it’s free and means so much. Items like these can make your time together even more enjoyable and interactive.

Megan Hammons lives in the Central Texas countryside just outside of Austin, pursuing her love for copywriting after a career in high-tech marketing. She is part of a large, diverse family and enjoys spending time with the multiple generations living in her community.

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