FYI Daily

Gift Ideas for Someone With Alzheimer's

Last updated: Dec 15, 2011

Presents :-)

As if shopping for picky teenagers and relatives who have everything weren't hard enough, many gift lists include someone who has Alzheimer's or another dementia. What do you give him or her that's useful or meaningful?

Mark Warner, the gerontologist behind Alzheimer's Daily News, offers some suggestions. The key, he says, is to offer gifts that match the new goals of someone who has a disease that hinders information processing, recalling, and performing logical tasks.

"We cannot outsmart the 'defective' minds of our loved ones, nor can we easily relate to them. But we can span the chasm of cognitive decline through love, caring, devotion, and, most of all, our own knowledge of what makes them happy," he says.

Focus on these 6 key words and phrases as you shop, Warner suggests:

  • Success. Help fuel a sense of mastery when so much is so difficult by giving items like simple puzzles, which are fun to do with others and satisfying to have completed.

  • Achievement. Those who have always liked word-scramble or crossword books may feel defeated by being unable to complete them any more. But there are editions designed for the cognitively challenged that offer prompts and put a favorite accomplishment back in reach.

  • Familiarity. Look for things that encourage repetition or that spark the longstanding memories, which are usually held longest -- such as a stuffed animal for a former pet lover or a baby doll for a mother.

  • Life experience. Again, mine the past for old favorites: A football jersey of his favorite team? A simple cookbook with pretty pictures for a onetime chef?

  • Comfort. Think warm shawls and lap robes.

  • Sharing. Music or videos of babies or puppies can be enjoyed by a group. And visits and hand-in-hand walks can't be bought in stores, he says, yet are priceless.

(Fyi, Warner sells items for people with dementia at his alzstore.com -- so he has a vested interest in making these recommendations. But that doesn't make them any less valuable; and indeed, not all these suggestions are even found in stores!)

Want more ideas? Check the Caring.com holiday gift guide for older adults.