By James Mittelberger Chief Medical Officer, gerontologist at CEI, www.elders.org
Spending time with family is even more important as people age. The best thing you can give a senior is your time – time to sing together, play a game or simply share a meal.
If you are farther away, plan a video call with them or send them a special gift. If your loved one is dealing with dementia or mobility issues, here are some thoughtful ideas that may make their holiday extra special.
Gifts and ideas for seniors with memory loss
Different parts of our brain age differently, so gifting music and games that keep your loved one’s mind active and trigger sensory memories is always a win.
Find out what kind of music they have loved and play them or send them music from their early life. Sometimes people who have not spoken for months will start singing when they hear music they remember.
KeepingBusy card games: KeepingBusy has an array of different games at a very affordable price that improve cognitive ability in people with Alzheimer’s. You can find jigsaw puzzles, dominoes and a bingo game, all of them adapted for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s.
Relish memory activity: Sounds and smells trigger memories, for example, childhood, by bringing back the scent of fruitcake, the sounds of a home, etc. There are 60 different combinations of sounds and smells that should bring smiles to all those who participate.
Busyboard: Having something to do with their hands can keep seniors with dementia engaged. Think of a board with different types of locks, clothing that needs to be folded, silverware that needs to be sorted or any other simple task that you need done. Being productive feels good at any age
Relax mat: Sometimes, seniors with Alzheimer’s may become too overwhelmed with their environment and will need quiet. Finding the right way to help them relax and de-stress could be a perfect gift. They can touch different textures and feel light sensory experiences that will help them overcome the anxiety they are feeling. Or move with them to a quiet room and lower the lighting and play soft music. Slowing down will help them be able to take in information at a pace with which they are more comfortable.
Gifts and ideas for low-mobility seniors
Everyone needs assistance at some point and there are many gifts you can give to help an aging person gain strength, maintain mobility and remain as independent as possible.
Long-handle shoehorn: Putting on your socks and shoes can become more difficult as we age and this is a great tool.
Resistance bands: These are a great low-impact way to exercise without risks. Seniors can do this sitting down and the exercise does not require anything else other than the bands. There are many guided videos Online that you can do with your loved one or send them to follow. Here is one for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xSj2KOwHs8
Helper coupon: Give someone a coupon for you to help them clean the floors, organize their garage or clean out a closet. Your time is the best gift you can give.
Long-reach grabber tool: This will save someone from climbing on a chair to reach the top shelf. It will help them pick things up off the floor, like socks, clothes, or light objects like plastic bottles. For someone who is in pain or has a very hard time moving, this tool will feel like the best gift ever.
An Auto Cane: Many seniors still drive but are finding it more difficult to get out of the car. With this gift, exiting their vehicle will become much easier.
Center for Elders’ Independence runs is a provider of PACE in the San Francisco East Bay including Concord. We serve over a thousand elders, approximately half of them deal with memory loss. It is our honor to serve these seniors and to share our expertise and ideas with you.