Ambiance Care’s dementia-friendly gift guide
With Christmas now just over the horizon, many of us will be thinking about shopping for presents for our loved ones – including friends and relatives with dementia. There are other times we might shop for gifts for someone with dementia, too, like birthdays or during celebrations such as Eid or Diwali.
Gift-giving is part of our universal culture and we wouldn’t want anyone to go without, but it’s perhaps not always as straightforward to buy gifts for someone with dementia as for others. Depending on the progression of a person’s dementia, they may not be able to enjoy some gifts to their full extent: sometimes we have to think outside the box in terms of the individual’s capabilities.
We’ve put together some ideas in this dementia-friendly gift guide that will hopefully give you plenty of present inspiration this Christmas – and beyond!
Snuggly and sweet soft toys
While those in the early stages of dementia might be not appreciate a gift geared towards a younger audience, somebody with more advanced dementia may well value a snuggly soft toy or a doll at Christmas. The sensation of holding a toy animal or a doll can be soothing – perhaps reminding them of their own former pets or a time when they had children to care for.
It’s not uncommon to see people with dementia holding dolls or stuffed animals: they help reduce stress and agitation, make a person less anxious and even soothe aggression. Precious Petzz can be an ideal option – these lifelike cats and dogs simulate real breathing and are soft and durable for stroking and hugging. Toys like these can fulfil a desire to nurture, while also providing familiarity, comfort and companionship.
Painting and colouring
Being creative enables self-expression: painting can be a stimulating and absorbing pastime for people living with dementia. Water-based paints are easier to work with than oils but for those whose dementia has progressed, Aquapaints can be even easier to use: simply brush the ‘white’ sheets of paper with water and pictures appear as if by magic. Once dry, the sheets return to white and can be ‘painted’ again and again.
Colouring books – especially those designed for people living with dementia – offer another stimulating way to be creative while also prompting conversation and helping with memory recall. Look for colouring books that reflect the person’s interests or culture for a thoughtful and engaging gift.
Puzzles and games
In the early stages of dementia, many people will still enjoy their favourite games, or be able to continue completing the crossword in the daily newspaper. As the disease advances, though, these things may become a source of frustration.
Look instead for puzzles and games that are more visual, like snap, a bingo game that uses pictures instead of numbers, or a chase maze that moves a ball around a track when it’s tilted. Jigsaws are another good choice for many people with dementia because you can choose the number of pieces – the fewer pieces, the more suitable it will be for someone with mid-stage or more advanced dementia. Take a look at Relish’s range, developed especially for older people and those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
If your loved one enjoyed reading the paper until their dementia progressed, the award-winning Daily Sparkle reminiscence newspaper is a great subscription-based alternative, with easy-to-read print, clear, colourful pictures and professionally created activities like quizzes for older people and those living with dementia.
Music to their ears
Music is stored in a part of the brain that dementia can’t touch, which is why so many people with dementia can still recall song lyrics or hum their favourite tunes, even when they’ve become otherwise non-verbal. Consider gifting someone their favourite songs on CD, or a simple music player that can be pre-loaded with music for a present that will lift their mood whenever they use it.
Alternatively, you might want to purchase a music subscription like Spotify for a loved one and make them personalised playlists of music from their youth, or perhaps favourite songs or hymns. You could also invest in an app that creates tailored playlists based on answers to a few questions and then uses Spotify or YouTube to play them. Website musiccan.co.uk offers accessible, practical and personalised information and signposting to services providing musical care – take a look at their activity guides for inspiration.
People with dementia often have restless hands – you may notice a loved one fidgeting or pulling at blankets or clothing. These behaviours are a way for the person to comfort themselves and relieve agitation, and there are products especially designed to keep idle hands occupied, like fiddle mitts and muffs, fidget blankets and sensory books.
Feeling different textures, fastening buttons, zipping and tying are all simple activities that help relieve stress and restlessness for people with mid to late-stage dementia, and there are lots of products that combine all of these elements in one, making them great gifts for loved ones with restless hands.
Sometimes, the best presents aren’t fancy gifts but practical purchases that support everyday life. A reminder clock could be just the thing, displaying the days of the week, the time, whether it’s morning, afternoon or evening, and built-in reminders and alarms – as well as the option to add your own video or text and audio reminders.
Other handy helpers and daily living aids include tilt-to-pour kettles for people with limited mobility, dexterity or reach; warm, well-fitting slippers or slipper socks with plenty of grip on the soles; Velcro fastening belts; big button telephones with photo speed dial buttons and talking watches.
We’re sure you’ll find the prefect present for your loved ones with dementia this festive season, whether it’s a practical pressie or a gift that takes them down memory lane – we hope we’ve given you some useful ideas in our dementia-friendly gift guide!