by Ellen Blake
My beautiful, intelligent, funny Mom, age 92, is in the early stages of dementia. She is still very much my mom, full of love and laughter, but it sometimes takes more time and patience these days to access those wonderful qualities. It’s hard to watch her become increasingly confused as the days go by. I look for gifts to mark birthdays and holidays that I think may help keep her engaged and happy. I also search for items to keep her calm as she becomes anxious and agitated at times these days. I thought I would share some of the best gifts for dementia patients I found while researching presents for Mom. Many of these are for those in the early stages, but others are helpful for when the situtation progresses.
How Do You Know When a Loved One Has Dementia
“I think my mother has dementia what should I do?”
This phrase is very common for adult children with aging parents. It’s normal to worry about the health of older parents, especially if you feel like you’re seeing early signs of dementia. How do you know when a loved one has dementia?
As with many physical conditions, the earlier you identify dementia, the better chance your parents will have of living a longer and more fulfilling life. Each person experiences symptoms differently as dementia is a broad term for any brain disease that causes a decline in mental ability. Dementia affects memory, thinking, and behavior. Some of the most common symptoms you might notice include unexplained memory loss, misplacing things, confusion with time or place, the inability to follow simple directions or to perform familiar and/or complex tasks, irrational fears, paranoia worries, and agitation.
What Are the Best Gifts for Dementia Patients?
The best gifts for dementia patients should be thoughtful, engaging, and designed to provide comfort and stimulate their cognitive abilities. Here are some ideas:
Photo Albums or Memory Books
Create or compile a photo album filled with pictures of family, friends, and memorable events. This can help trigger memories and provide a sense of familiarity.
Fidget Quilts or Sensory Items
These are small quilts or lap blankets with textures, buttons, zippers, and other tactile elements. They provide sensory stimulation and can help with restlessness and anxiety.
Digital Photo Frame
A digital photo frame that displays a rotating slideshow of family photos can be a great way to provide a visual connection to loved ones.
Simple Puzzle Sets
Choose puzzles with larger pieces and simpler designs. Puzzles can help improve cognitive function and provide a sense of accomplishment.
Music Playlists or CDs
Music can have a calming and therapeutic effect. Create playlists of their favorite songs or give them CDs of music they enjoy.
Essential oils like lavender or chamomile can have a soothing effect. An aromatherapy diffuser can provide a pleasant and calming atmosphere.
Comfortable Clothing or Blankets
Soft and comfortable clothing or blankets can provide physical comfort and a sense of security.
If the person enjoys gardening, consider giving them small potted plants or gardening tools for indoor gardening.
Choose audiobooks of their favorite genres or authors. This provides entertainment and mental stimulation.
Simple Craft Kits
Crafts like coloring books, knitting kits, or paint-by-number sets can provide a creative outlet and a sense of accomplishment.
These are books filled with pictures and prompts from the past that can help spark memories and conversations.
Adaptive Table Games
Look for games that are designed for people with dementia, like large-print playing cards or adapted board games.
Comfort Food Baskets
Put together a basket of their favorite snacks or treats, which can provide both comfort and enjoyment. Make sure you consider any dietary restrictions due to health issues.
Nature Sounds Machine:
A device that plays soothing sounds like ocean waves, birdsong, or rain can create a calming environment.
Interactive Digital Devices
There are tablets and devices specifically designed for older adults with dementia that offer simplified interfaces and activities.
Personalized Calendar or Clock
A calendar with important dates or a clock that displays the day, date, and time can help with orientation.
Therapeutic Activities Subscription Box
There are subscription boxes designed for individuals with dementia that provide therapeutic activities and games.
Scented Lotions or Massage Oils
These can provide sensory stimulation and relaxation.
Regular Visits and Quality Time
One of the most valuable gifts is spending time with them, engaging in activities they enjoy, and providing companionship.
When selecting a gift, consider the person’s interests, preferences, and current capabilities. What’s most important is choosing something that brings them comfort, joy, and a sense of connection.
Specially Designed Games and Activities for Seniors with Memory Loss
Games are a great way to connect with loved ones with dementia and make the time spent together more meaningful. Here are a few I like.
Easy 3-D Wooden Sudoku Board Game
Simplified Sudoku for Seniors is great for those suffering from memory loss and stroke patients. These sudoku puzzles are engaging and easier to navigate than the original with just four numbers needed to complete the board. The pieces are sturdy and easy to hold, designed to add a sensory element that can provide comfort for loved ones with dementia. The game is adaptable with three challenge levels, making it appropriate for people of different abilities to ensure a sense of accomplishment. You can boost cognitive abilities by engaging in brain training challenges like sudoku! This exercise also helps with dexterity and hand-eye coordination, as they fit the square pieces perfectly into the correct position. We love the woven bag included in the set for easy storage.
Beat-the-Box Numbers Game
The Beat-the-Box Numbers Game is a favorite with older adults with memory issues around the world. It’s a wonderful and easy-to-learn game that sharpens basic math skills, and a great activity to improve concentration and focus. Basic math and the luck of the dice keep older adults entertained for long periods. The set comes with an eco-friendly tote made from recycled materials with extra carrying space for personal items, so you have an easy way to tote it around!
Word Search Puzzles with Reusable Sheets with Markers
These reusable word search sheets are great fun and provide hours of entertainment. Simply wipe with a damp cloth, and the word search sheets with large letters can be easily cleaned and reused. Providing mentally stimulating activities, this game makes an ideal activity for those living with cognitive impairment. Each of these puzzles uses simple words to help maintain interest and stimulation. There are no hidden diagonal or backward words, helping to ensure that success is achievable without the potential frustrations. Two easy-to-clean dry wipe markers, red and black, are included.
Tile Matching Game
Help your loved one relax, unwind, and have some fun with this specially designed-product for people with dementia. This activity provides endless entertainment as they discover the right way to connect the puzzle shapes on the board. The large puzzle pieces in this cognitive activity set feature colorful blocks crafted from prime-quality wood. The thick, easily graspable pieces are ideal for adult hands, boosting dexterity while adding an element of sensory enjoyment as they complete the challenge. The set includes a compact storage box, making it easy to store and tote around on the go.
Wooden Tic Tac Toe Game with Large Pieces
Large-piece puzzles encourage older adults to play & interact with family members or friends. The extra-large noughts and crosses are thick and easy to handle, crafted from durable wood that feels smooth to the touch. By simplifying the process, games specially made for people with dementia can empower your loved ones to play. Since everyone has different ability levels, this package includes both beginner and intermediate sheets. Start with activity one (placing the noughts and crosses according to the template, and progress to activity two (figuring out the missing pieces without getting 3 in a row!). Not only is this an engaging activity, but it also serves as beautiful living room decor!
Gifts that Encourage Conversation
Sometimes it’s hard to find things to talk about with your loved one when their memory starts to go. These items are wonderful conversation starters!
Nostalgic Conversation Cards
This card set is an engaging, interactive activity designed to improve the quality of communication for people living with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, brain injury, or other memory loss conditions. This nostalgic gift includes 52 two-sided 6” x 9” cards with a non-reflective finish. The front of each card features a full-color, large-scale photograph and the corresponding name of the item in large print, easy-to-read text. On the back of each card are nine opinion-based questions designed to have no right or wrong answer; The questions include open and closed-ended either/or, and “Did you know” trivia questions. All in all, there are over 450 questions designed to encourage reminiscing and storytelling. This is a resource that will make your time together more meaningful and enjoyable!
Brain Game for Older Adults with Well-Known Sayings – Adaptable to All Levels
This fill-in-the-blank memory game was designed to be age-appropriate for elderly people living with memory-related conditions. Every game includes 48 cue cards to encourage engagement and gently exercise the mind. Every card features a well-known saying with a word missing which can help to stimulate memories. The cards can also be played as a matching pairs game by allowing the participant to pick from a selection of answer cards. Illustrations on the back of each answer card are designed to prompt discussion on the meaning of the expression. Suitable for all cognitive abilities, the cards are sorted into different colors based on difficulty, so the game can be adapted based on how challenging the person finds the activity. This catchphrase game for adults promotes improved concentration and mental clarity while still offering relaxation and entertainment in an easy-to-understand format.
The Creative Care Imagination Kit, designed by Ann Basting, Ph., helps prompt storytelling and foster conversation in a low-pressure way. The activities are based on Basting’s 25 years of research and pioneering approach to memory care. When you’re not sure what to talk about with your friend or relative living with dementia, this kit provides lots of ideas on how to communicate without the demands of remembering. You’ll be amazed at the imaginative stories and insightful statements that result from responses to the “beautiful questions.”
Large Piece Puzzles – 13 Pieces
Relish large-piece jigsaw puzzles are specifically designed to provide just the right balance of challenge, interest, and engagement for those with dementia. Each puzzle is presented in a guided completion box that helps the user to assemble the pieces. The jigsaws feature beautifully illustrated, nostalgic pictures that are fantastic for sparking conversations and memories. In addition, each puzzle game is crafted from durable cardboard pieces, meaning they’re easy to clean and can be used over again.
Gifts for Parents with Dementia that Help Them Keep Track of Medication and Tasks
Gifts for parents with dementia that make it easier to navigate their schedule and living space are helpful for men. Here are some of the gifts we recommend.
Talking Reminder Clock with Voice Recording Feature for Personal Reminders
Plug in Motion-Detecting Night Lights with Adjustable Brightness
We love these inexpensive little nightlights that turn on in response to motion to help avoid falls on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night! The brightness can be adjusted to your liking, so they can give enough light to let you see what you are doing, but not wake you from your sleepy state. These lights plug into your outlets, so there are no bulbs to replace.
Comfort and Sensory Gifts for Dementia Patients
Seniors with dementia can become anxious or nervous when they don’t have something to do with their hands. Sensory activities provide a comforting way to engage fidgety hands and minds in a fun activity to relieve stress and improve mental stimulation. Here are a few sensory toys we like.
Fidget Busy Board
For your loved one who enjoys keeping their hands busy, this small yet high-quality fidget busy board provides comforting simple activities. The wood base and metal handle make it handy to carry around. This sensory board, carefully designed to include various levels of difficulty, is ideal for seniors with dementia! The different motions help relieve anxiety and keep hands busy in a safe and calming way. The fidgets include functional and familiar accessories and come in a giftable cardboard box.
Sensory Fidget Blanket
This fidget blanket, chock full of activities, is wonderful for those with dementia. Carefully designed to provide a variety of activities and touches, this blanket keeps hands busy to relieve emotions, improve finger flexibility, imitate dressing skills, and exercise independence.
Wooden Maze Circuit Game
This high-quality two-piece wooden bead maze toy provides an interesting and fun maze for dementia patients with varying levels of difficulty. Easy to operate, it provides hours of fun for the memory-challenged older adult! Help your loved one develop their different skills with this thoughtful and loving gift.
This adorable fidget muff, carefully designed to include various difficulty levels, is soothing, entertaining, and high-quality. With multiple sensory attachments to explore, this fidget toy is a great addition to help your loved one stay calm and relaxed in a safe way. A bonus is the hand warmer ability which many older adults love.
Technology Gifts that Keep Older Adults Connected
Is your loved one with mild cognitive impairment tech-savvy? If so, some of these gifts might be a good fit.
Digital Picture Frame with Touch Screen HD Display, Easy Upload Photo from Anywhere
This awesome digital photo frame with unlimited cloud storage enables you to share video clips and photos securely and privately via WiFi from anywhere via the VPhoto app & email. Designed with multi-functionalities (music/weather/alarm/calendar), it’s a perfect gift for your loved one with dementia. Preload it with precious memories and invite your family and friends to share special moments too. This digital frame comes in a beautiful gift-ready box, with no wrapping required.
80GB MP3 Player with Bluetooth 5.0 – Plays Music for Up to 30 Hours.
Collecting music your loved one enjoys is important because musical memories are often preserved, even in the later stages of dementia. Music can also provide emotional and behavioral benefits, such as relieving stress, anxiety, and agitation. This handy little MP3 player features built-in Bluetooth 5.0, providing fast data transmission speeds, stable connection, and a long battery life. For those who don’t want to bother with a smartphone later in life, this device provides a convenient way to store and listen to music.
Go Anywhere Medical Alert Button with Fall Detection
This device allows seniors to maintain their independence as it detects when someone falls and triangulates location so that emergency services know where to go. Lasting up to three days on a single charge, it provides protection and peace of mind. The monitor is water resistant and even allows you to keep the device on during a shower! The price includes the first month of service.
Apple Watch Series 8 [GPS 41mm] Smart Watch, Always-On Retina Display, Water Resistant
An Apple Watch might be a great gift for older adults who enjoy using their smartphones to communicate. The Apple Watch just provides a more convenient way to do it. It also offers emergency calling and fall detection to alert family members if their loved one has an issue. The fall-detection feature is automatically activated for anyone 55 or over if you enter your age when setting up the watch or creating a profile in the Apple Health app. It’s easy to learn to use, but there is a learning curve. For that reason, an Apple Watch is not a great idea for those who are not tech-savvy.
SociAVI Digital Health Companion™ provides a great way to connect with older adults! Designed to keep older adults and their families connected, this device is very simple with no login, password, or username needed. Face-to-face real-time visits, images, videos, and reminders simply show up on the touch screen. Family and friends can interact with their loved ones from anywhere in the world, which helps decrease feelings of isolation. In addition, the Sociavi Digital Health Companion™ device comes with a myriad of brain stimulation games that are particularly helpful for individuals with memory issues. Extremely affordable, this service keeps older adults and their families well connected.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) at its best! This is a gift that provides peace of mind for both you and your loved one. Using discreet motion sensors, StackCare learns individual behavior and activity patterns, sending notifications directly to your phone. You get to see at a glance, simply and easily, if your loved one is sleeping okay, is visiting the bathroom too often, and whether his/her activity patterns have changed.
The Bottom Line
Buying appropriate gifts for people with memory loss can provide emotional connection, sensory stimulation, and a sense of familiarity, fostering social interaction and demonstrating care. While they might not retain the memory of the gift itself, the positive feelings associated with the exchange can create new moments of joy and connection, enhancing their overall well-being. When selecting gifts, prioritizing simplicity, safety, personalization, and meaningful experiences can ensure that the gesture is thoughtful and meaningful for individuals dealing with memory loss.