The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Gifts for Shut-Ins

Finding a gift for seniors of any type is difficult. By the time a person qualifies “senior,” we usually don’t need much, can’t use much and don’t have long wish lists for anyone to choose from. We go out less, stay home more and are already surrounded by all we need and want. Add dementia to the picture and the list of possible gifts gets even smaller. But we still love to get gifts. That never changes. The gifts don’t have to be big or extravagant. In fact, especially for anyone with dementia, smaller is really better. Remember, “avoid extremes!”

And so here are a few suggestions that might get you thinking:

Red wine. Does your loved one like a little sip now and then? Red wine has been shown to be heart healthy (and therefore brain healthy!), and so a bottle of your loved one’s favorite red might just be the thing. However, even a small glass in the evening may increase Active Dreams (Managing Cognitive Issues, pg 199) and so plan for the drinks to occur earlier in the day.

Chocolate. Studies have shown that dark chocolate may improve brain health. If you loved one is a chocoholic, choose a small box of their favorite type of dark chocolate. Make it all the same kind…having to make choices is no longer fun for the person with diminishing abilities.

Homemade, hand-held treats like cookies. These can bring back pleasant memories of home. Choose either their favorites or something that has a good aroma. Smell is a great trigger of memories. Make the cookies small. If you make brownies or fruit cake, cut it into small helpings that can be eaten in no more than two bites and put each portion into a small paper cupcake liner. Seniors usually eat less at a time—or their interest may become drawn somewhere else. Therefore, if the treat is too big, it is likely to be stowed somewhere in their clothes “for later,” where it will probably be forgotten and turn into uncomfortable crumbs.

Large size puzzles or other mind benders such as those shown on LBDtools.These are appreciated most if your time comes along with them! Plan to spend some time putting together the puzzles with your loved one. If you don’t live close enough, arrange to have someone else do this for you. Seniors love the time you spend with them far more than your gifts!

An easy-to-use telephone. It should have large buttons and an easy-to-read screen with programed in numbers for the people your loved one will want to call. Punching in seven to eleven digit phone numbers leads to wrong numbers called--and frustration. The fewer bells and whistles, the better, unless they are ones your loved one already knows how to use.

A universal TV remote. The model specific remotes are often small and filled with bells and whistles that confuse rather than help. Amazon sells one called USC SR3 Big Button Universal RemoteIt has large back-lit buttons for limited activities like like volume and channel changing. Most seniors watch only a few channels and so some “favorites” buttons make it easier to find these. Look for color coding too. This makes it simple to explain--and to remember: “Punch the blue button and then the red one.” A person with mild to moderate LBD can learn--with lots of repetition and plan the time to work with them into your gift.

Something shareable. Gifts become much more valuable when they come with your time and attention. For instance, my mother loved oyster stew. I’d bring enough for two and then we’d set an impromptu table in her room and share the meal. Many of the gifts above are also sharable.

Visit, hug, touch, laugh, enjoy. Do this as often as you can. As dementia takes away the concept of time, what happened yesterday is gone and forgotten and what will happen tomorrow is no longer comprehensible…there is only today.

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson’s & Other Lewy Body Disorders

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