Friday, December 11, 2015

Gift Ideas for People with Alzheimer’s and Their Caregivers

When Dad was in early stages of Alzheimer’s, I was clueless about his needs. What Christmas gift to give him? Socks, shirts, jigsaw puzzles with 100 to 500 pieces, music CDs … I wasn’t very creative. In later stages, gift ideas were simple—jigsaw puzzles with 30 to 50 pieces and books with lots of big photos of animals, especially puppies. He looked at those picture books again and again. When dogs visited the nursing home, Dad’s face lit up and he reached out to scratch behind the dog’s ears. When I wheeled Dad past a life-sized plush Lab kept by one nurses’ station, Dad always petted and scratched it. So my sister and I bought him a life-sized plush Husky dog for Christmas one year; and although he smiled and scratched behind his Husky’s ears, his brain was too far gone at that point to really enjoy the dog. I wish we’d had the Husky gift idea the previous Christmas, when Dad might even have been able to remember that for 70 years he had cheered his college sports team, the Huskies.

Are you searching for gift ideas for your loved one living with Alzheimer’s, or for his/her caregivers? has an Alzheimer’s Association article, “Holiday Gift Ideas for People with Alzheimer’s and Their Caregivers.” You can read it here. We were not in a position to buy gifts for personal caregivers; my mother usually gave a gift card to the two aides who alternately cared for my dad and a huge box of chocolates to the nurses for the whole department. But I like all the gift ideas the article presents. To their suggested books I would add Lori Hogan’s second book for caregivers, Strength for the Moment. My favorite gift idea from the article is self-made coupons for your services and time.

The article divides gift ideas for your loved ones into categories by stage of the disease’s progression. I most resonate with their music and photo collage suggestions. My father took great pleasure in both. Regarding the scented lotion idea, thumbs up on the lotion, with an additional suggestion to offer to massage it gently into your loved one’s hands and arms. A huge thumbs down, however, on the scented aspect. Chemical fragrances have been shown to cause headaches (in 30% of people) and confusion, so skip the scents, please!

Giving gifts is an act of joy. With these holiday gift ideas and some creative gift ideas of your own, you’ll bring lots of joy this Christmas.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Connect with other caregivers

Do you know the Alzheimer's Association has a message board at
where you can connect online with other caregivers?

Got a question? Or just need to know someone out there understands? Check it out.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Staying Soft

Although Alzheimer’s robbed my father’s word bank, it never touched his gentleman gene. He often substituted simpler words than he would have used pre-Alzheimer’s. For example, he once said, “That’s how you know you can do things” to mean, “Being encouraged and coached boosts your confidence.” And once, when I told him something the nursing home failed to do for him angered me, he shared his secret: “I know, and I just have to … stay soft.” As his brain searched for the words “stay soft,” his expression was kind, not bitter. He didn’t have to find words to say, “I know they’re doing their best” or “I try to be patient.” I knew what staying soft meant.


I cannot think about Dad’s sweet disposition without crying. And today when I’m frustrated that desired concert tickets are sold out, upset with an inept tech support person, and overwhelmed by the whole early-equipment-obsolescence system that moves so much faster than I do—I am crying. But not from frustration or helplessness. I cry from relief of letting it all go in order to stay soft. And from remembrance of this perfectly worded, wise nugget from my father’s diminished vocabulary. Pure gold, Dad. Thanks.