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Meaningful gifts for people with dementia

Knowing what to gift someone with dementia can be particularly overwhelming. Their often-limited communication abilities mean they may struggle to express their preferences or needs clearly, making it hard for caregivers or family members to choose a gift that would genuinely bring joy. In such cases, the fear of giving an inappropriate or unappreciated gift can create hesitancy and difficulty for the gift giver when trying to decide what to get.

Not only will you want to gift something thoughtful and well-received, but you will also want to match the gift to their ability. You should consider hobbies and interests they have enjoyed throughout their life, and choose something that is engaging, stimulating, and soothing too.

As professional dementia care providers we thought we’d share our tips on choosing presents for loved ones with dementia, including examples of some great gifts our residents have received from visitors to help inspire you.

Key considerations when choosing a gift for someone with dementia

When choosing a gift for someone with dementia, it is essential to consider several factors to ensure the present is appropriate, safe, and meaningful for them. Here are some key considerations and gift ideas for you to ponder before you hit the shops:

Cognitive abilities

Dementia presents itself in different ways and can vary in severity across stages. Consider the person’s current cognitive abilities, including memory, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Opt for gifts that match their cognitive level, avoiding items that are too complex or require extensive memory recall. If you are unsure of their current abilities, chat with their caregiver who will be able to give you more clarification. Our carers at the Future Care Group log everything there is to know about a resident on their digital care plan. These are updated in real time, so they are always completely up to date.

Fidget blankets always go down well with residents. Family members spend time choosing meaningful designs with various textures, fabrics, and items to manipulate, such as buttons, ribbons, and zippers. A few blankets we’ve seen have been made up of carefully selected photographs that have been printed onto the blanket material. They are also great for reducing anxiety and restlessness – a common trait among dementia residents.

Communication skills

Consider a person’s ability to communicate. If they have difficulty speaking or understanding language, choose gifts that are visually engaging, tactile, or sensory-based as these can be more accessible and enjoyable.

Shobha Lakshminarayan, Lifestyle Lead at our Southborough Nursing Home adds: “One of our residents, Margaret, is a lover of cats and last Christmas she received a Cat Page-A-Day calendar which brought her smiles throughout the year. Margaret also received a lovely huggable cat (which can be heated to provide warmth and fragrance) to which she responded, “it’s literally a warm hug on a cold day”.

Interests and hobbies

Consider the person’s past interests and hobbies, though do bear in mind that the progression of dementia often leads to changes in interests and preferences. Activities or hobbies that once brought pleasure might no longer hold the same appeal. It can be hard to keep up with their changing preferences so, again, always chat things through with their primary caregiver to find what might be most suitable for their current state of mind.

If possible, select gifts related to their former passions, as they might still find comfort and familiarity in activities they used to enjoy. For example, if they were once a keen gardener you may want to choose something they can plant and look after in the garden. Many care homes like ours, have garden areas or even sensory gardens for residents to spend time in and maintain. Some forget me not seeds that will flower year after year or a named rose would be thoughtful choices.

One of our residents at our Southborough Nursing Home uses a small backpack on her visits to hospitals and uses walking sticks to support herself. She recently received a mini stainless steel flask that fits nicely into her backpack to keep her hydrated. It was a simple but handy gift that she uses all the time. The flask is as tall as a pen and is light and handy to carry.

Animal lovers who miss having pets by their side may appreciate some animal assisted therapy. We often arrange for volunteers to bring in their pets for visits and these sessions are always well received by residents. The next best thing is a huggable breathing pet – these are not actually real, but their bellies ‘breathe’, and their fur is very lifelike and soft to touch. Some of our residents with dementia believe they are real pets and stroke and care for them as if they were.

For music lovers, creating a compilation of their favourite music they can listen to with some headphones would be a great choice. There is a not only a correlation between memory and music, but hearing their favourite tune can instantly calm an agitated dementia resident. Alternatively, why not visit on a day where a guest singer or band are visiting the care home and share in the fun together with a loved one. 

Sensory sensitivities

Sensory sensitivities commonly accompany dementia. People with dementia may become more sensitive to certain textures, sounds, or visual stimuli. This heightened sensitivity can make it challenging to select gifts that do not overwhelm or distress them. For example, a gift with bright flashing lights or loud noises might cause discomfort, negating the intention of bringing joy through the present.


Safety is paramount. Avoid items that could be harmful, such as sharp objects, gifts with small parts that could be swallowed, or items that pose a tripping hazard. Consider the individual’s physical abilities and any mobility challenges they may face.

Familiarity and routine

People with dementia often find comfort in familiar objects and routines. Gifts that evoke positive memories or connect to their past, such as family photo albums and familiar scents can be deeply meaningful and reassuring.

Popular gifts in this genre include:

  • Aromatherapy diffusers using essential oils like lavender or chamomile to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.
  • Audiobooks of their favourite stories can provide entertainment and cognitive stimulation.
  • Recordings of soothing instrumental music.
  • Photo collages of special occasions or photobooks telling their life story/life events.
  • Therapy dolls are a very popular with dementia residents, particularly if they have enjoyed a caring role at some point in their life. Maybe as a mother, grandmother, pet owner or as a nurse, teacher, carer.
  • A digital picture frame displaying a slideshow of family photos to evoke positive emotions and memories.
  • A painting of a beloved pet.
  • Personalised memory journals.

Engagement and stimulation

Choose gifts that promote engagement and cognitive stimulation. Activities that encourage reminiscing, such as memory games or puzzle books with large, easy-to-handle pieces, can be both enjoyable and beneficial for cognitive function. Sylvia, one of our dear residents at our Southborough Nursing Home has a good sense of humour but a short memory span. We enjoy looking at dementia friendly picture books with her that have brought her much joy. The picture books cover a range of subjects including nostalgic film personalities, music stars, funny animals, and even babies! These are a simple and effective gift to share a laugh and engage with a loved one:

Social interaction

Gifts that facilitate social interaction can be valuable. Consider board games, simple card games, or interactive storybooks that can be enjoyed with family members and friends, promoting a sense of connection and joy. Read up on what kind of games are good for people living with dementia.

Comfort and relaxation

Items that enhance comfort and relaxation, such as cosy blankets, soft pillows, or soothing aromatherapy products, can provide a sense of security and well-being. Our residents are fans of:

  • Weighted blankets. They provide gentle pressure, which can offer a sense of security and calmness. They are known to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality, making them beneficial for individuals with dementia who may experience restlessness or anxiety.
  • Heated throws.
  • Soft, comfy clothing made from breathable materials that enhance their overall well-being. Consider adaptive clothing with easy closures, making it easier for them to dress independently, preserving their dignity and autonomy.
  • Nature-themed items. Bring the outdoors inside with gifts like a tabletop fountain, indoor plants, or nature-themed art. Nature-inspired elements have been shown to have a calming effect and can improve the overall mood and well-being of individuals with dementia.
  • Towels, dressing gowns, and slippers. When residents move into our care, we welcome them with a small gift. It includes a branded towel and a welcome card:

It is a lovely way for our carers to make an immediate connection with a new resident and is an instant talking point for us to build on.


Choose gifts that are adaptable to the person’s changing abilities. For example, if they find it challenging to use traditional utensils, consider adaptive utensils designed for easier grip and use.

The gift of time

Spending quality time with the person, engaging in activities they enjoy, and showing love and support are some of the most meaningful gifts you can give to someone with dementia.

Your presence provides companionship, emotional support, and cognitive stimulation. Consistent visits establish trust and stability, easing the person’s anxiety. Moreover, your time reinforces their dignity, reminding them they are valued despite their challenges. This simple act of connection brings immeasurable comfort and reassurance, making it a priceless gesture for both the individual with dementia and their caregivers. In our homes, we make it super easy to keep in touch and connect with loved ones when you can’t be physically together. Our pioneering technology makes it simple to share messages, videos, and images. Distance between you and your loved one will never mean you miss out on precious moments together.

Remember that quality time and the genuine connection you establish are key. Being present, patient, and understanding are fundamental aspects of making your time together truly valuable. Whether it’s having a conversation, reading together, or simply sitting in companionable silence, your time and attention can make a significant difference in the life of someone with dementia.

As a reputable care home group, we also provide support and guidance to families, helping them navigate the challenges of having a loved one with dementia. We are pioneers in health technology who offer first class, open communication, and encourage family involvement, fostering a collaborative approach to care.

Find out more about what dementia care at the Future Care Group involves.

Why not follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter to follow our daily updates on the moments of joy experienced daily by residents.

If you or a loved one are thinking about moving into a care home, why not book a visit to see first-hand the award-winning care we can provide.

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