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.
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.
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”.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.