By Dorian Froelich, LMSW
Director of Social Work, Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so the song goes, but the demands of the holiday season can also make it the most stressful time as well.   Shopping for the perfect gift for family and friends often can be overwhelming, and if there is someone on your list with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, selecting something meaningful can be daunting.  Knowing the stage the disease has progressed to is helpful in choosing an appropriate gift.   The following are some ideas to ease your shopping stress:

  • Clothing – Choose comfortable, wrinkle-free, easily closable, easily washable clothing. For loved ones living in skilled nursing facilities, be sure that the fabrics you select can withstand high temperature industrial washing and drying.   Shoes or slippers with Velcro ties make for easy off and on.  Anti-skid socks or a soft, fluffy robe are also good choices.
  • Music and Media – Stimulating the senses in someone with cognitive issues can help to unlock pleasant memories. Ipods loaded with favorite tunes, a cd player with headphones, or videos of old movies and tv shows can bring great pleasure to your loved one.
  • Photo gifts — Framed photos, talking photo albums or family photo calendars with noted birthdays/ anniversaries can elicit happy memories, help him/her stay connected with family life and are a visual reminder that they are loved.
  • Keepsake memory box — Creating a box filled with items of significance to your loved one, such as soft items, a favorite stuffed animal, perfume/cologne, a baseball or beads, can create positive emotional experiences and alleviate stress.
  • A large numbered or digital clock — A bright, easy-to-read clock featuring the time and date can help reduce confusion, maintain orientation and provide your loved one with structure and focus.
  • Fidget quilt – Adorned with assorted shapes, textures and moveable parts, fidget quilts help to soothe restless hands and anxious minds, providing comfort when a loved one is agitated.
  • Books or jigsaw puzzles – large print word game activity books, or puzzles with extra-large pieces are good brain-stimulating and dexterity-building gifts for those in the early stages of cognitive decline.
  • Medical ID jewelry – For those who are confused, wander or have medical issues, an attractive, customizable bracelet is a practical and fashionable gift choice.
  • Baby doll or interactive stuffed animal — Lifelike baby dolls can provide a source of comfort and decrease agitation. Interactive companion pets that provide lifelike responses to touch can be very soothing, foster a sense of purpose, encourage socialization and counter boredom. Robotic pets can also help to elicit memories of childhood pets, sparking spontaneous and meaningful conversation.
  • Your presence — Perhaps the best gift of all, sharing a laugh, cherished memories or a game of cards with a loved one is a priceless gift that will be treasured forever.

Best wishes for a happy holiday from the Gurwin Family of Healthcare Services!

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