According to the Alzheimer’s Association, almost 15 million family members now serve as unpaid caregivers for the 5.4 million people who are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States today. This means that most of us know someone who is touched by the disease. Chances are that this holiday season you’ll be considering gifts for parents, grandparents, relatives or friends who have been touched by the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association offers these ideas to add to your shopping list.

In the early stages

Items to help remember things:  Magnetic reminder notepads; Post-it notes; baskets or trays that can be labeled within cabinets or drawers provides visual assistance; a pocket-sized diary or notebook to jot down information in an effort to remember; erasable white boards for important rooms in the house; a calendar featuring family photos and marked with special family occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries – this can provide great enjoyment.

Items that may help with daily activities:  Although for many this may be problematic…a memory phone that can store pictures with the names and contact information of family and friends. (The problem being teaching how to use such an item). An automatic medication dispenser that can help the person living with Alzheimer’s remember to take their medicine. This enables medication dispensing by simply pressing a button. Night lights that come on automatically when it gets dark…a simple but very helpful item. A clock with the date and time in large type…easy to read and provides a constant update for memory impaired.

Entertainment:  Give DVDs of the person’s favorite movies, and musical CDs or CD compilations of the person’s favorite tunes. Plan an outing to a movie, play, concert, sporting event or museum, or organize a holiday outing with the person’s friends and family. Arrange for activities such as scrapbooking or other craft projects that are social in nature.

 Note:  Giving electronics may seem like a good idea to make life easier for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but that isn’t always the case. If you decide to give someone with the disease a new piece of electronic equipment, remember to review the operating instructions with them slowly and more than once. Make a copy of the instructions for the person and for yourself, so you can talk them through the process on the phone if needed.

In the middle to late stages

Items that provide sensory stimulation:  In the later stages of the disease, sensory stimulation may bring back pleasant memories, so gift ideas include scented lotions, a soft blanket or afghan to keep the person warm, or a fluffy bathrobe in the person’s favorite color.

Clothes:  Clothing should be comfortable, easy to remove and easily washable, which might include sweatsuits, knits, large-banded socks, shoes with Velcro ties, and wrinkle-free nightgowns, nightshirts and robes.

Music:  Research shows that music has a positive impact on individuals with Alzheimer’s, bringing back memories of good times, increasing stimulation and providing an opportunity for interacting with family members. Buy favorite CDs or create a CD full of musical favorites.

Framed photographs or a photo collage:  Copy photos of family members and friends, insert the names of the people in the photo, and put in frames or a photo album.

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading global voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care and support, and the largest private, nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research.

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