Gifts from the Heart: Gift Ideas for a Loved One Living with Dementia
By Julia Ballesteros Sentíes
Certified Montessori Guide, LTCH, AMI Certified Auxiliary Educator in Montessori for Aging and Dementia
As a care partner, you already know that the greatest gift you can give your loved one diagnosed with dementia is your time. The love and attention you share and the experiences you create for your loved one are truly priceless.
But if you do find yourself shopping for a tangible gift to give for a birthday or holiday, keep the following in mind.
- Think about the person.
- What are their interests? Their preferences? Their needs?
- What are their preserved abilities? (In other words, what can they still do successfully and joyfully?)
- Keep safety in mind.
- Remember, simple is best!
Montessori for Aging and Dementia is designed to satisfy our Human Tendencies (those needs that allow us to live to our maximum potential, as observed and described by Dr. María Montessori). Gifts can also be chosen with Human Tendencies in mind.
- Brightly colored basket where your loved one can leave their glasses or hearing aid, making it easier for your loved one to find them every day.
- Drawer organizers with dividers for socks, underwear, etc.
- Shoe rack so your loved one can easily see and find their favorite shoes.
- Location signs. Create attractive, large print for the main areas where your loved one spends time (bathroom, kitchen, living room, garden, etc.)
- A desk or wall clock. Choose one with large numbers, which can be seen from a distance, with a plain white or contrasting background.
- A simple wall calendar. This can be either monthly or daily, depending on the needs of the person.
- A white board where important notes can be posted, such as a doctor’s appointment, the time a spouse returns home, or someone’s birthday.
- An agenda to keep a record of what happened in the day or the plan for the week; also serves as a place to write down reflections, thoughts, and feelings.
Handling / Manipulation
- Hundred Board (Montessori material)
- Fabric swatches to match
- Birdhouse kit
- A basket of objects for sorting into categories
- Real objects to match with their photo or printed label (types of shells, fruits and vegetables, etc.)
- Games, such as Dominoes, Chinese checkers, and other board games
- Models to build
- Puzzles featuring a photo or image of their interest
- Art materials such as paints and brushes, art paper and notebooks, canvases, clay, magazines, scissors, and glue for collage work, etc.
- Music player: CD player, MP3 player (preloaded with a playlist of favorites), or an Alexa*
- A display rack with few favorite musical options
- A songbook with large and clear lyrics
*It may be necessary to create simple written instructions for the device that you purchase.
- Books and magazines
- Word searches or crosswords (which can be personalized with the names of their family, their pets, their favorite foods, etc.)
- Portable tape recorder to save messages that the person can listen to many times
- Movable Alphabet (Montessori material)
- Make a Memory Book together!
o Choose meaningful photos that evoke very pleasant and pleasant memories
o Feature a photograph of the person that they recognize for the cover
o Choose one photo per page and write a short / specific sentence describing the image
Movement (all with authorization and supervision of the doctor or therapist)
- Comfortable walking shoes
- A light sweatshirt
- A cane or walker, in case of need and if recommended by specialists
- Lightweight dumbbells
- Ankle weights
Being and Belonging
It is very important for human beings to feel part of a community, to achieve things, and be appreciated. By showing your loved one’s affection, recognizing others for their contributions, and thanking them for their participation, you are helping to strengthen their bodies, minds, and spirits.
No matter what gift you select, leave the expectations at the door. It’s fine to plan activities and give gifts, but try not to get hung up if things don’t go the way you expected them to. No matter what happens, your loved one will remember how you made them feel.