Image by ElderAuthority

Holiday Gifts and Memory Loss

Image by ElderAuthority
Image by ElderAuthority

Remember Gifts for Those Who Have Forgotten

What do you give the person who has everything, or the person who has forgotten everything?     Even if we can’t remember much, we all like boxes that are fabulously wrapped and tied with gorgeous ribbons.

Don’t abdicate  giving holiday gifts to those who can’t remember.  Holiday gifts and memory loss do not have to be mutually exclusive. Even with dementia, people still remember happiness.

Alzheimer’s Association Suggestions

Image via ElderAuthority
Image via ElderAuthority

The Alzheimer’s Association has come up with a good starter list.  Maybe some of these ideas will trigger your thinking so that you come up with the perfect gift.

  • Photo Album with pictures of family, friends and places that are part of the person’s past
  • Cassette tape recorder with tapes of favorite music or taped messages from friends or family members.
  • Costume jewelry
  • Clothing; machine washable; easy to get on and off, cardigan sweater, leg warmers, knee hi nylon stockings, socks, slippers or warm-up suit
  • Cookies and candles
  • Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return bracelet (888-572-8566 or
  • Video tapes of family events
  • Music/musicals from the 40’s and 50’s
  • Travel videos
  • Puzzles (larger pieces for later stages)
  • Book with pictures
  • Magazine subscription
  • Indoor golf putter/return, NERF sponge ball
  • Afghans, lap robe of bright color
  • Personal hygiene items, lotions, hair brush, comb, hair ribbons, tissue, nail polish
  • Gift certificate for hairdo, perm, manicure, haircut
  • Purse/wallets
  • Cuddly stuffed toy
  • Stationary, postcards, stamps, crayons, markers
  • Calendars
  • Playing Cards
  • Bird feeder, mobiles
  • Homemade foods — especially their favorites
  • Larger print edition of magazine, poetry, fairy tales
  • Snow globes, music box
  • Simple games
  • Aquarium and fish
Image by candyschwartz via Flickr
Image by candyschwartz via Flickr

I have found that anything that feels good to the touch–whether is is a plush animal, a soft blanket, or a silk scarf–is a hit.  Even better, bring the family pet adorned with a ribbon.


I published Ideas for a Contented Dementia a few years ago.  In that article, one of my suggestions was to create a  Memory Box:

Memory loss and dementia are different for each person.  Talking or listening may be confusing.  Create a Memory Box for someone you love.  Fill it with items that might trigger memories such as photos, pictures of favorite places, sports memorabilia, awards, favorite music, or a cherished memento that may allow the person with memory loss to tell you about that experience.

Place the box in plain sight, so that any visitor can pick it up, say, “Ooh, what is this?”, and use the items in the box to trigger interaction.  You may be able to share a memory with a person with dementia, even if only for a short time.

My treasured memory - my baseball signed by Jo...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia

Time + Patience = LOVE

The gift that always has the most impact is the gift of time and attention.  Just sitting with someone, patting their hand, and maybe sharing a tasty treat, is the gift that tells a person that they are not alone, and that they are loved.

My Mother was always thrilled when my sister, Allegra, would show up with two tall glasses,  a quart of vanilla ice cream, and a jug of root beer for a root beer float party. When I brought my Dad a CD of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy singing the songs he used to love, he beamed from ear to ear and began singing along.

It doesn’t have to cost much.  Think about what they used to enjoy and try to trigger that happy memory.

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