How to find the perfect dementia-friendly present this Christmas
Friday, December 7th, 2018 | Blog
Buying presents for your loved ones and family members is often an enjoyable experience, especially at this time of the year. However, we all know that finding the perfect gift for your relative or loved one can be difficult. While everyone’s tastes are unique, there are some gifts that are more accessible than others, which can make a big difference for those living with dementia.
It’s important to take into consideration which stage of dementia the individual receiving the gift is in, as this determines the suitability of certain presents. It is commonly accepted that symptoms fluctuate from person-to-person and although there are numerous different conditions that encompass dementia, it is commonly accepted that they are collectively comprised of three different stages (source).
Mild = Early-Stage
Moderate = Middle-Stage
Severe = Late-stage
The different stages of dementia dictate how heavily an individual is affected by the conditions. This is why finding a suitable present is important. For this reason we are going to split present recommendations into the three different stages of dementia.
Those living with mild - or the early stages of - dementia can experience a number of different symptoms, but some of the most common include memory problems, bouts of confusion, reduced concentration, changes in personality or behaviour or displaying a certain amount of apathy, withdrawal or depression. Symptoms vary based on the kind of dementia an individual has, but these symptoms will probably increase in severity as the illness progresses.
Problems with memory and slight confusion are common symptoms of early stage dementia, but photophones can help alleviate that by providing an easy-to-use, image-based handset. Photos of loved ones can be slid into the panels on the phone and numbers can be stored to those buttons, meaning an individual with early stage dementia need only recognise a face in order to make a call. The handsets also commonly feature very large number buttons, which can make it easier for those individuals living with cognitive difficulty to dial specific phone numbers.
Adult Colouring Books
Adult colouring books provide an excellent source of mental stimulation and can be a great way to keep someone with dementia relaxed while offering the opportunity to flex their creativity. There are a number of different adult colouring books with numerous themes to fit all hobbies and ages, so there’s likely the perfect book for your loved one online.
An Experience / Activity
Sometimes providing an individual with an experience can be far more rewarding than gifting an item. Why not take your loved one out to their favourite restaurant? It’s an excellent way of getting them out of the house for a few hours, as the feeling of seclusion can be a common issue for those living with dementia.
It is at this stage in the development of dementia that many people start finding their typical daily routine much more difficult. Self-care can become difficult and many individuals find themselves relying on the support of loved ones. Symptoms at this stage of dementia can include; increased confusion, greater memory loss, significant personality and behaviour changes and a change in sleeping patterns.
As dementia progresses, individuals are much more susceptible to memory loss and confusion. As a result of those symptoms, some individuals might have a harder time reading clock faces or calendars. There are numerous large clocks available that display the time and date in a large font type, meaning they are much easier to read. Depending on the person living with dementia, it is also possible to pick between digital or traditional looking clocks, depending on their personal preference.
Automatic Medication Dispenser or Pill Organiser
Those displaying moderate symptoms of dementia may well find themselves more focused than before, but they will still want to retain their personal freedom and responsibility. An automatic medication dispenser, which can be programmed by family members, grants individuals the freedom to take their medication while providing them with reminders throughout the day. There are also pill organisers that are much cheaper, but lacking the automation and alarms of the automatic pill dispenser.
Those living with severe dementia will experience a further decline in cognitive ability as well as finding that their physical ability diminishes. This is the last stage of dementia and it is often the most demanding for individuals as they can lose the ability to communicate, they often need full-time medical and care assistance and they are far more susceptible to common illnesses as a result of a weakened immune system. This stage of dementia is really about providing individuals with comfort and support, which is why many of the presents stimulate the senses.
Throughout our lives, pets are often among the closest relationships we build. However, those living with moderate-to-severe dementia aren’t usually able to care for a pet, but there are other alternatives. Labelled dementia pets, these furry, electronic devices imitate their real-life counterparts and provide those living with dementia some companionship. While some are more advanced than others, the pets are designed to mimic the real behaviour of animals by purring, barking and breathing in a realistic manner. While no studies have been conducted on the electronic, furry companions, they have been reported to increase calmness and reduce stress.
Comfortable or Fluffy Clothing
Comfort is an important aspect of reducing irritability for those living with dementia, so a comfortable dressing gown may well have a positive impact. If the person in question has a favourite colour or material then why not choose a product based on those factors? If you can find a suitable dressing gown why not look for a snug blanket to help keep your loved one extra warm through the winter?
Presents that are suitable across all three stages
There are some presents that are going to be suitable through all three stages of dementia, although this can still depend on an individual's symptoms.
While the gift of music does sound a bit vague, there are ultimately a number of different ways music can be delivered to someone living with dementia. A number of studies - including this one - have found that music can reduce agitation in those with moderate-to-severe dementia symptoms, so there’s definitely a benefit to finding the right musically inspired present.
One-button music players are currently very popular, as they allow people to listen to music without overly complex interfaces. They are available in the form of a radio or an MP3 player and the former can be filled with your loved one’s favourite songs. The simplicity of the devices means those listening can only pause, play or skip a song.
For those in the earlier stages of dementia, it is possible to build them a playlist using modern streaming services, or invest in a cheap MP3 player that will allow them to listen to their favourite songs. The beauty of music is that it is incredibly bespoke, so you can fit the present to your loved one’s specific music taste.
Digital Photo Frames
Digital photo frames can be filled with a number of photos and set to scroll automatically. This is an excellent way for people living with dementia to reminisce over their favourite memories. It is worth going through the photos you intend to include in the album with the person receiving the present as some photos could bring up negative memories, but for many people the digital photo frames are a positive experience.
Each individual case of dementia is so varied that a one-size-fits-all list is not going to work for everyone. The symptoms of dementia vary from person-to-person and only you will truly know what the most suitable presents are likely to be. Still, we hope that this list has been informative, and at the very least you have taken away some ideas for what you should get your relative for Christmas.