Christmas Gift Guide for People with Dementia
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With Christmas just around the corner, The Live in Care Company has written a Christmas gift guide for those with dementia. As providers of dementia home care, find a definitive list of gifts that are suitable for your loved one with dementia that they will enjoy and love.
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Gift ideas for people with dementia
Giving gifts at Christmas is an integral part of many family traditions. Often gifts are thought through carefully by the giver and it can be a thoroughly pleasurable time to watch loved ones open presents you have bought. When a family member has dementia, this can make gift buying for them a little more challenging, however there are plenty of fantastic gifts that can help someone with dementia feel more connected to loved ones or simply improve their everyday lives.
Gifts for people with dementia are often orientated around improving their cognitive function or motivating them to be engaged with family members through shared activities. Presents can also be more practical and help someone with dementia to function better in their everyday lives. It is important to think about what your loved one enjoys doing and what they are still able to do.
Here is a list of dementia gift ideas:
- Jigsaw puzzle
- A photo album filled with family photos
- A radio
- An alarm clock with a visual display of both time and date
- A personalised wall calendar
- A fluffy bathrobe
- A music player which plays music from your loved one’s youth
- Automatic night lights
- Activity books such as crossword puzzles and sudokus
- Classic films from your loved one’s youth
- A housecleaning service
- A membership to a health club
Care tips for the Christmas period for people with dementia
For people with dementia, a routine can help keep things safe and familiar. At Christmas, routines can go out the window, environments can change and noise levels increase. This can contribute to an increase in confusion for someone with dementia. It is a good idea to help your loved one to maintain their routine as best as you can. Keep to similar timings in terms of when they wake up and go to bed, as well as keeping the day manageable in terms of activities. Fatigue is something that affects many people with dementia so you may find that your loved one needs to nap in the afternoon.
Remember to involve the person with dementia in family activities and games. Although they may need support with activities, they can often contribute which helps them to feel involved with festivities.
Planning ahead of time will also help you to be able to support your loved one with their needs, whilst managing an already busy day with the rest of the family. Have dates and times in mind and share these with the rest of the family so that everyone can help out and remind the person with dementia where they will be going and what will be happening on the day.
Stages of dementia and recommended gifts for each stage
It is often misunderstood that dementia is a condition in itself but it is actually a term to describe a group of symptoms that occur when there is an ongoing decline in our brain functioning. Most forms of dementia are divided into stages that can help inform on disease progression. Depending on the disease that is causing the dementia, there can be different symptoms and patterns in progression. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia but there are other forms such as vascular dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and fronto-temporal dementia.
The 7-stage model
This model is mostly used for Alzheimer’s disease rather than other types of dementia, since it talks about progressive memory loss and cognitive decline.
Stage 1: There is generally no impairment seen at this stage. No noticeable memory loss is evident.
Stage 2: At this stage there is a very mild cognitive decline. This is the point when any memory loss is associated with the normal ageing process.
Stage 3: In stage 3, symptoms are more in line with a mild cognitive decline when friends and family may begin to notice cognitive problems. The individual may start to forget names or misplace items more than usual.
Stage 4: Moderate cognitive decline is when healthcare professionals are often able to conclude that someone has an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Symptoms would have progressed in terms of poor short-term memory, some disorientation, and difficulty with simple arithmetic. The individual may be less able to function independently and need support with more complex aspects of their everyday life such as paying bills on time and problem-solving.
Stage 5: This stage is defined by a moderately severe cognitive decline when wandering may increase due to disorientation, more help is needed with daily activities and the person may no longer be able to live alone.
Stage 6: Severe cognitive decline is defined by a considerable degree of worsened memory loss, there may be difficulty in recognising close friends and family and some people also experience changes to their personality. Communication is likely to have declined such that someone will have difficulty with fluent speech. Physical health is also impacted, with some people experiencing difficulties with eating and swallowing, walking and incontinence.
Stage 7: Very severe cognitive decline is the final stage. Comprehension and speech may be limited and sleep pattern may be reversed such that night and day are switched. The individual will likely need help around the clock in order to manage their cognitive and physical health difficulties. Their physical health may have declined further such that they need a wheelchair. Personality changes may include aggression, socially inappropriate behaviour and irritability.
The 3-stage model
At this stage someone may be functioning independently but it is common to see symptoms such as forgetfulness, slower speed of thought, difficulty with finding words, misplacing items and some confusion. Differences depend on the type of dementia and the individual but the defining point of this stage is that there has been a mild decline in cognition and daily functioning that are over those that would be expected for someone of a similar age.
Present ideas at this stage may include:
- Activity books, crossword puzzles
- Photo album filled with pictures of friends and family
- Crocheting or knitting materials
- Colouring books
- Nature documentary DVDs
At this stage symptoms will have progressively declined and there may be further cognitive difficulties seen such as more problems with speech and language, difficulties with problem-solving and worsening judgement. It is not uncommon for individuals to leave the stove on or forget to lock the front door. Individuals may start to need some support with everyday basic tasks and sleep may become disturbed. Changes to personality may also be seen such that there is more irritability and lower mood. This may lead the person to become socially withdrawn.
Present ideas for this stage may include:
- Nightlights that turn on automatically
- Large visual clock that displays time and date to help keep your loved one orientated
- Simple crafts that you may be able to do together
- Shoes with Velcro that are easy to put on and get off
At this stage deteriorations in cognitive functioning continue but there may also be a decline in physical wellbeing, with people experiencing difficulties with eating, walking and bowel movements. Behavioural changes may still occur with further changes to personality and more disorientation leading to wandering and agitation.
Present ideas for this stage are probably the most challenging as you may find it difficult to recognise your loved one and engage with them in the same way you used to. Some gifts that can be helpful to person with dementia may include:
- Warm clothing such as a fluffy dressing gown or warm slippers
- CDs and movies from the person’s past
- Blankets and throws
How we can help
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