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What is a good gift for someone in memory care?

My aunt is in a memory care facility and I would like to get her a birthday present. She has dementia but still remembers who we are. Are there things that residents are not allowed to have? Obviously candles are a bad idea but what about scented soaps or decorations for her room?
Status: Open    Apr 07, 2015 - 08:57 AM

Other, Dementia

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Expert Answers

Apr 08, 2015 - 01:56 PM

I think you have a good head start with ideas. No, don't do anything with fire, but framed pictures make sense in terms of decoration. Maybe a nicely framed family picture with your family with your aunt? Ultimately, you know her best and can make a good decision.

Some other ideas:

- Talk to your cousins (your aunt's children or primary decision maker). Does your aunt need anything? Do they have specific ideas? Maybe a gift card for some ease on regular expenses would be helpful.

- Blankets and quilts are a good option (if she doesn't have too many already. No electric!) Maybe a homemade quilt, something embroidered, a new sheet set for her bed or an especially soft throw. Anything with an interesting texture is great for dementia, as it can be therapeutic.

- Scented lotions, etc. (I tend to favor the calming fragrances like lavander, chamomille, shea, cocoa butter, vanilla, etc.) If you give a fragrance of any kind, there is always a chance that it will not be used. Each of us has a preference for certain scents, so I recommend sticking with very common and very popular types and not going too wild.

- Music, either your aunt's favorite or something that makes sense for your aunt's memory loss. For a more personal touch, a mix tape makes a great gift. I recommend staying away from very somber music or very crazy music (I would absolutely stay away from some classics like Beethoven. Music affects the mood - so, exciting, fun, dancing, calming, soothing, etc. are great, but somber or depressing music is not.)

For more ideas, visit the Alzheimer's Association website at:


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By anamaryp on Dec 17, 2016 - 09:17 PM | Like (0)  |  Report

Be very aware that rooms are usually small, and check if there's enough space for whatever you are thinking about! Here are my suggestions:
1)A Pashmina type scarf, is a nice dressy touch, but good for everyday, and keeps just enough chill off for elderly who are often chilly. They tend to wear them as shawls, rather than neck wrap or stylin' wrap acrosses.
They also don't take up much space to store! Easy to carry along for just in case, or to roll into a bit of a lumbar support, or neck cushion.
I'd recommend looking for an acrylic one, rather than the originals that are wool/silk blends, so it can be easily hand washed instead of dry cleaned.
2) A small, but cheery item, albeit simple, is a windowsill solar powered rocking flower, or other item that can be found at Dollar Tree. Fun to see moving on it's own, and don't take any tending, like a plant, or even flowers would! (My mom has been gifted several.)
3) A DVD of a musical they can play for her or at general movie time, if they don't have a copy of it. Find out her old favorites-perhaps Sound of Music? Or maybe she likes the more modern, but upbeat music filled Mama Mia, like my mom does? The plot doesn't matter as much in these old favorites!!
If you want to spend more, how about gifting the balance in a check to help pay for her memory care placement! Or a WalMart/Sam's/Walgreens gift card or a check to cover some prescription copays. It adds up, and may be 'unseen', but the most caring idea.

By thefriesen7 on Jan 11, 2017 - 09:52 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

I would highly suggest creating a Memory Album for her. Focus more on pictures from the past as that is where people with dementia are at as you know. I made a beautiful one for one of my residents (I work in a Long term Care Home in Muskoka, Canada!) and the family loved it! Focus on childhood, school days, first home, marriage, children, career if applicable, pets, awards/accomplishments and maybe vacations. Skies the limit! This album is a great resource to use when our loved ones are feeling agitated or down and a great distraction! My 101 year old resident loved it and so did the family!

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APFM Staff Answers

Sep 08, 2015 - 01:48 PM

There are a couple of articles on the A Place for Mom blog that discuss gift ideas for seniors that you may find interesting:

Most Useful Gifts for Loved Ones in Assisted Living

Best Tech Gifts for Grandparents



Apr 28, 2015 - 09:47 AM

Your time is the best gift you can give. After that I would consider:

-framed photos - especially of family or former homes
-snacks or drinks -obviously no candy to someone with blood sugar issues. check with your cousins to see if your aunt has favorites
-small plants or flowers - facilities may not allow all flowers (for fear of poisonous plants) but there are plenty of safe flowers and plants
-magazines/books - some residents love to read, others just to look at the pictures
-puzzles or puzzle books - some people still like to do word search puzzles or work jigsaw puzzles

I would definitely check with your cousins or other family members to see if there are things your aunt needs. There might be something they have been wanting for their mother but haven't been able to afford.

May 02, 2015 - 09:32 PM

Here are a couple of idea's that I want to submit. I use to fill pages of a scrap book and/or album of large pictures from a magazine; pictures of dogs, cats, people walking on the boardwalk, beach scenes, happy children playing, houses, farms, apples and orther fruit and vegetables, pictures of home cooked meals, Thankgiving pictures and Christmas pictures. It can be one theme, such as a forth coming holiday like Christmas, wreathes, bright shiny pictures, or Summer time, Jewish holidays, Easter and churches, anything that will give the person joy and pleasure. One last thought, look at the pictures of familiar with your Aunt. And make new albums or scrap books for her. I agree with another person's comment; Time spent with her looking at familiar pictures and photo's. It will stimulate conversation. When she sees a page long enough, turn the page for her. You can say to your Aunt, "Remember when we would get together at the Seashore. We had such fun. Or, remember when the baby was baptized and you are her Godmother? or remember the New Years we visited in 1942. We danced all night. Wasn't that great? And the dress you wore was soooo beautiful. or and the snow was 10 feet deep. or Remember the beautiful apples we use to eat and those red tomatoes. How about those? Have fun looking at those memorable photo's and pictures. I think a framed picture of you and she would be marvelous. Plan your time when you go for a visit. Make it fun for both of you. Sincerely, CJB

Nov 15, 2015 - 04:54 PM

Our dad has had dementia for 15 years. In an effort to find something that he would enjoy and be successful at, we discovered Portrait Puzzles. Favorite family photographs are uploaded and magically transformed into lovely, colorful, high quality puzzles. What makes these puzzles unique is that the 15 and 30 piece puzzles have pieces that are approximately 3.5 inches x 3.5 inches. They are easy for Dad to handle and he gets a sense of satisfaction when he completes them. He can work on them independently, with family members or a caregiver. Mom has also used them to redirect his attention when the circumstances call for such. The puzzles are a terrific reminiscene activity and a fun way for caregivers to learn more about Dad. My sister and I established Pieces of the Past in May of 2014 and are committed to spreading the word about "the power of puzzles." The quality of each puzzle is excellent, the colors are bright and vivid and the service is excellent. Each puzzle comes in a box with a photo of the puzzle on the front.


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