How to Give a Gift to Someone with Alzheimer's
PRESENTING A GIFT
To a Person With Dementia
Once your choice is made you are ready for the next step – presenting the gift to him or to her. This can be a little different than gifting is generally. The following list of considerations, though by no means exclusive, is a good place to begin your thinking about giving a gift to a loved one who has dementia, and just generally celebrating a joyous occasion.
1. Make it an event – even if it’s not a holiday, birthday, or other special time. Holly used to wrap most everything we brought to Bernice. She loved opening presents, and I think she loved the anticipation and the attention she got while unwrapping even more than the gift itself. It also emphasized the point that this thing was hers, like the time she opened a gift bag and found her Twiddle® Cat, and with pleasant surprise said, “Look what I have here!”
2. Do it in a way that includes that person in the festivities. A family gathering can sometimes become busy and boisterous. In a good way; but, this overt expression of joy can be misunderstood by an individual who has Alzheimer’s disease. Jubilation becomes loud noise. Glee becomes confusion. That confusion is partly due to perceptual problems caused by the disease. This isn’t true for everyone with dementia, but if you see your loved one become irritated or nervous in a party setting, she has probably had enough. It is probably time to quiet things down. Keep things low-key and make her the center of attention for a little while so she can open her presents without distraction.
3. Give feedback if necessary, and as much or as little as necessary, about the gift just opened – even if you think he or she should know what the gift is, how to use it, what to do with it, that might not be the case. A game (and certain games are terrific gifts) might not obviously be a game. Simply say, “Look, mom. A game! It looks like fun. We’ll all play it after dinner.” If he looks confused upon opening a jigsaw puzzle you might say something like, “It’s a puzzle, dad! I remember when I was little you and mom and I would sit around the kitchen table doing jigsaw puzzles like this. (Don’t say, “Do you remember…?” He might not.) Music is another good gift. Music stimulates and relaxes, and music that is recognized provides a path to reminiscence. “Look, dear. We used to dance to this beautiful music. Let’s dance now…
4. Follow-up! Play that game with her. Work that crossword puzzle while sitting around the kitchen table with him and everyone else. Put the CD in the player and enjoy the music together. And talk. Remember old times as much as that is possible. That is, after all, the whole point of all these gifts.