Finding a way to recognize a father or a loved one on Father’s Day can be difficult, especially if they have Alzheimer’s or another form of memory loss. This year it’s even more of a challenge with COVID-19 making it more difficult to see each other and celebrate safely with restrictions impacting get togethers, indoor dining, attractions and other traditional gift ideas.
Depending on the stage of the disease they are in, the right gift can provide your father figure comfort, improve their quality of life or just bring them joy. Here are some thoughtful and practical gift ideas to help you celebrate your loved one living with dementia this Father’s Day:
Compiling photos into an album or photo book is a great way to reminisce with your loved one and is often a positive and rewarding activity for dementia patients. Photos can spark memories, encourage conversation and help your loved one to remember the names and faces of the important people in their life. If you are able to look at the photos together in person, don’t be too concerned with the details and avoid quizzing their memory. Try, ‘Here was our first house on Chalmers Street,’ instead of, ‘Do you remember this house?’ Digital photo frames are also a great way to keep the father in your life entertained and surrounded by love. You can load hundreds of photos and set them to rotate, or some more advanced digital frames will allow you to regularly update and share daily events with your special person from a distance.
Crafts and Games
Puzzles and board games make great gifts for people living with dementia and can be matched to their cognitive ability. These activities stimulate the brain, promote problem solving skills and hand-eye coordination and can be a calming distraction. There’s a huge range of puzzles and activities created specifically for dementia patients, but some of the classic games like UNO, checkers, snakes-and-ladders and dominoes also work well. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia they may enjoy a 60-piece puzzle and in more advanced stages, a wooden shape puzzle or a puzzle with sounds can offer helpful stimulation. Fidget tubes with items attached like buttons, bells, keys or anything with a distinct feeling or texture can be a great gift to help calm restless hands. Your loved one may also appreciate a colouring book, paint-by-numbers activity or a watercolour set to help them channel their creativity and stay busy.
Research shows that music can relieve stress, reduce anxiety and depression and limit agitation in dementia patients. However, people living with dementia often find it difficult to use today’s technology to play the music that they like. There are multiple models on the market but something like the Simple Music Player solves this common problem. It looks like an old radio, so it’s instantly recognizable for older dementia patients, and your father figure will only need to lift or close the lid to control music set to a safe volume level. These players are preloaded with classic tunes or you can add your loved one’s favourite songs as MP3s. The One Button Radio is another great gift idea where the caregiver selects the radio station and volume through hidden controls and your loved one just presses one button to listen to their favourite radio station.
If you’re able to safely be together in person and depending on your Dad/Grandpa/father figure’s health, plan a relaxing afternoon drive to celebrate the day. While many destinations are still closed and travel isn’t encouraged, you can cruise around locally, play his favourite music, enjoy road trip snacks and stop for take-out or ice cream along the way. This is a great way to connect, get out of your usual surroundings and enjoy some time being happy together.
If your loved one has been experiencing insomnia, anxiety, agitation or depression, a weighted blanket, body pad or wrap are great Father’s Day gift ideas. These weighted items have a calming effect, help with sleep and reduce stress and some people even say that they feel like a warm hug. Other comfy gift options include adaptive clothing like side-opening pants, a robe, sturdy slippers with non-slip soles, or a robotic soft toy to cuddle with.
Because it can be difficult or unsafe to come together in person this year, if your loved one has a primary caregiver, consider sending them house cleaning, lawn maintenance, laundry services or respite care for an afternoon off. Regardless of what stage your loved one is in, they will appreciate your love, support and kind gesture on this special day, even if they aren’t able to show it.