The holidays are here and the shopping frenzy is underway! Spending hours at the mall on a quest for the perfect gift for the hard-to-buy-for friend or relative can give anyone the bah-humbug blues, especially when searching for an appropriate gift for an elderly loved one. Selecting something special for those living in a skilled nursing facility can be particularly challenging. Dawn Lettau, Director of Therapeutic Recreation at Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, offers some practical ideas to lessen your gift-giving stress:
“Gifts that stimulate memory and reminiscing are ideal for seniors, and can help elicit verbal expression and positive emotions from withdrawn residents,” says Lettau. Some good choices are photo books or a digital photo frame that includes a cheery message from loved ones; a personalized iPod preloaded with a playlist of oldies but goodies; or a CD player with headphones and a selection of favorite music or audio books.
A soft blanket or, for those with limited mobility, a lap blanket/quilt, warm shawl or bed jacket makes a nice gift – we all love to be warm and comfortable, especially on a cold winter day! A magazine subscription geared to a resident’s interest provides visual and mental stimulation. Puzzles are another good gift for seniors; word puzzles help to build cognitive skills and keep a resident engaged, and jigsaw puzzles can help increase concentration as well as help to maintain hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills.
For residents with memory issues, lifelike baby dolls can provide a source of comfort and decrease agitation. Interactive companion pets that provide lifelike responses to touch can be very soothing and offer other benefits as well, such as fostering a sense of purpose, encouraging socialization and countering boredom. Robotic pets can also help to elicit memories of childhood pets, sparking spontaneous and meaningful conversation.
Personal gifts like aftershave or cologne for a man, or lotions, powders or favorite perfume for a woman are always appreciated, as is a supply of stationery, complete with pens, stamps and an up-to-date address book. A personalized monthly calendar, customized with photos of friends and family members and marked with significant dates, helps keep track of special events and enables a resident to stay connected to family life.
The gift of time is one of the best gifts you can give to a senior living in a long-term care facility. Sharing a laugh, some cherished memories, a warm hug or perhaps a game of pinochle is a priceless gift that will be treasured forever.
Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
68 Hauppauge Rd, Commack, NY 11725