This post was originally published at The Peace with Dementia Rosary.

We are in the second week of Advent and, while this is a time of preparation for the Lord’s Nativity with penance, prayer, and fasting, many of us are also looking for the right gift for our loved ones.

Perhaps you are shopping for your loved one with dementia. Maybe people are also asking for your suggestions. This article will offer some ideas for different scenarios.

Gifts That Engage:

  • Art activities: Coloring books, color/paint by number, sticker by number, get children involved
  • Books:  Large-print Bible, picture Bible, favorite storybooks from childhood and classics, even if you will read them to your loved one
  • Picture Books: There are many books of pictures, from classic toys to celebrities of a certain decade, older pictures from your own city/town
  • Entertainment: Stream, download, or purchase a season of their favorite TV show or even commercials from long ago
  • Music: Think about their favorite music
  • Music Therapy: Purchase a session for them from a music practitioner like Cathy’s Healing Harp (even virtual)
  • Faith: Consider sacred items from their faith that would be important to them- Rosaries, artwork, statues, prayer cards
  • Outings: Is there a museum, zoo, aquarium, blueberry picking, or wildflower field nearby? Have they always wanted to visit Cooperstown or another sports destination?
  • Be crafty with a memory: Select a positive memory from the past that they remember and create/re-create a simple scrapbook. This may be from their childhood.
  • Robotic Pets: If a real pet is too much to care for or is risky, consider a robotic pet that a friend just got for his mother: (not a substitute for real companionship)

Think Practical:

  • Medical ID bracelet and annual subscription
  • More Faith: Have a Mass said for them, fast for them
  • Fancy pill dispensers
  • Large whiteboards, clocks, and calendars for orienting

Gifts to Avoid

  • Firearms and sharp-edged tools
  • Gifts that may remind them of driving (if they no longer drive)

Get Them Involved

  • Consider working together to bake cookies and put them in tins for the neighbors
  • Invite the grandchildren to take part in the fun also

Allow Them to Shop for YOU

  • Consider that a memory impairment can take away the opportunity for your loved one to give back to you
  • Arrange for a friend or family member to help your loved one shop at a store (or even online) to buy you (the care partner) a gift
  • Many persons living with dementia remember the tradition of giving a gift for a birthday, anniversary, or Christmas, whether they recall the date or season – the feeling is there
  • If need be, purchase a gift that you think that they would want you to have and tell them that they got it for you. I understand that this may be a controversial thing to tell you. This action is not suggested to deceive or take advantage. Talk with your spiritual director or priest about this idea.

Have a blessed Advent preparation and Merry Christmas!

Questions for you to think, write down, and share in the comments section (any or all):

  • What are 3 gift ideas that you thought of?
  • What are 3 ideas to suggest if someone asked you what they can get for you?
  • Who can help your loved one shop, if that is feasible?

About the author: Matthew Estrade, Gerontologist with MyCatholicDoctor

Matthew coaches care partners (caregivers) of persons living with Alzheimer’s or related dementias in strategies to make the best of a challenging situation. He has built an educational platform at with daily videos, weekly blog articles, and monthly live Rosaries. All of these activities are built around his book, The Peace with Dementia Rosary: Education, Intentions, Community.

Matthew Estrade, MA, MBA

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