Astoundingly, more than 850,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia and this figure is expected to rise to one million by 2021. It is heart breaking for many families who watch their relatives suffer with the disorder, and it can be very difficult for someone who receives the diagnosis themselves. However, dementia sufferers can still live happy and fulfilling lives with the right help from carers, friends and family.
When Christmas comes around, it can be hard to decide what to buy someone with dementia. Based on the often-restricted abilities of dementia patients and activities that can stimulate the brain, we’ve compiled a list of potential gift ideas:
A music player
Surprisingly, a music player is an ideal gift, as music can tap into different areas of the brain, perhaps parts that haven’t been affected by dementia. Results of studies involving music and dementia sufferers have discovered that music can have many positive impacts. If you’re struggling to find a playlist that resonates with the individual, try to compile music that they would have been exposed to during the ages of 10 and 25 as psychologists discovered that we gather most memories during this period.
Unfortunately, dementia sufferers can forget to use technology that they were once comfortable with or may struggle to learn new things. For this reason, buying them a regular music or CD player might not be helpful and it might go unused. Instead, there are ‘easy-to-use’ music players available where users can simply lift a plastic flap to play their favourite music. Alternatively, an easy radio player allows people to press one-button to activate their preferred radio station.
Memory loss is one of the main symptoms associated with dementia. It can be distressing for sufferers when they realise that they have lost some of their memories. This is where photographs can come in valuable. It can encourage conversation from someone who has dementia and seeing memories can bring positive feelings.
Individuals with dementia find that they have to move into full time care. Having photographs in their room allows carers and visitors to pick up the album and talk about who is in the picture and what was happening.
You could buy a free-standing photo album that can be flipped over as carers and visitors can change the photo each time they visit. There are also products available where you can record a message for an individual which will play when they open the album.
Working in the same way as a phot album, memory boxes can ignite conversation about new topics and recovering memories. Looking through the box can be an enjoyable activity for relatives to do together.
You could create the box out of a shoe box or plastic container. You could fill it with; photographs, postcards of places they’ve been, paintings from grandchildren, old coins and many more things. It’ll be something that they can look through at any time to trigger some memories.
Gardening is a great habit for dementia sufferers as it can bring them a sense of achievement and responsibility over their vegetables and plants. If your relative lives amongst other people, gardening can create a sense of community with the other residents and provide opportunities to build friendships.
Although it depends on the individual as to which gardening tasks they’ll be able to carry out, there are a range of simple tasks that can be carried out throughout the year:
- Sowing seeds and pruning shrubs.
- Watering plants.
- Harvesting vegetables.
- Decorating trees or plants for Christmas.
- Feeding the birds and other wildlife.
Giving dementia sufferers gardening equipment or a gift that inspires them to get in the garden could encourage them to take up the hobby and exercise their mind.
Although it can be difficult for the individuals and relatives when someone is diagnosed with dementia there are things that can help. Encourage your loved one to venture into the garden or take up a hobby they might not have done in a while – you can build some more memories together.