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An Echo Press Editorial: A wish list for those with Alzheimer's

By the Echo Press Editorial Board

EP Echo Press Editorial
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In Minnesota, there are more than 99,000 people living with Alzheimer's or dementia and they receive support from 171,000 caregivers.

With the Christmas season approaching, people who know someone with the disease may be wondering what kind of gift they should give. The best wish in the entire world, of course, would be a cure for this "long goodbye" disease that affects so many people.

But until that happens, you may want to follow the advice from the Alzheimer's Association of Minnesota-North Dakota. The organization offers a caregiver holiday guide that shows how, with careful planning, family celebrations can continue to be a meaningful part of the holidays while ensuring safety, comfort and enjoyment for everyone.

If you have a caregiver or a person with Alzheimer’s on your gift-giving list, the association offers these suggestions.

Gifts for people with Alzheimer’s – in the early stages. Items to help remember things include:

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  • Magnetic reminder refrigerator pads.
  • Post-it notes.
  • Baskets or trays that can be labeled within cabinets or drawers.
  • A small pocket-size diary or notebook.
  • Erasable whiteboards for key rooms in the house.
  • A memorable calendar featuring family photos – write in special family occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.

Items to help with everyday tasks:

  • A memory phone that can store up to eight pictures with the names and contact information of family and friends.
  • Automatic medication dispenser that can help the person living with Alzheimer’s remember to take medicine.
  • Nightlights that come on automatically when it gets dark.
  • A clock with the date and time in large type.

Items to help keep the person engaged:

  • An outing to a movie, play or concert, sporting event, museum or possibly an organized holiday shopping trip with friends and family.
  • Favorite musical CDs or a playlist with a compilation of favorite tunes.
  • DVD collection of favorite movies.
  • Activities such as scrapbooking or other craft projects.

Gifts for people with Alzheimer’s – in the middle-to-late stages. Gifts that stimulate the five senses may bring back pleasant memories:

  • Scented lotions.
  • A fluffy bathrobe in a favorite color.
  • A soft blanket or afghan to keep warm.
  • Comfortable clothes that are easy to remove and washable, such as sweatsuits, knits, large banded socks, shoes with Velcro ties, wrinkle-free nightgowns, nightshirts or robes.
  • Music – research shows that music has a positive impact on individuals with Alzheimer’s, bringing them back to good times, increasing stimulation and providing an opportunity to interact with family members.
  • Framed photographs or a photo collage – insert the names of the people in the photo and put in frames or in a photo album created specifically for that person.

Gifts for caregivers. The most important gift you can give a caregiver is the gift of time:

  • Self-made coupons for cleaning the house, cooking a meal, mowing the lawn or shoveling the driveway.
  • Time off so a caregiver can do something to meet their needs.
  • Gift cards and certificates for restaurants, laundry/dry cleaning services, lawn care services, computer/technology support, maid services, and personal pampering services such as massages and pedicures.
  • Books – in addition to giving novels on the caregiver’s “must read” list, there are a number of books on caregiving.

The Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota provides information, programs and services at no charge to help people impacted by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. For more information, visit www.alz.org/mnnd or call the free 24-hour Helpline at (800) 272-3900.

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