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Gift Ideas for Seniors

 

What do you get for the grandparent or senior who already has everything? The great-grandparents are even harder to shop for! What is the perfect gift for someone who is 80+? Different gifts are ideal depending upon where someone lives. Here are two gift list ideas to suit different living situations.

 

 

4 IDEAS FOR SENIORS LIVING AT HOME

If your 80+ relative is living independently at home (either a house, condo, or apartment), then the best gifts you can give them are practical items that will prolong their independence. Your loved one is likely very focused upon remaining at home for as long as possible; any gift you give that helps in achieving that goal is a good idea.

 

Here are some suggestions

1. Gift Certificates for property maintenance. The physically demanding activities of home maintenance are likely difficult, so provide your loved one with a gift certificate for regular home maintenance chores such as snow shovelling, grass cutting, garden upkeep, window washing, etc.

 

2. Homemaking and Household Assistance. Out-door house maintenance is not the only area of challenge for the elderly. Household chores can also become quite onerous. Your loved one will greatly appreciate a gift certificate for housekeeping. 

 

3. Assistive Devices. Assistive devices can include a whole range of products to help with any variety of needs. There are specially designed items for challenges such as hearing impairment, sight impairment, weakness following a stroke, dexterity, memory loss, etc. You might be surprised at some of the items available for purchase at your local assistive devices store. Your loved one will truly appreciate this gift if they have already acknowledged challenge in a particular area.

 

4. Transportation. Many elderly seniors no longer have a licence and no longer drive. No access to transportation can be isolating, especially in the winter months. Providing your loved one with pre-paid driving options ensures that they will not be home-bound when the winter weather hits. Warm Embrace caregivers are pleased to drive your loved ones wherever they need to go.

 

4 IDEAS FOR THOSE LIVING IN NURSING HOMES

If your loved one lives in a retirement home or long-term care centre, then different gifts might be more appropriate. Their personal quarters are much smaller, so they do not have space to keep many belongings. Here are some ideas that won’t take up too much space but will still bring a smile on Christmas day.

 

 

1. Window Ornaments. Glass window ornaments are pretty to look at, and cast a cheerful glow when the sun is shining. There may not be much shelf space available for knick-knacks, but adding a personal touch to the window doesn't take up any additional space.

 

2.Personal Items. Residents in long-term care use their own preferred personal care items such as hand soap, lotion, toothpaste, etc. A care package of your loved one’s favourite items is always appreciated! The scent is strongly linked with memory and emotion; selecting a favourite scent can induce positive memories.

 

3. Blanket or Lap Quilt. Having a cozy item such as a small blanket or lap quilt is always comforting. It can be left on the bed or on a chair in your loved one’s room. If recognition of new items is difficult for your loved one, a blanket on the bed implies its purpose in a way that new clothing items do not.

 

4. Companionship. Providing your loved one with on-going visits is probably the best gift you could offer. Warm Embrace provides Companion Aides to long-term care centers across the region. Companion Aides visit one-on-one with residents and can take them on personal outings into the community. They provide mental and social stimulation, as well as an opportunity for physical activity. This is a gift that keeps on giving long after the holiday season!

 

FOR SENIORS LIVING ANYWHERE:

Triple Vitality. This gift is suitable for someone living in retirement or long-term care, as well as those still living in the community. Triple Vitality is a proactive approach that focuses on three areas of health—physical fitness, mental stimulation, and social interaction. By maintaining strength and functioning in each of these areas, people maintain independence and enjoy an increased quality of life.

 

If you just have questions about the above list of gift ideas, please don’t hesitate to call. We love to know that the seniors in this area will have a meaningful holiday season!

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Exploring Responsive Behaviours

 

Someone who is experiencing dementia may exhibit behaviours that we do not understand.  These behaviours have been labeled ‘difficult’ or ‘disruptive’ or ‘challenging’, but is that really a fair assessment of these behaviours?

 

In caring for people with dementia, the focus often ends up being on the disease itself, rather than on the person who is experiencing the disease.  Thus, their behaviours are often automatically assumed to be associated with the disease. 

 

Sharon Stap, a Psychogeriatric Resource Consultant, contrasts older understandings of dementia with more updated approaches.  In the past, it was understood that dementia was altering someone’s brain, resulting in different behaviour. All behaviour was assumed to be a result of the disease. 

 

 

The newer understanding of dementia is that the changes in someone’s brain results in a different perception of the world around them, creating anxiety, fear and other emotions which then lead to different behaviours.  Understanding that someone with dementia is experiencing a change in perception which causes behaviour should fundamentally alter how we interact with those who have dementia.

 

Dr. Sherry Dupuis, former director of MAREP (the Murray Alzheimer Research Education Project), feels that we need to reframe our view of these behaviours.  Instead of merely seeing the ‘challenge’ or ‘difficulty’ that these behaviours cause for us, or assuming that all behaviour is attributed to disease, we need to reframe these behaviours as a form of communication.  Dr. Dupuis views behaviours as a form of personal expression, a unique way of communicating needs.  We should then seek to understand the meaning behind the personal expression.


We must remember that people who have dementia were all unique individuals prior to the onset of their illness. They continue to be unique individuals with different personalities, communication styles, interests, life histories, etc.  Dr. Dupuis charges us to never lose sight of the fact that a person with dementia is first and foremost a person who requires love, care, and understanding, not just a disease or a ‘case’ that needs to be managed.

 

One of the greatest gifts that we can offer to someone with dementia is the gift of truly relating to that person—validating their personal experiences and feelings.  Someone with dementia is experiencing the world around them differently than they previously experienced the world, and differently than you might be experiencing the world around you. 

 

 

This experience may be frightening, overwhelming, or worrisome, and the feelings that are generated and their emotional response is fully valid. We cannot be dismissive of someone’s feelings or emotional responses just because we do not deem a situation to be frightening to ourselves.  The kindest thing we can do is try to understand the emotional response and validate the feelings that someone else is experiencing.  Only then can we attempt to change someone’s experience into something more positive.
 

If someone is distressed or having a negative experience, distraction can be helpful, but it is not the first step in the process.  Stap emphasizes that you cannot jump immediately to distraction, otherwise you risk being dismissive of someone’s feelings. Stap proposes a four-step process where distraction is the final step, not the first option. 

 
The Four Steps:

 

1. Show you care

 

2. Show you want to help

 

3. Redirect

 

4. Distract

 

For example, Agnes has dementia, and she is upset and focused on wanting to return home. The first step is to acknowledge how Agnes is feeling.  You might say: “You need to get home, Agnes? I can understand why you’re so upset.”  Attempting to inform Agnes that she is already at home—known as reality orientation—is not helpful and only causes more distress; Dupuis and Stap agree that there is rarely, if ever, a good time for reality orientation.

 

 

After acknowledging and validating Agnes’ feelings, you want to show that you want to help.  You might suggest: “let’s go see if we can find someone who can help us, Agnes”.  While on the hunt for someone who can help, you have the opportunity to redirect, the third step.  You could say, “I’m tired. Before we look for someone else who can help, do you mind if we rest here by the piano?”.  After this, you have the opportunity for distraction, the fourth step.  You could then say: “You play the piano, don’t you, Agnes?  Would you play me a tune?” 

 

If you had jumped immediately to distraction via the piano when Agnes first approached you, she likely would have felt even more frustrated that her needs were not being addressed. Acknowledging Agnes’ feelings and needs, then assisting her to focus on something that is more comforting, allows for a positive experience overall.

 

Interpreting all behaviour as a form of personal expression shifts the focus off of the disease of dementia, and refocuses attention on the individual person.  Suddenly, behaviours are imbued with meaning and purpose, a form of communication. It is then our responsibility to enable the best possible form of communication and understanding, setting people up for success, regardless of dementia or other illnesses.

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Holiday Traditions

 

It’s no secret that the holiday season has become increasingly complicated with a heavy focus on commercialism—lots of shopping, busy malls, huge meals, many parties...the list goes on.  While some people may enjoy making detailed desserts that look like a Martha Stewart display, many others find it stressful. When did all this pressure become the norm?

 

If you ask your grandparents what Christmas used to be like, I’ll bet they would tell you a different story.  If they were of the generation that lived through the depression era, you can be certain that there was very little—if any—Christmas shopping to be done. 

 

Instead, the focus was on being together with loved ones, and participating in activities together.  Rather than rushing around trying to have everything in perfect order before family arrived, the focus was on doing things together as a family.  Decorations were much simpler, but usually included extended family members.  Popcorn was strung and used as a garland hung outside for the birds to enjoy. Fruit featured prominently in 

décor—orange peels were used creatively as little baskets, or peels were dried and cut into shapes. 

 

These simple traditions are low-cost and allow everyone to focus on quality time together, rather than individually rushing about stressing about fancy décor.  Perhaps this year you can slow down the pace of the holiday season and revert to some time-honoured traditions from your grandparents’ era. What a special tribute for your grandparents or great-grandparents this holiday season!

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