If you know someone living in a nursing home, give them a gift this holiday season that they’ll treasure. Most items appropriate for retirement home residents are inexpensive gifts, and they’re easy to select if you know a little about the recipient’s hobbies and preferences.
Do they enjoy games, reading, or music? Do they enjoy watching movies, doing puzzles, or being out in nature? Even if you’re a little fuzzy on those details, it’s hard to go wrong with one of the gifts below.
10 Smart Gift Selections
1. Crossword Puzzle Books
Studies show that doing crossword puzzles helps your brain cells stay strong. Another plus is that crosswords are fun and often time-consuming, as it’s easy to become engrossed in completing a puzzle.
Select a large-print crossword puzzle book for someone who has vision problems or difficulty printing in small spaces due to rheumatism or arthritis. My mother suffers from both and prefers “The New York Times Supersized Book of Sunday Crosswords: 500 Puzzles.”
2. Magazine Subscriptions
The anticipation of a well-loved magazine is a special joy, and a magazine subscription is a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year. Lightweight and ideal for intermittent breaks, the right magazine can provide refreshing variety to a nursing home resident’s daily routine.
If you don’t know which magazine to purchase, buy a current issue of a periodical you think they’d enjoy and deliver it on your next visit. That way you can see how they respond. Many magazines are also available in large print and for e-readers like the Amazon Kindle.
3. Bulletin Board With an Instant Camera
For someone in a nursing home, visits from loved ones are occasions to be treasured. Help them remember their joy by purchasing a bulletin board and an easy-to-use instant camera, such as a Polaroid Instant Camera.
Choose a few snapshots of grandchildren and close friends to arrange on the board. When he or she receives a visitor, the patient can ask someone to take a photo of the two of them to place on the board. As time passes, the bulletin board will become a visual memory trove, and a reminder that people care.
4. Lap Desk With a Book Holder
Movement becomes harder as we age, and many nursing home residents find it difficult to be out of their bed or chair for long periods of time. But items like reading glasses, water, books, or tissues can be difficult to handle while seated or laying down, and hard to reach on side tables. Moreover, holding a book for long periods of time can be tiring. That’s where a lap desk complete with a book holder can prove the ideal gift.
Choose a model with roomy side pockets that can hold eyeglasses, snacks, tissues, and notepaper. Coupled with a book holder for making reading a pleasure instead of a pain, this gift is a thoughtful way to show you care. Lap of Luxury offers a number of excellent models.
5. Preloaded iPod Shuffle
Studies show that music can stimulate a range of emotions. Classical music, for example, can help people relax, while soft pop or country music can encourage them to feel cheerful.
Provide someone in a nursing home with easy access to their favorite songs with a preloaded Apple iPod Shuffle. Ask if you don’t know their favorites, as they’d likely love the opportunity to discuss music. An iPod Shuffle is simple to operate, has up to 15 hours of battery life, and can hold hundreds of songs. When you visit, just bring your laptop to recharge the battery while you chat.
6. A Zazzle, Shutterfly, or Snapfish Customized Creation
Make your gift unique with Zazzle, Shutterfly, or Snapfish. First, choose a photo depicting someone special, such as a grandchild. Next, select an item to customize, such as a shirt, a coffee mug, a calendar, or even an iPod case. This is great way to give them a custom item that will remind them of loved ones and that they can use every day. Homemade photo crafts also make excellent gifts!
Flowers die, and a houseplant can require frequent tending. A terrarium, however, makes a lovely, elegant gift. With its own tiny ecosystem and landscape, it’s an unusual gift that will be treasured and, if made correctly, requires minimal (if any) care. They’re typically available at florists and can also be purchased online (e.g. Gothic House Terrarium with Live Plants). Or, if you have the time, make your own.
8. Visits From a Therapy Dog
A visit with a therapy dog can be a precious experience. Somehow, dogs have an easy ability to make even the most curmudgeonly person smile.
First, meet with the nursing home administrator and explain your plan. Emphasize that you want to bring a certified therapy dog with the dog’s handler. Then, research certified therapy dogs in your area if you didn’t already get a reference from the nursing home. Most non-profit animal shelters can provide you with information, and some offer certified therapy dog services.
Services are often free from volunteers, and you don’t need to be present for them. But if you have the means, ask about the volunteer’s favorite animal charity and send a donation as a way of giving back.
9. Boggle, Scrabble, and Other Board Games
If you visit someone regularly, the conversation may lag at times. And that’s where board games literally come into play. They’re relaxing and engaging, and word-based games like Scrabble can help retain memory. Gifting a board game or two may also help your recipient connect with other residents at the home who also like to play games. Try to find larger print versions of board games.
10. Fresh Fruit
Skip the flowers and bypass the candy. When I asked a nursing home consultant to suggest an appropriate gift, she had one recommendation: fresh fruit. It’s the top request she receives when she asks nursing home residents if there is anything they’d like.
Providing vitamins, minerals, and fiber, a basket of seasonal fresh fruit can be a welcome gift. If you live too far to visit, consider a “fruit of the month” subscription, such as one from Harry & David, to enhance your loved one’s life and health.
For many elderly people, moving to a nursing facility can represent a loss of valuable things: their homes, their neighborhoods, and their friends. By showing that you care with a thoughtfully selected gift, you can ease those feelings of loss.
When you’re choosing a gift, consider getting a few extra presents for the other nursing home residents. The director or your loved one can probably point out those who don’t ordinarily receive gifts or visits.
What are some gifts that you’ve given to seniors that they’ve cherished?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)