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Gift Ideas for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents

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Peggy served as caregiver and patient advocate to family members for over a decade. Here is some of her best advice.

What do seniors want on special occasions?

What do seniors want on special occasions?

What Do Nursing Home Residents Want?

What many nursing home residents like more than anything else is the gift of the time you spend with them. Your presence makes them feel special and valued. But when long distances or work schedules prevent you from visiting loved ones often, a thoughtful and useful gift is the next best thing. The question is, what do they want or need that they don't already have?

Games Seniors Like to Play

Seniors enjoy playing Dominoes, crossword puzzles, card games, balloon volleyball and more.

Seniors enjoy playing Dominoes, crossword puzzles, card games, balloon volleyball and more.

Residents frequently request games that stimulate their mind to help them remember they're still in the game. A set of Dominoes or mind challenging games like Scrabble, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, adult coloring books, and card games like Rummy and Go Fish are popular with seniors.

Canine Visitors

Here, Louise connects with a visiting dog that accompanied the home-schooled children when they sang to residents.

Here, Louise connects with a visiting dog that accompanied the home-schooled children when they sang to residents.

Familiar Landmarks

One common issue in a skilled nursing facility is patients forgetting ordinary things. It's common to hear a resident say, "I can't find my room."

This colorful door decoration makes a great gift for residents trying to find their room in a hallway of similar doors.

Door Decorations

Floral arrangements help residents find their rooms in a sea of doors that look alike.

Floral arrangements help residents find their rooms in a sea of doors that look alike.

Memory Prompts

On her 90th birthday, this resident's children, grandchildren and great grandchildren came from around the world to celebrate the event. A photo book labeled with everyone's names helps her remember family members.

Photos can help ease the loneliness of separation from family for those confined to a nursing home.

When names become a blur, a photo collection of the patient's family members may help.

When names become a blur, a photo collection of the patient's family members may help.

Framed Photos for the Wall

Space in a resident's room is limited. Counter tops are often filled with medical equipment, cosmetics, books and other things leaving little room for framed photos or other keepsakes. Using the wall space to display framed photos of loved ones, pennants from favorite teams and other memorabilia is the way to go.

This photo arrangement was a gift from the resident's son who gathered up-to-date photos from each of his children with their kids, put them together in matching frames and artfully hung them on the wall where Great-grandmother could see them every day.

This perpetual calendar with changeable days, dates and months helps keep the resident in the present.

This perpetual calendar with changeable days, dates and months helps keep the resident in the present.

Wall Calendars

When the days become a blur as time passes, residents enjoy having a visible way to help them keep up with the day and date. The changeable calendar pictured above comes with removable wood planks with writing on both sides. There are additional planks for special events like holidays and birthdays. This would be a great project for a student or crafty person to make or purchase them ready-made online.

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Seniors tend to get cold easily in common areas of the facility. A lightweight jacket to match an outfit is always welcomed.

Seniors tend to get cold easily in common areas of the facility. A lightweight jacket to match an outfit is always welcomed.

Warm Cotton Jackets

Temperature is adjustable in a private room but the common rooms and hallways can be uncomfortably cold for some seniors. While everyone else may be wearing shorts, Grandma is usually wearing a jacket.

A lightweight jacket with a zipper, rather than difficult to fasten buttons, makes a great gift that can be worn year around. This machine washable jacket is a favorite that Aunt Louise wears often.

Machine-Washable Dresses

Seniors have certain requirements for their clothing based on personal tastes and preferences.

Seniors have certain requirements for their clothing based on personal tastes and preferences.

Suitable Clothing Items

Finding suitable clothing for folks of a certain age can be difficult. When Aunt Louise first entered the skilled nursing facility at ninety-four, she was wearing pull on tops with matching pants. Once she became wheelchair bound, she was less able to stand up without holding onto the handrail. That made dressing in pants difficult.

Seniors are particular about the styles of clothes they like. Louise prefers a modest neckline that slips on over her head, with no buttons to fasten and with side pockets. The dresses need to hold up to frequent washings. We found quality dresses at The Vermont Country Store online and ordered several of the same style in different colors. She was delighted.

Comfortable Pull-On Slippers

House slippers are welcomed gifts. Make sure they have rubber soles to help prevent falls.

House slippers are welcomed gifts. Make sure they have rubber soles to help prevent falls.

10 More Ideas for Gifts

Wondering about other items that your senior may need? These are a few suggestions for low-cost, useful gift items.

  1. House slippers are easier for arthritic hands to slip on.
  2. Marking pens to label clothing and personal items.
  3. Quality hair brushes and combs are misplaced often and needed every day.
  4. Bendy straws make drinking easier for the bed-ridden patient.
  5. Seat cushions for dining room chairs are helpful for slender, tender bums.
  6. An eyeglass tether for around the neck helps keep track of reading glasses.
  7. Boost or Ensure helps the residents to get the proper nutrition when their appetite diminishes.
  8. A laundry basket is useful to store dirty clothing prior to wash day.
  9. A large-number telephone makes dialing easier for those with vision issues.
  10. Plastic cabinets from the Dollar Store supplement the limited drawer space.
Extra drawer space is always welcomed and this set of plastic drawers comes in handy in the bathroom.

Extra drawer space is always welcomed and this set of plastic drawers comes in handy in the bathroom.

Adding Drawer Space

Drawer space is at a premium in the facility where my mother lives. The built in chest only has five drawers to hold all of her clothing and personal items. The night stand has two smaller drawers for odds and ends like jewelry, hair brushes and assorted personal items. Adding a plastic set of drawers in the bathroom allows space for personal wipes, hand towels, toothpaste, denture cups, and shampoo.

Entertainment

Chris Lemoine visits the nursing facility every week to sing for the residents.

Chris Lemoine visits the nursing facility every week to sing for the residents.

Singers at the Home

Talented musicians share their time and gifts with the residents. A compassionate entertainer, Chris Lemoine remembers the names of those in his audience and caters his music selections to match their memories. He listens to their requests and learns new tunes from their feedback. Songs from their particular era tend to engage the listener and encourages participation in the musical event.

If you can play an instrument or sing along with Karaoke music, the residents will always gather to listen. Or volunteer to read stories aloud to the residents individually or in a group.

Items Your Senior Will Use

This handmade fabric walker caddy is sewn using a Simplicity sewing pattern.

This handmade fabric walker caddy is sewn using a Simplicity sewing pattern.

Sewing a Walker Caddy

If you have the time and know how to sew, you can create a personalized gift for your loved one who uses a walker. This handmade pocketed walker fabric basket is a great way to carry around items like small notebooks, pencils, pens, and eyeglasses while using both hands to safely navigate. Follow the link for instructions on how to make this item.

Balloon Volleyball (A Short Video)

Fun Exercise Activities

Seniors benefit from daily exercise to boost morale, increase muscle mass and improve circulation. This video shows how the residents keep the seniors actively engaged in using their hand and eye coordination as well as their upper bodies.

Not All Residents Are Elderly

This resident has  specific needs and a wish to fulfill them.

This resident has specific needs and a wish to fulfill them.

Everyday Wants and Needs

This resident was injured in an automobile accident and remains paralyzed. After eight years, he's experiencing a return of feeling to his legs. His wish is to have a couple of able-bodied people help him get up and down to his standing frame so he can stimulate his muscles. With proper exercise, he is confident that one day he will walk again and be able to feed himself.

Children Visiting the Seniors

Here the home-schooled children pay a visit to sing for the seniors.

Here the home-schooled children pay a visit to sing for the seniors.

Physical Touch

Wellness workers use other methods to engage patients like Aromatherapy and hand massages. With soft music playing and battery-powered candles, this therapy provides the much-needed physical touch from another human being that's often missing in facilities.

Lunch With the Resident

Bringing in a meal from their favorite places is a memorable event