Peggy served as caregiver and patient advocate to family members for over a decade. Here is some of her best advice.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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
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.
- House slippers are easier for arthritic hands to slip on.
- Marking pens to label clothing and personal items.
- Quality hair brushes and combs are misplaced often and needed every day.
- Bendy straws make drinking easier for the bed-ridden patient.
- Seat cushions for dining room chairs are helpful for slender, tender bums.
- An eyeglass tether for around the neck helps keep track of reading glasses.
- Boost or Ensure helps the residents to get the proper nutrition when their appetite diminishes.
- A laundry basket is useful to store dirty clothing prior to wash day.
- A large-number telephone makes dialing easier for those with vision issues.
- Plastic cabinets from the Dollar Store supplement the limited drawer space.
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.
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
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
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
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.