Gift Ideas for Your Elderly Parents
Kathy Gilmore, vice president of Delmar Gardens, says the best gifts are visits. "Lots of visitors, lots of children, that's what makes them really happy."
If you've got that covered, here are a few more ideas from folks who work at, live at and have loved ones at assisted-care homes.
- A set of birthday cards: It's hard to get to stores to pick out the perfect card for birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones. So Terrie Robbins of St. Louis used to put together a birthday card kit for her mother. She'd go to a card shop and pick out cards that were perfect for her mom to give loved ones. Next, she'd have personalized postage stamps made with a photo of her mom and then she'd address each envelope. You can order personalized stamps at usps.com/postagesolutions/customizedpostage.htm.
- Handheld games: Several handheld games are great for keeping the mind engaged. For instance, Brain Age on the Nintendo DS is fairly easy to use and keeps your brain alert with exercises for the mind. "They also like the games that teenagers like," says Kathy Clark, administrator at St. Louis Altenheim.
- Picture frames with pictures: Updated photos of loved ones to brag about are always welcomed. However, many rooms don't have lots of shelf space, so one option is a digital picture frame fully loaded with photos of everyone in the family.
- A card a week: Have family members sign up to write one letter or card for a designated week. When Robbins' mom was in an assisted-living home, she would send her funny cards "from" Bill Clinton, Britney Spears, Meryl Streep and other celebrities.
- Magazines: Not only do magazines provide hours of entertainment, but your loved one can become quite popular sharing them with other residents.
- Manicure/pedicure: Gilmore of Delmar Gardens, Missouri, suggests salon gift certificates for manicures, pedicures and hair appointments at the salons on their premises. If your loved one's facility does not have a salon, try hiring someone to make a house call. Clark also suggests bringing in massage therapists.
- Bibs: Though some might not like to wear them, the stylish ones on the right person can make quite the fashion statement. Velcro fasteners work best.
- Seasonal decorations: Most homes allow you to decorate the outside of your door. A wreath or cascading floral arrangement hung on her door will bring a smile to your loved one's face.
- Bird feeder: If the place allows you to hang it outside by a window, this is a sure-fire conversation starter.
- Their story: Online publishing companies such as mypublisher.com and blurb.com offer books you can put together chronicling your loved one's life and family. Morning Glory Memoirs (mgmemoirs.com) is a local company that will help you write and publish your stories. You can also give your loved one the gift of letting her tell her own story. History Speaks (luxephoto.net) is a local company that comes to senior homes and digitally records family stories and preserves them on a CD for about $200. Or, you can order a Story Kit from storycorps.org.
- Giant bulletin board: A big cork board can hold family photos, to-do lists and more.
- Sweater: A warm washable cardigan sweater (or two or three) helps them stay warm and stylish.
- Throw: Older people often get cold, so a nice throw can keep them warm.
- Watch: Try a watch with a large face that's easy to read. Clark also recommends a decorative magnifying glass.