Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas gift ideas for loved-ones with dementia

Wayne is trying out some of the Twistables by Crayola.
Wayne is trying out some of the Twistables by Crayola.

Once friends or loved-ones begin their journey down the path of dementia, gift giving becomes much more difficult. Previous interests change or fall away. Abilities diminish, concentration and focus shorten as senses dull. Warm socks, stretchy pants and button-up tops may make dressing easier, but finding something your loved one would enjoy can also make a nice gift.

Gifts for the three stages of dementia


  • Goldfish- easy to maintain, inexpensive to replace
  •  Jigsaw Puzzles-specifically tailored to age and level of loved-one’s ability. Number of pieces should match their ability and interests
  • Adult Coloring books – especially the books themed from the1950s. Pictures and information from that era may also trigger memories from youth.  Crayola Twistables  are nice and sturdy to fit in an older hand.
  • Favorite movies such as “Sound of Music”, “Miracle on 34th Street” along with any Bob Hope, John Wayne or Gary Cooper movies
  • CDs, an ipad or radio. Any type of music your loved one might enjoy. If you are not sure, go to BBC Music Memories and play snippets of songs from a variety of eras and types until you  learn what songs provide enjoyment.
  • Card games such as ImageSnap card game



Since one of the companion maladies that often accompanies dementia is loss of the ability to smell, perfume or scented soaps are not items that would bring the joy to your loved-one they hadin the past. Many folks with declining ability also have food limitations dueto diabetes and other medical issues. Because of that, gifts of candy or otherfoods may not be appropriate.

One lesson that I learned about candy was that at some point, my Mama lost the ability to distinguish between the candy and the paper wrapper. She would often try to put the whole thing in her mouth – wrapper and all. Things that require batteries can also be a problem along with any article of clothing that has intricate snaps, buttons or closures.

A Word of advice on gift giving

Giving your loved-one a present is wonderful, but to really brighten up their day try to arrange it so that you can participate in the activity. For example, don’t simply give a movie – watch it with them. Bring a color book for yourself and plan to spend a bit of time coloring together. Best of all, instead of handing your loved-one a CD of old songs, attempt to discover music they loved as a youth, learn the lyrics and have a sing-along. The time spent together is the best gift of all.

Gifts for Caregivers

Cover of New Every Day
Paperback or Kindle edition

A friend of mine, Dave Meurer has just published a book titled, New Every Day – Navigating Alzheimer’s with Grace and compassion. He is an award-winning author and writer of a multitude of books dealing with family life.  I have loved every book Dave has written – they are always filled with humor, love, and insight. You will not be disappointed.

From the Back of the Book: A friend on the journey of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s. It breaks your heart, disrupts your plans, and consumes enormous amounts of time and energy. When someone you love has Alzheimer’s, you need more than just information on the disease–you need a break. You need a laugh. You need a friend by your side who knows exactly what you’re facing.
Award-winning humorist Dave Meurer is that friend. New Every Day is packed with practical information–like where to look for financial help and how to get the DMV to take away the car keys so you don’t take the heat for it–along with plenty of true stories from Meurer’s own experiences navigating life with a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Here you will find both hard-earned wisdom and badly needed comic relief for your journey down this difficult road. With compassion born of experience, Meurer helps caregivers develop the ability to relax, adapt, and even laugh again.

Paperback or Kindle edition
Paperback or Kindle edition

Caring for a loved one with dementia 
My book, “FinishingWell: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama, who fought the good fightwith dementia for over a decade.The journey down the pathwayof dementia is seldom static. Change is the norm. Like lost pieces in a puzzle,the picture never quite comes together—something is always missing.

Dementia is a tough disease. It wreaks havoc on the emotions of both loved ones and caregivers. It can often be a long trek – taking you up the hills of lost-ness and confusion, as well as down through the valley of the shadow of death. We don’t know how to fix it nor do we have all the answers, but we have walked this road. It is our prayer that the anecdotes in this book will be both a help and an encouragement for your own unique journey.

Caring for my Mama through her decline felt like an uncharted wilderness. Resources were few and far between. There wasn’t a lot available in the way of guidance or help, but we were determined to bring as much joy as possible along the way in spite of the challenges. 
This is our story – actually, it’s Mama’s – who loved to say, that despite every difficulty, she was still in good shape for the shape she is was in. 

Smile For a While and Let’s Be Jolly…

My sister Peggy, age 5, smiling her beautiful smile
My sister Peggy, age 5, smiling her beautiful smile

The Cheshire Cat may have been onto something. Accounts differ as to what inspired Lewis Carroll to use the smiling cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but the majority agrees that he certainly made it famous. A multitude of studies has recently shown that smiling actually changes your brain (in a good way).

That is really good news for those who suffer from some form of dementia, who, along with Alice might find themselves in a strange and confusing world where nothing appears real and everyone seems to be a bit mad. They may also feel frightened and lonely and wish they could simply tap their ruby slippers together three times and go home again….wait; I’ve mixed up my stories. Suffice it to say, dementia is not a pleasant world to live in.

Those caring for loved ones who suffer from dementia may also find themselves living in a strange and lonely world. People they once had lively and meaningful conversations with can no longer chat and may not even recognize them. My Mama, who was smart, witty and a wonderful conversationalist, lost the ability to recognize me in the early stages of her battle with dementia.

This is the time of year when dark feelings of loneliness and depression can magnify – how ironic since the holidays are usually portrayed by scenes of happy family and friends getting together. Of course, the contrast between what is depicted and reality may be a contributing influence in the sadness factor. That, combined with what is referred to as Winter Blues (when days are short), can cause many caregivers to experience feelings of hopelessness.

Back to the smiles

My sister Peggy and me sharing a laugh. She was always making me smile.
My sister Peggy and me sharing a laugh. She was always making me smile.

Smiles are also contagious; if you smile at someone, they smile, and then you both get a little happier–which can be especially good news for caregivers. Try smiling at your loved one several times throughout your day and watch how they respond.  Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden concluded that frowning when looking at someone smiling is possible, but would be very difficult.

What if you don’t feel like smiling?

Senia, age 4

But wait, there’s more! According to PhychologyToday.com, smiles– even fake smiles do a lot more than simply let the world know you’re happy. It turns out that there is also a whole host of health benefits to smiling. In an article titled, “15 of the best and free health benefits of smiling” including heart health, pain and stress reduction as well as an increase in productivity and longevity.

Everyone feels depressed now and then, and this is not meant to be a flippant post on the subject. Issues such as sadness and depression are not to be taken lightly. If you or someone you know is experiencing sadness that won’t go away, MentalHelp.net has some good advice on When To Seek Professional Help And Where To Find Help For Major Depression.

The takeaway here is that smiles might just be the best Christmas gift you can give out all season long…and best of all, they’re free!

"Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia" can be ordered by clicking on the following link: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01GAG2ZMS
“Finishing Well: Finding the Joy in Dementia” By Senia Owensby

Has your world been touched by dementia? Or, are you a caregiver? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and tips about doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey. Find our group on Facebook 

It’s beginning to look , (smell & sound) a lot like Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas decorations.

🎼Jingle Bells, Yuletide smells, Christmas on display – bringing back the memories of a long past Christmas day.

A Christmas tree trimmed with old fashioned decorations and stockings hung by the fire along with the wonderful smells of gingerbread mingling with the sharp fragrance of pine and familiar songs of the season all work together to invoke memories of Christmas past.  Our senses are doorways through which memories can flow.

According to an article in LiveScience.com, Brain’s Link Between Sounds, Smells and Memory Revealed: Sights, sounds and smells can all evoke emotionally charged memories. A new study in rats suggests why: The same part of the brain that’s in charge of processing our senses is also responsible, at least in part, for storing emotional memories…Previously, scientists had not considered these sensory brain regions all that important for housing emotional memories, said study researcher Benedetto Sacchetti, of the National Institute of Neuroscience in Turin, Italy.

Since the Christmas season is chalk-full of sensory delights, this is the perfect time to take advantage of anything that could stir up memories in your loved one.

For example, if making gingerbread houses or gingerbread men was a beloved annual tradition, then the smell of gingerbread baking or the sight of a gingerbread house could trigger fond emotional memories of happy times past.

The Christmas wreath on our front door.

Pine trees are another seasonal smell that is fairly easy to come by this time of the year– even just a few boughs can produce that wonderful fragrance.

According to Fifth Sense, The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses.

Besides smells, the sights associated with Christmas such as decorated trees, poinsettias and twinkling lights might provoke a sense of joy accompanied by a memory or two of yesteryear.

Sounds abound as well this time of the year. Christmas songs and hymns are ring out everywhere you go – stores, coffee shops and even offices. Churches sing many of the beloved Christmas hymns and if your loved one has attended church prior to developing dementia, going to a service will provide a plethora of sights, sounds and smells of the season.

Since the senses are connected to memories, it is possible to provide your loved one with memory-triggering pleasures year around, but at Christmas, it is almost as if the whole world is in this process with you. So as much as possible, take the time to enjoy the sweet-smelling, merry, twinkling, singing most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas!

Activity ideas to help when your loved-one is bored or fidgety

I remember watching my grandma twiddle her thumbs back when I was a little girl. It fascinated me. She did it all the time – usually while she was sitting in her favorite chair and either visiting or watching TV. She told me it was good to have something for your hands to do while you were waiting. That made sense to me and I remember trying to copy her when she wasn’t looking. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal now, but back when I was very young, teaching my thumbs to twiddle felt like a huge accomplishment.

This one is from AbuelaVicky found at Etsy.com.

It turns out that no matter how old you become, it is still good to have something for your hands to do. Last year I wrote a post called For that Fidgety Feeling” about something called Fidgety quilts. I loved the idea.

When my Mama lived with us while she was in the middle stages of dementia, she constantly needed something to do. Prior to the onset of dementia, she both knitted and crocheted. But as her dementia became more and more pronounced, she found it difficult to maintain any type of ongoing focus.  She would quickly become bored and forget what she was working on.

Fidgety fighters

We kept her busy with short-term activities such as folding warm towels, sorting colored beads into small bowls

This one is from BizzieLizzieKnits found on Etsy.com

according to their color, and one of her favorites: picking lint off of sweaters. Before dementia struck, Mama was very detail oriented. It made sense as she was a laboratory scientist and paying attention to details was extremely important.

If I had heard about fidgety quilts back then, I believe that Mama would have loved the idea. The fact that they don’t require any special skills or knowledge to play with the various ribbons, buttons and interesting items attached to the quilts makes them perfect for every ability level.

I recently watched a short news video on BBC titled: “Lancashire knitters ‘twiddle muffs’ dementia tool plea” where there was a plea for area knitters to make and donate “twiddle muffs” to local hospitals. The muffs are a great idea – especially if you are a knitter. If you don’t knit, you can still purchase a Twiddle muff for your loved one. They seem to be a bit less expensive as well as more portable than the ‘Fidgety Quilt’ so would make a marvelous Christmas present for a loved one who tends to get fidgety.

Twiddle Kitty
Twiddle Kitty

Once you begin to look, you will discover a whole world of items designed to help give loved ones’ fingers something to do and perhaps reduce periods of agitation.

If you happen to be a knitter perhaps you might consider creating a few extra twiddle muffs to bless someone who could use a thoughtful and helpful gift this Christmas season.