10 Gift Ideas for Nursing Home Residents
Imagine all your belongings confined to a small room with limited drawer space, a small closet and possibly sharing that room with someone not well known to you. What kind of useful gifts could your family give that would fit into that space and be welcomed and appreciated?
Finding that perfect gift can be one of the most difficult things to do after a loved one either moves into a skilled nursing facility or downsizes to a smaller place. If you ask your senior what they would like for a birthday or holiday, they are often at a loss. They may even tell you they have everything they need, but do they?
The Best Gift You Can Give
The best gift you can give a nursing home-bound friend or relative is a few minutes of your time. Whatever the residents may be doing at the moment, their faces light up at the sight of a visitor.
Sharing lunch with an elder breaks the monotony of the daily routine and reassures your loved one they are cherished and valued. It brings them joy, pleasure, and a sense of pride when their friends see you visit.
Another thoughtful gift is to attend a facility-family conference with them. At these conferences, family members and patients discuss the care they're receiving and identify any issues that need attention. Your presence helps them advocate for themselves and also gives them confidence that otherwise might be lacking.
10 Useful and Often Requested Gifts
- Cotton Socks, Slippers, Sweat Suits, Clothing that's easy to get on and off.
- Bird Feeders and the seed to refill them
- Homemade cakes, cookies, candy, individual puddings, Ensure or Boost for snacks, sugar-free items, along with food from their favorite fast-food places like milkshakes and easy to eat items.
- Gift certificates for the facility hair salon
- CDs and DVDs of their favorite songs, movies and TV shows
- Large print books, Adult coloring books or audio books and a small audio player
- Craft Supplies like colored pencils, plastic blunt-tipped scissors, paint-by-number, yarn and knitting supplies.
- Office Supplies like ball point pens, small tablets for notes
- Games like Scrabble, Dominoes and Crossword Puzzles
- Nail Clippers and Emery Boards
Meaningful Gifts That Are Free
What if your funds are limited? Some of the most appreciated gifts include personal attention that you can do during your visit.
- Offer to comb or style your family member's hair.
- Give a hand or foot massage.
- Trim your senior's fingernails.
- Write a letter on their behalf, stamp, address, and mail the letter.
- Read a story to your senior if they have trouble seeing.
- Sing them their favorite song.
- Play a board game like Scrabble, a game of Dominoes, cards, or work a puzzle together.
- Attend an activities session and stay for the Bingo games or stretching exercises.
Food and Time Together Are the Best!
In many skilled nursing facilities, you can enjoy a guest meal at no cost to family members or friends when you visit. If this isn't the case where your relative lives, you can always pack a sandwich and bring it along to eat while your senior dines.
Another option is to pick up their favorite fast food on the way and share it with them. Usually, beverages like coffee and tea are available for guests at no charge.
Edible gifts made by a loved one like homemade cookies, cakes, candy, and pies are things that most residents love to receive. If your senior is on a restricted diet, you can customize your holiday baking to include sugar-free gifts.
If you're not a seasoned baker, choose other edible gifts like pudding cups, individual packages of fruit, or crackers with peanut butter or cheese, juice boxes, individually wrapped candies that are easy to open, and even plastic bottles of Ensure or Boost supplement for a midnight snack.
Music and Entertainment
Live Music and Songs Lift the Spirit
One welcomed pastime at any skilled nursing facility is the music from volunteers who perform for the residents who sing along, wave their arms, clap to the music, or nod their heads. Some even get up and dance to the tunes.
Musicians in the area come in to entertain the residents. Guitarist Chris plays at three different times on Thursdays and sings individually to those confined to their rooms. Country Music singers, Sam and Pat and Gospel singer Gigi Burgess make time in their monthly schedule to sing favorite songs and provide hugs to the audience.
Find out what your loved one's favorite old movies or TV shows are and bring them DVDs so they can watch them whenever they want. You may need to also bring them a DVD player, so it's best to double check that they have one first.
Personal Care Items
Items for personal use seem to be the most often requested items. Keep in mind that some people have allergies, so choose unscented, or a softly scented lotion or mild cologne.
Remember that caps and lids may be difficult to open. As my mother grew older, packaging seemed to become more difficult for her to manage. Items with pump dispensers or containers that are easy to open are a good choice. You may even need to open the box of tissues and start the first one out of the box. Tasks that are simple to youthful hands can become a nightmare for a senior who struggles with arthritis.
Trial sized items like handy wipes, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, and mouthwash are often requested. The small size allows for easy portability in pockets and pouches. Not many people carry purses in these homes
Beauty Salon Certificates
All nursing home residents could use a little pampering. A wonderful gift is beauty salon certificates for services by the on-site cosmetologists. Alternatively, you can ask to use the beauty shop and give your senior a nice shampoo and gentle scalp massage. If neither of those options is available, arrange to take your loved one to a salon nearby.
Animals and Nature's Beauty
What do seniors do with their time? Besides playing bingo, working on jigsaw puzzles and word games, seniors like to enjoy the outdoors. My ninety-five-year-old auntie says she likes to sit by the window and watch traffic and count cars. To battle depression that goes with the transition from independent living to being in a facility, the psychologist recommended putting a bird feeder outside her window.
She often speaks about the birds that land on the feeder and she even names them. Volunteers at the facility fill up the bird feeder when it needs more food as long as we provide the bird seed. Sam's and Costco sell a forty-pound bag of National Audubon bird food for less than twenty dollars. This lasts a long time and provides hours of visual enjoyment.
Dogs and Service Animals
One of the best ways to provide comfort and a touch of home is to invite the Visiting Dog's Association to visit your family members. It is amazing to watch the expressions of joy when seniors make contact with a well-trained, friendly canine.
Make sure to find out which residents are allergic to animals and make arrangements for medication or for them to be in another area of the building.
Ginger the Mascot
The administrator at Mom's place has been bringing his Golden Retriever to the facility with him for most of her life. She's now an elderly dog at twelve but she still enjoys her duties greeting folks and passing out kisses. The residents all know Ginger and look forward to sneaking her table scraps and dog biscuits whenever they see her.
What Do You Give Someone With Dementia or Alzheimer’s?
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, gifts don’t need to be much different from gifts you gave your loved one before they were diagnosed. The following ideas are great for those in the beginning stages.
- Activity books with crossword puzzles or strategy games.
- Their favorite classic movies and tv shows.
- A photo album or calendar from special occasions with family and friends.
In the middle stages of Alzheimer’s gifts like automatic nightlights or medicine dispensers are especially useful. Another good idea is simple craft kits and activities that will help them reminisce about when they were young.
Sensory stimulating gifts are more import in the later stages of the disease because it can help stimulate some of your loved one’s memories.
- Comfortable clothes that are soft and have Velcro closings can make getting dressed easier for your loved one.
- A soft robe or blanket in their favorite color.
- A doll or stuffed animal.
- Music from their childhood or teenage years.
You may want to get them a location device that can track them if they wander off or become disoriented.
Gifts for the Visually Impaired
- Magnifying Glass Necklace: This can help elderly women read things like store labels and be fashionable at the same time.
- Talking Watch
- Low-Vision Keyboard
- Subscription to Audible
Gifts for the Hearing Impaired
- Video Doorbell
- Captioned Telephone
- TV Listening Device
Donations for Nursing Homes
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities can always use donations. Before donating, call and ask what is needed and if there is anything that they don't accept as donations. Here are some ideas for things to donate.
Air Fresheners or Deodorizers
Arts and Crafts Supplies
Large Print Books
Flashlights and Reading Lights
Poise and Depends Undergarments
Cards and Stationery
Puzzles and Board Games
Any Time Is Good for Giving Gifts
It doesn't have to be a special occasion to bring a gift to your favorite senior, although on birthdays and holidays, a personal gift is a welcomed event. Whether it is a purchased present or a gift of your time and effort, your loved one will treasure these small tokens of your affection.
Do You Know Anyone Who Lives in a Nursing Home?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
What kind of gift can I get for an 80-year-old woman who thinks she's going into a home for a couple of weeks, but in reality, she's going there to live?
The gift is not the issue; rather, the issue is whether you plan on telling her the truth or not.
In some cases, with dementia patients, residents may hold onto certain ideas and not comprehend the complexity of their situation. My mother, for example, after being in a nursing home for nearly three years, told me that when and if her older sister, who shared a room with her, passed away, she would be ready to come home. At that point, Mom was completely dependent on caregivers for daily needs: medication; meal preparation; showering and more.
Frankly, no gift will soften the blow if someone who wants to go home cannot. I suggest that you visit her frequently and show compassion and understanding. Your kindness to her will go a long way. Bring fresh flowers and spend time with her while arranging them in a vase. Help organize her clothes into outfits (pants and blouses together with socks) in the drawers. Make sure she has all the essential toiletries she needs. Take her to activities like in-house musical performances and sit with her. Most of all, reassure her of your love and concern for her safety and health.Helpful 15
What can I do to comfort my fifty-eight-year-old brother? He lives in a nursing home.
If your brother has a favorite sports team, a cap with their logo would be a welcome gift or perhaps a chair cushion if he's wheelchair-bound or nice warm cotton socks. One of the residents at my Mom's facility used to buy sugar-free, hard candy to pass out to other residents while he stopped to make small talk.Helpful 14
Would a crochet doll be a good gift for a nursing home resident?
Something like a doll that you made especially for your resident would likely be cherished and appreciated. My mother had a favorite stuffed animal that she named. She made sure it was on her pillow on display every day.Helpful 12
What treat should I take an elderly brother in his late 50's?
You might take him either a gift card (i.e., WalMart) or pay for an in-home salon service for a haircut or a manicure for him. Beyond your visit, which will be a highlight, he may need personal items like tissues, mouthwash, toothpaste, a comb, air fresheners or other things that are not readily available. Some nursing homes take the residents on outings to local malls and grocery stores where they can purchase treats or other necessities. If you're willing, bake one of his favorite homemade goodies and help him to share it with his friends. It lifts the spirits of residents when they're able to offer something special to others.Helpful 10
© 2014 Peg Cole