10 Gift Ideas for Nursing Home Residents
The Best Gift
The best gift you can give a senior friend or relative is the gift of your time. Whenever guests drop by, regardless of what the seniors are doing at the time, their faces light up at the sign of a visitor.
Spending an hour to have lunch with an elder brings joy, pleasure, and a sense of pride. It breaks the monotony of the daily routine and reassures your loved one that they are cherished and valued. As a bonus, they get bragging rights about the way you've turned out due to their part in your upbringing.
What Do Seniors Want and Need?
Residents at the skilled nursing facility where my mother and auntie live were asked to fill out tags for their Christmas tree wish list. These were some of the top requests:
- The gift of your time. A nice long visit, and even perhaps to share a meal with them.
- Soft smelling lotions like Lubriderm or cologne spritzers.
- Fluffy socks, comfortable slippers, sweat suits, and Santa hats.
- Personal cosmetic wipes, flush-able towelettes, air fresheners, Lysol.
- Mind Games like Scrabble, crossword puzzles, word searches, and Sudoku puzzles.
- Homemade treats, candies, sugar-free items, cookies.
- Bird feeders and seeds to refill them.
- Compact discs of singers from their era like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby.
- Photos of their loved ones, framed to hang on the wall (remember that surface space is limited).
- Stuffed animals that remind them of beloved pets.
Dining in the Cafe
In many skilled nursing facilities, you can enjoy a guest meal at no cost to family members or friends when they 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.
Entertaining the Residents
Five Things You Can Give at No Cost
What if your funds are limited? Some of the best gifts are those of personal attention to the needs of the resident. What can you do for free 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 or sing them their favorite song.
Attend a Family Conference
Music and Songs Lift the Spirits
One welcomed pastime at any skilled nursing facility is the music from volunteers who perform for the residents. The songs invoke a variety of reactions ranging from those who sing along, wave their arms, clap to the music or just nod their heads. In a few cases, some get up and dance to the tunes.
Musicians in the area give freely of their time, rewarded by the joy the residents express during their visits. On Thursdays, guitarist Chris plays at three different times during the day and sings individually to others. Sam and Pat of Two-R-More sing Country and Bluegrass Music to entertain the residents. Gospel singer, Gigi Burgess makes time in her monthly schedule to sing favorites and provide hugs to the audience.
Giving the Gift of Song
Other welcomed gifts are beauty salon certificates for services by the on-site cosmetologist. Or ask to use the beauty shop and give your senior a nice shampoo and scalp massage.
Beauty Salon Certificates
Items for personal use seem to be the most often requested items. Keep in mind that some people have allergies, so choose a softly scented lotion or mild cologne. Just a reminder 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
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.
What do seniors do with their time? Besides playing Bingo, jigsaw puzzles and working on word games, seniors like to look out of the windows. My ninety-five year old auntie says she likes to 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 in view of her window.
She often speaks about the birds that land on the feeder and the names she gives to 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 brand bird food for less than twenty dollars. This lasts a long time and provides hours of visual enjoyment.
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 as midnight snacks.
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.
Volunteer Dog Associations
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.
Ginger, the Mascot
Any Time is Good for Gift Giving
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 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 11
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.
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.
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.
© 2014 Peg Cole