Aging Parents: 8 Valentine’s Day Gifts for Patients in Nursing Homes~ with Feb. 2013 & 2016 updates

 8 Gift Suggestions:

Valentine's Day Special1. Thanks to far-away-living daughter, Monique, who thought of this and sent it to her elderly mother in France. After purchasing a heart-shaped box at a Dollar Store, she wrote the following note and placed it in the box.

“I’ve taken all the love out of my heart
and placed it in this box. Any time you need a little,
open the box and let some out.”

While these boxes are small and attractive, it’s the content that’s priceless and personal– a connection from the heart, for any nursing home patient (or any elder actually) who has decent vision and can read. Monique added a few Hershey kisses in the box. oxallis

2. Plants–Especially for those who enjoyed gardening, plants give older people something to take care of and focus on outside themselves. I particularly like oxalis regnellii because they flower continually, are forgiving if not well cared for and do well in indirect light.

Succulents of any variety that don’t have “prickers,”–eg. sedum–are also easy care, Red Kalanchoe-Green containerneed little water, some are very attractive. They like (but can exist without) good light and flower–if you’re lucky–once a year. This is a red kalanchoe.

Violets are more fussy but should be no problem for those who gardened in the past. They flower over a rather long period of time and need light (but not direct sunlight)–and light fertilizing to flower again after their initial blooming period.  They don’t want water on their leaves, and should be regularly turned to keep their nice shape.

Begonia varieties are numerous, colorful, most require minimal care, grow well indoors,
and will flower in indirect light. (They are usually shade plants outdoors.)IMG_2206

Philodendrons come in all sizes, are difficult to kill, can be grown in soil or water, have no flowers, and do fine in low light. They also help purify the air, and their heart-shaped leaves make them perfect for Valentine’s Day.

3. Favorite music seems–remarkably– to stimulate memory in some dementia patients. CD’s or tapes (a collection of favorite TV shows and/or movies) are options if the technology to use them is available.  Don’t we all love watching (or listening to) our favorite oldies–movies and/or music–again and again!

4.  Salon certificates: Most nursing facilities have in-house salons for hair and nails, but they require an additional charge. What about giving gift certificates for the salon? Look good, feel better!

5.  Room decorations: make an institutional setting feel more personal and uplifting. Ideas: Framed pictures of grandchildren, the family, or grandchildren’s drawings.

6.  Photo albums, home movies: Sharing family stories with others (visitors, other patients or staff) is a popular pastime. Photo albums, videos and movies add to the interest and fun. The necessary technology to play them is usually available on most floors.

7.  Magazine subscriptions: The recreation director at an Elder-Care center in New Hampshire says “travel magazines are extremely popular around here.” Our elders are  in the best position to know whether travel, People, Fly Fishing, or National Geographic is the best fit for then.

8. Sr. Advisor R’s favorite gift while in rehab was a smalls, light-weight blanket. Would a red one be perfect for Valentine’s Day?

When uncertain about gifts, check with the activities or social services directors at the nursing home.

As has been said many times, visits from family are the best gift (especially when they bring home-baked or home-cooked food). That said, often the most special visitors are the babies and tots. They bring joy, old people can oooh and aahh over them, and grand–or great-grand–parents can take pride in showing them off.

When we make Valentine’s Day special for those in care facilities, we lift spirits. And doesn’t that contribute to helping parents age well?

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

Help Parents Age Well: Elderly Memory and Music

My cousin, a naturally gifted pianist, is on the board of a foundation that loans fine pianos to promising young students. This past summer she mentioned new research connecting music and memory in people with Alzheimer’s. It was a general conversation that I filed away in my memory.

I just heard–and watched on TV–an impressive segment demonstrating this connection.
1.  Research seems to validate that music is deeply embedded in memory.
2.  Personalizing a dementia suffer’s favorite music, played through an iPod, seems–amazingly– to generate certain memory, joy and on-target communication in people with memory loss.

While NPR featured this music-memory connection on an April 2012 program, thoughts of a gift to help parents with dementia age well just entered my mind. (*Note Mayo Clinic’s definition of dementia.)

Link to this NPR piece Watch the video. A man who has been “out of it” (in a nursing home for 10 years) comes back “into it”–stimulated by the music from an iPod. (He’s a different person from the person on the NY TV segment I watched,  but the result is similar.) How heartening is this!?…especially if a family member or friend suffers from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The text accompanying NPR’s piece includes a box with “how to’s” for introducing music to those with memory loss. Also, the audio “Listen Now” on this NPR piece has excellent, related material.

It would seem personalized music from a simple, relatively inexpensive iPod (shuffle, nano) adds an invaluable ingredient–a priceless gift actually–for those who have been lost to dementia.

These people have not aged well–it’s so sad. And so frustrating to feel we’re helpless. But now it seems we can make a difference. We can–by gifting a small iPod device and a bit of work on our part to download the perfect music–help many with major memory loss age better, if not well.


*Dementia isn’t a specific disease. Instead, dementia describes a group of symptoms affecting intellectual and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning…. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of a progressive dementia….Memory loss generally occurs in dementia, but memory loss alone doesn’t mean you have dementia.”

Check out: “Newsworthy”–right sidebar.Timely links to research and information from top universities and respected professionals, plus some practical stuff to help parents age well.