Gift Ideas for Nursing Home Residents
The Best Gift
The best gift you can give to your senior is the gift of your time. Whenever guests drop by, regardless of what the seniors are doing, their faces always 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 and a nice long visit, perhaps, to share a meal with them
- Soft smelling lotions like Lubriderm; cologne spritzers
- Fluffy socks and comfortable slippers, sweat suits, Santa hats
- Personal cosmetic wipes, flush-able towelettes, air fresheners, Lysol
- Mind Games like Scrabble, crossword puzzles, find-a-word and Sudoku puzzles
- Homemade treats, candies, sugar free items, cookies
- Bird Feeders and the seed to refill them
- Compact discs of singers from their era (Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby)
- Photos of their loved ones, framed to hang on the wall (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 practice isn't offered you can always pack a sandwich and bring it along to eat while your senior eats a meal.
Or pick up some Kentucky Fried Chicken or chicken nuggets and share them with your senior. 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.
- Sit and have a meal with them at the facility.
Attend a Family Conference
Music and Songs Lift the Spirits
One welcomed event at a skilled nursing facility is the musicians who come to 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 within the facility. Musical duo, Two-R-More, performing Country and Bluegrass Music entertains the residents. Gospel singer, Gigi Burgess makes time in her monthly schedule to sing favorites and provide hugs to the audience.
Beauty Salon Certificates
Personal Hygiene Items
Items for personal use seem to be the most commonly requested items among those residents at the facility where my relatives live. Bear in mind that many people have allergies, so choose a softly scented lotion or mild cologne.
Some reminders are that caps and lids may be difficult for arthritic hands to open. I noticed as my mother grew older that packaging seemed to become more difficult for her to manage. Pump dispensers or containers that are easy to open are a good idea. 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 may struggle with arthritis.
Trial sized items like flushable 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 who 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 has a forty pound bag of National Audubon Society brand bird food packaged for under twenty dollars. This lasts a long time and provides hours of visual enjoyment.
Special Holiday Treats
Edible gifts made by a loved one like home made 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.
Visiting Dogs Association
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.
Where Mom lives, the administrator of the facility has been bringing his Golden Retriever with him to work five days a week for her entire life. She's now an elderly dog at eleven but she enjoys her duties at the home where she guards the door to her master's office. The residents all know Ginger and look forward to sharing dog biscuits and sneaking her some table scraps as they pass by on their routines. She is friendly, well mannered and loves to be petted.
Volunteer Dog Associations
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.
Giving the Gift of Song
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© 2014 Peg Cole