Gift ideas for those suffering from memory loss

Holiday shopping can pose extra challenges when someone on your list suffers from memory loss.

Myndi Milliken, director of Admissions at Swanton Health Care and Retirement Center, said there are many gifts that are well-suited to people in all levels of memory loss and dementia.

“There are several stages of memory loss, especially when you are dealing with dementia,” she said. “One of the key things to keep in mind is to personalize everything because not only does it show that you put some time and effort into the gift, it can sometimes help with the memory loss.”

For people who are beginning to become forgetful but are still driving, a GPS unit programmed with destinations like “home,” “grocery store,” “mall” and “doctor’s office” can be a big help. Cellphones with pre-programmed important phone numbers are also a good choice.

“There is a lot of technology out there now that you don’t need to know intimately in order to use,” Milliken said.

At its earliest stages, people with dementia can benefit from things like calendars with all of the pertinent dates filled in, such as birthdays, family get-togethers, doctor appointments and the like.

“A desktop organizer is helpful because the person can just go to the same spot for a particular item,” Milliken said. “And getting a new key ring with all new keys that have labels on them is a great idea. Small, personalized touches make it special and helpful.”

For those with more advanced memory loss, Milliken said, photo albums are an excellent choice.

“But not just an album of pictures,” she said. “It should have every photo labeled with the names of the people in the photo, why they were photographed together, and something about the occasion. You want to talk about the feelings, what happened and why. This brings a cohesiveness so the person will feel like they remember the event even if they don’t.”

For late-stage dementia, a personal gift such as a cozy throw with a photo screened on it is a perfect choice.

“Items of comfort are key,” Milliken said. “Now they have throws with family photos on them and they can be very comforting, especially if the photo shows the person with dementia being hugged by a family member or with a beloved pet. They may not know where they are, but they can see that they are loved.”

Another meaningful gift is the gift of music. Studies have shown that the part of the brain that recognizes and enjoys music is often the last part affected by memory loss. Making a playlist on a CD or ipod with music that the recipient identifies with or loves has emotional, health and spiritual benefits. For more information on how music affects those suffering from memory loss, visit

Swanton Health Care and Retirement Center has been a family-owned staple in the community for over 30 years, providing rehabilitation, long-term care, and assisted living. For more information, call 419-825-1145 or visit