Giving the gift of time
In the closing moments of the holiday classic “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the green monster with the jagged smile has a revelation.
While rescuing the toppling sleigh stuffed with goodies purloined from Whoville revelers, the Grinch realizes Christmas is more than what can be bought in a store.
For those living with dementia and memory loss that which is ‘more’ may be time with loved ones and family members, according to Melissa Clementoni, associate executive director of Connections Neighborhood at Country Meadows Retirement Communities, Allentown.
Sharing time with those with dementia and memory loss during the holidays can be more valuable and meaningful than a physical gift.
Clementoni suggests taking a walk, sharing lunch or flipping through family photo albums with family members.
And sharing music is a particularly useful tool, she said.
“Music is a very powerful thing because it is one of the first things you learn,” Clementoni advised. “It’s a powerful memory stimulation tool.”
The Alzheimer’s Association lists singing holiday songs among recommendations for activities visitors to memory care facilities can do with residents.
Other suggested activities include bringing a favorite holiday food to share or reading aloud a favorite holiday story or poem with the resident.
Preferred gifts also may depend on the stage of memory loss.
For example, those in the advanced stages of memory loss may enjoy more tactile gifts such as a soft blanket or plush toy while those in earlier stages of memory loss may enjoy a photo album of family celebrations. The exact dates of events may be forgotten but the photos might evoke good emotions or feelings, Clementoni said,
Caregivers also should be remembered in gift giving, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, particularly family members caring for those with memory loss at home.
For example, respite care to allow the caregiver an afternoon out of the house may be welcomed.
When giving of one’s time, it is essential to “expect the unexpected,” Clementoni said.
Dementia and memory loss effects vary and what works today or for one person may not work for another.
It is important to be flexible whether visiting a person at home or in a care facility.