Good long-distance gifts for Alzheimer's patient in a nursing home?
September 16, 2010 2:45 PM   Subscribe

What are some long-distance things I can do to make my grandma happy? She is in a nursing home with Alzheimer's.

Last month, my grandfather had to put my grandmother in a nursing home, as her Alzheimer's had progressed to the point that he could no longer care for her at home.

He and my aunt live nearby and visit with her often, but I live too far to get there more than maybe once a year. I would like to think of some things I could do to give my grandma some joy since I can't be there in person. I would also welcome any suggestions for my grandpa.

For her birthday, I sent her a wool lace shawl that I crocheted for her, because she gets cold easily. I have not heard yet how that worked out for her. I do crochet, knit, and quilt, so making other warm/fuzzy/cuddly things could be a good option.

She played the piano in church when she was younger, and the last time I saw her (last summer) she was still able to play hymns on the piano. We had a very special time when she played hymns and my mother, my sister and I sang. She seemed to really enjoy it, though she had forgotten who we were. I have thought about trying to record myself singing some hymns and burn it to a CD, though my piano skills are very limited after many years of not practicing.

My grandpa has been a teacher and a minister. He likes math, and religious books, and he likes to make jokes, especially puns.

They are trying not to buy too much "stuff" that would take up space in the house and/or need to be maintained.

I would welcome any insight into other things that I could do from afar to brighten my grandma's days (and my grandpa's, too.)
posted by oblique red to Human Relations (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Something we did for my grandma a couple years ago was collect a bunch of her favorite songs and pre-load them onto an mp3 player for her. (A really cheap, simple one with basically only play, stop, and next song buttons.) She loves it.
posted by phunniemee at 2:49 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I send the older people in my family postcards and short notes and they love it.
posted by vincele at 2:50 PM on September 16, 2010

I was going to suggest postcards as well. My grandma loved getting postcards from places I'd visited.

If she's having trouble remembering people currently in her life, however, what about old postcards from places she's lived or places she and your grandpa visited? They're easily obtainable on eBay and elsewhere on the web. Probably want to steer away from postcards that have been personalized and mailed, since that might confuse her.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:54 PM on September 16, 2010

How about sending her some old snapshots with your written recollections of the people and events pictured? Or a DVD with some quick videos of you telling stories of things you love about her.
posted by kelegraph at 3:20 PM on September 16, 2010

Best answer: Definitely music. Her favourite old hymns would be perfect. Music seems to be one of the few things that give Alzheimers victims joy without stress.

My 88 year old grandma is in a nursing home, though thankfully she doesn't have Alzheimers. A lot of the residents do, though. The home has regular sing-a-longs, and it is amazing to see the response from some far-gone Alzheimers sufferers. I've seen staff in tears when a sufferer who doesn't speak suddenly begins to sing along, when the song is an old favourite of theirs.

I wouldn't go the mp3 route though, I'd stick with CD's that your grandfather could play for her, rather than trying to get her to wear earplugs or headphones.

Oh, how I wish all Alzheimers sufferers and nursing home residents had people like you who care about them.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:21 PM on September 16, 2010

Best answer: I was going to suggest writing to her, short upbeat letters or postcards focusing on current generic positive things - "I went to the county library last week, and they had a brass band playing out front for their grand opening. We all sat in the sun and listened for hours. It was a wonderful time, you would have loved the music" or that sort of thing. Something nice that makes no reference to specific things she might need to remember. (For example, no "you remember Johnny had his graduation, well it went great") More like "the weather has been rainy, but the plants are growing beautifully; here's a picture of the irises", where she can enjoy it without ever needing to think about who you are to her, what year it is, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:29 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

One thing that my grandmother continued to love, long after she had no interest in or understanding of anything much else, was having lotion rubbed on her hands and face. You could find some really nice lotions and send them with your aunt or grandfather for them to use with her. It might be extra special if you can think of some memory she might associate with the smell. (For my grandma it might have been lavender scented lotion and reminding her of the little lavender sachets she would craft and send to us each Christmas when we were kids). Scent can sometimes trigger memories that otherwise seem long gone.
posted by lollusc at 4:25 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

can you call her room directly? i called my grandmother once a week when she was in a nursing home and even though we had the exact same conversation every single time she still loved it.
posted by nanhey at 4:38 PM on September 16, 2010

What about a wi-fi photo frame? My grandmother loves hers! The family takes photos on their cell phones and cameras and e-mails them directly to the frame, so there is a constant supply of pictures of her great grandson and all of us and she can keep tabs.

Some homes have wi-fi (for the administrators and guests). My grandmother lives in an apartment and her neighbors were nice enough to give us their wireless code so that she could use it. If not, you could always come by and add photos to an SD card for a non-wifi frame.
posted by razzbaronz at 7:45 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the great ideas! I have marked the ones that fit best with her specific situation as best answer, but all of these are good ones.
posted by oblique red at 9:05 AM on September 21, 2010

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