Small things to send my father regularly in his supported living place
January 29, 2020 2:53 AM   Subscribe

My father has dementia (at a mild stage at the moment) and has recently moved into supported living. He's finding it a bit difficult and I would like to send him small and reasonably inexpensive things by post every couple of weeks as a way to make him feel cared about. I already see him for one or two days each week and speak, text or email every day. His interests are science, books, history, engineering, sailing, gliding. Here's what I have thought of - what haven't I thought of?

Chocolates (he's not very interested in food but does like sweet things)
Ginger beer (he doesn't drink alcohol)
Lavender bags
Crafted things (he likes amigurumi and would probably also like it if I sent him some drawings)
Old postcards
Magazines, new or old
Family photographs
Leaflets about things on near where he lives
Possibly flowers occasionally, although they are not cheap and would need to be the sort that come in a plastic vase or he would get confused about where to put them
CDs - he likes jazz and music from his childhood

NB Other members of the family may also get involved in this so even if it's suggestions I can't use for whatever reason they may be able to.
posted by paduasoy to Human Relations (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Delicious Cookies.
posted by gt2 at 3:27 AM on January 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Many of the art museums of the world have online gift shops. This approach is fun and it shows you an endless variety of neat stuff you can give to your dad.
posted by little eiffel at 3:31 AM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:34 AM on January 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Taking the title a bit too literally, but, the World's Smallest Post Service may serve as an occasional source of tiny delight.
posted by Mizu at 3:43 AM on January 29, 2020

Interesting small pieces of mineral or fossil
One of those little Lego architecture sets for grown-ups, if instruction-following ability is still good
A mini Newton's cradle or similar
Buckyballs/ one of those mini magnetic ball sets
posted by Bardolph at 3:45 AM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Chiming back in to add that if expense is a consideration, I highly recommend AliExpress as a vendor in the random, fun+ super-cheap space.
Additional ideas: mini Slinky
Prisms or crystal magnifiers
Worry stone
Older comic books
posted by Bardolph at 3:53 AM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Print some favorite photos and write legibly on the back with dates & names. Give him a small book with several in place and lots of empty sleeves to Add more.
posted by childofTethys at 3:59 AM on January 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

There are lots of online shops that cater to presents for people with dementia (though you may not want to send it directly, given the packaging!) These are things like helpful alarm clocks, jigsaw puzzles, and really clever music players that don't require pushing any buttons at all (you pre-load with lots of music that, I think, plays randomly.) Might be worth googling around.
posted by caoimhe at 4:01 AM on January 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

A couple of magazine subscriptions would also fit the bill, if he can receive them.

Sailing, Discover, or Popular Mechanics, maybe?
posted by jquinby at 6:36 AM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm in the same boat with my dad. He really likes getting an occasional grocery delivery from the local supermarket. I think it helps him feel more self-sufficient, even though most of his meals are provided. If not food, it can be personal items like Kleenex, soap, toothbrushes and lotion, or sweets and drinks. This may not apply if you live nearby.

He also just really enjoys getting mail of any kind, so cards are good, and encouraging family and friends to send the occasional card or letter helps him feel connected.
posted by amusebuche at 6:56 AM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

If he likes silly stuff, Archie McPhee, wind-up toys. The grocery idea is excellent, his preferred cookies or snacks. If you make cookies, any family recipes. Wall calendar, subscription to the local paper. Search Popular Music 1955 or whatever to get the popular songs of his era on cd, and especially any albums your emember him enjoying. Familiarity - some of his favorite cologne, or your Mom's.
posted by theora55 at 7:12 AM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sign up with one of those apps that send postcards made out of pictures on your phone - he gets to see what you’re up to, and also gets something in the mail, which is more of an event than a text. If you can bear to, include yourself in the photo - it might feel cringeworthy, but people who love you will always be happy to see you smiling back at them.
posted by penguin pie at 7:39 AM on January 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Postcards with pictures of you/other family members
Little seasonal things like an Easter egg with candy in it
Pressed flowers or other treasures that you pick up on walks to bring nature inside
Art materials
Miniature games like Quidler or Set
Little ornaments that he can collect and hang in his room, you can get one printed that says, love you dad
posted by fairlynearlyready at 8:49 AM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is a kind thing you're doing. Best wishes to you both.

How about unpredictable, sciency things to watch? A mini plasma ball (lightening globe), a lava lamp, a chaotic magnet pendulum thing?

Mechanical demos also seem plausible: a Crookes radiometer, a magnetic levitation desk toy, a music box, wind-up automatons, or some of the suggestions above. American Science and Surplus is my go-to place to get silly, cheap gifts for people with similar interests. A gyroscope or a penny glider plane kit could be either delightful or really frustrating, depending on his capabilities right now.
posted by eotvos at 9:18 AM on January 29, 2020

My mother lives in assisted living and they have a discussion group, called "this day in history". You might print out certain dates and send them.
Enlarged photos are nice, I laminated some for my mom, so they don't get tossed out.
Reader's Digest magazine is also popular with the residents.
A personalized calendar with special dates noted in clear print is also helpful.
Also there are photo sites where you upload a photo and it is sent out as a postcard, they are not too pricey and you can send them one a t a time. It is an easy way to keep relatives in the loop with day to day activities.
posted by jennstra at 12:33 PM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

A grown-up coloring book (idea) and some good-quality colored pencils - restock periodically if he’s into it, and get him an excellent pencil sharpener

Air plants

A means of displaying the postcards and photos he’ll be receiving

Bird feeder that attaches to a window, if he has one in a place where he could refill it safely

Extendable back scratcher

Items he can display on his door - I think this is a thing in assisted living residences - maybe something from his college, favorite sports team, ethnic group - often these change with the season
posted by lakeroon at 6:00 PM on January 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you - these are great ideas. I am making a list which I will share with other family members too. Thanks, all of you, for putting thought into this.
posted by paduasoy at 12:57 AM on January 30, 2020

Response by poster: Came back to update. Because of the current situation this became more important and took on a bit of a different tone - his accomodation is on lock-down so receiving things in the post has become really important to him. Apart from things suggested above, I also managed to get a local newsagent to deliver the Guardian four days a week (I'm slightly too mean to stump up for the additional two days), which has been a big hit. Old magazines - Classic Motorcycle from the 1970s, which someone gave me a stack of. A random French magazine from the 1950s about architecture (found on eBay - my father reads some French). Some paper models to make (don't think these were a hit but it is often difficult to know whether something has arrived and what he thinks of it, because of his memory loss).

Particular thanks to amusebuche for suggesting tissues and soap. When I looked at the question again a few weeks ago I thought to ask him about those things and it turned out he was out of them and wanted some - so we've sent a few useful things lihe that. Also throat sweets as he keeps diagnosing himself with the virus when he wakes and has a husky voice.
posted by paduasoy at 4:18 AM on May 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

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