Help find a gift for my Grandpa with Parkinson's
December 17, 2007 9:07 PM   Subscribe

What do I get my Grandpa who can't do much anymore?

My grandfather, who has always been a pretty active person (sports, building things, other physical projects), is in his mid 80s at this point with early, but definitely debilitating Parkinson's disease, so most of the things he's enjoyed his whole life are not an option for him anymore. Over the past few years, he seems to have become bored with his life because of his condition and spends most of his days watching TV and if the weather's nice, cutting the grass, tending to his garden, etc. But he's the type of person who doesn't seem to want anyone's help (so practical things for his condition are out) and thus it's always hard to think of something he could/would use as a gift for Christmas. I want to give him something at least, but I'm totally stumped. Any ideas from fellow Mefites with relatives in similar situations. Also, I'm straight out of college and not making much, so inexpensive is definitely a plus, and I live halfway across the U.S. from him, so things that require me to be there are also a problem (I'm able to get back for a few days at Christmas, but that's about it).
posted by fishmasta to Shopping (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Books on CD? Either a book itself or a CD book club (like Netflix only CD books).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:10 PM on December 17, 2007

Everybody likes food. Tasty, tasty food. You can get gift packages of things like cheeses, chocolates, etc.
posted by jjg at 9:10 PM on December 17, 2007

My dad is very much in the same boat as your grandfather. I sent him a bonsai last year and he's really enjoyed it. It's just labor intensive enough to keep him focused, and caring for a living thing (that doesn't need to go for walks) has meant a lot to him.
posted by maryh at 9:18 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Indoor, potted bulbs? I don't know what your budget is, but they have monthly subscriptions. The downside might be if he has indoor cats.
posted by kellyblah at 9:27 PM on December 17, 2007

While it might sound morbid, my great uncle really enjoyed it when, in his advanced age, my mom gave him a tape recorder to capture all of his stories and memories. She then typed them up and had them spiral bound at kinkos, and it was something that not only made him feel special, but also gave us a record of his life and memories after he had passed.

Cards helped keep my grandpa sharp - if he likes bridge get him a book on that, or else just one of those "101 card games" books. Similarly, any kind of puzzle/crossword books are good activities to keep the brain sharp and occupied.

Other ideas: magazine subscriptions; DVDs of his all-time favorite movies; long, historically encompassing novels (Michener, anyone?); some sort of "of the month" club he can enjoy all year (sweets or something like that). In general, try to write him more often and call as much as you can afford. Make a promise to do so and send along a long-distance phone card and book of self-addressed, stamped envelopes to him, to show that you'd like to hear more from him. When he's gone, you will wish you had.
posted by SassHat at 9:32 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

My grandpa sounds much like yours, stubborn about his condition, not used to asking for any kind of help, and missing his active lifestlye. I second SassHat on the cards and games. I gave my grandpa my old desktop and helped him learn how to use it just enough to play card games on it, and they're basically inseparable now. I think puzzle books would be just as good if a computer isn't a viable option for yours.
posted by Roman Graves at 10:00 PM on December 17, 2007

Several years ago, I gave my Grandfather recordings of the old radio shows from the 1930s and 1940s - you know, stuff that preceded TV. It would kind of depend on how old your Grandpa is, but he might really enjoy something like that. George and Gracie Allen, The Shadow, Abbot and Costello, The Thin Man, Rin Tin Tin, Philip Marlowe, The Green Hornet, etc.

You could probably get tapes rather inexpensively along with a cheap tape player (as opposed to dropping all kinds of cash on CDs and a CD player if he doesn't have one). I know that my Grandparents truly enjoyed reliving their past by listening to their 'shows'. A lot of them include the old commercials and music, so check around. I'm sure you could find some interesting stuff on eBay, etc.
posted by dancinglamb at 10:53 PM on December 17, 2007 [4 favorites]

I know it might be a bit more than you are wanting to spend, but maybe the Aero Garden?

It would be something he could work on indoors, sorta like a "project"? You could go in with someone on the actual garden, or maybe coordinate with others to get him the different seed packets? He could grow his own cherry tomatoes, or salad greens (or both)? They also have a "Salsa Garden" kit, I believe.
posted by Mookbear at 11:33 PM on December 17, 2007

My husband and five year old daughter bought an inexpensive construction paper scrapbook and went for a walk along the river. They picked up leaves, grasses, moss, etc. along the way and then wrote about their walk with the fauna glued in beside the descriptions. They gave it to his grandmother, who could not longer get out and about. It became one of her most cherished possessions, as she really missed the outdoors.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 1:36 AM on December 18, 2007

When my dad (81) was diagnosed with kidney failure about four years ago and started doing home dialysis, I gave him my PC, bought him an internet connection and typed up some basic "how to" sheets. When he'd mastered the basics, I got him a digital camera. Then we got him a colour printer.

He likes the computer because it's not a passive occupation like TV and he feels that mental exercise helps keep him alert. He likes email because of the fast response and finds that typing is much easier than writing as he has tremors and weakness in his hands. He tracked down several missing relatives and corresponds regularly with them - tracking down old photos and sharing bits of family history. He uses the camera frequently to send them pictures and likes the digital because he can take a lot of photo's. Even when he's shakey, there's sure to be one shot that turns out. We're getting him a tripod now that he's getting a little more unsteady.

Some or all of the above might be a good way to go.

Good luck.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:10 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I should also point out that the PC was my old P2 with some upgrades, the camera was about $120AUD on special (older model) and the printer was a $100AUD Canon cheapie (which, admittedly, doesn't always work well - we're considering setting fire to it at some point and buying something better).
posted by ninazer0 at 4:12 AM on December 18, 2007

The computer is an awesome idea. He wouldn't (probably) need anything superfast and bleeding edge, so somebody else's old one would be work well. Put a "Wanted" ad in your local Freecycle list - with the details about it being a gift for your grandfather - and I bet you'd have a free one in no time.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:52 AM on December 18, 2007

Everyone likes a photobook.

My Publisher
posted by nineRED at 7:20 AM on December 18, 2007

How about a pre-paid membership to Netflix? You can choose different plans and different lengths of time. A six-month membership is about $54.

I should mention that your grandfather will have to register a credit card with them to redeem your gift (they want to make certain they get paid if he doesn't return the DVDs). They will also start charging him the regular monthly fee if he doesn't cancel after your gift runs out.
posted by 14580 at 8:59 AM on December 18, 2007

Everyone loves sun jars*. You can even make your own. I've made a few for around $5 each... they're cheap, but meaningful.

*sun jars: jars that store sunshine during the day so that they can shine at night. Oh, the wonders of solar power!
posted by agenais at 9:21 AM on December 18, 2007

How about an inexpensive MP3 player with very simple controls, that you pre-load with a few audiobooks in his taste? You could borrow them from the library's books-on-CD collection, and offer to refill it every quarter/month/half-year or so for him.

(If he's computer savvy, then substitute the above with a subscription to, but otherwise, you'll help him avoid the whole computer-download-subscription hassle.)
posted by Juggling Frogs at 11:32 AM on December 18, 2007

Also: Comfortable, indoor-outdoor slippers.

(If he hasn't had a pair in a while, his might look fine, but the cushioning/arch support might be shot.)
posted by Juggling Frogs at 11:33 AM on December 18, 2007

The American Parkinsons Disease Association has chapters all over, including LA. Your grandad isn't the first active person frustrated by the new limitations - why not reach out to people who focus on this issue to ask them what substitute activities active people do when they start to suffer from Parkinson's?

You might find more personal anecdotes like maryh's in places like that which would be more definitive than you can get here.
posted by phearlez at 12:51 PM on December 18, 2007

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