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Valentine’s Day gifts for people living with dementia and their caregivers

Columnist Carol Bradley Bursack runs down gift ideas for people with dementia and those who are tasked with their care.

Carol Bradley Bursack online column signature
Column signature by Troy Becker

Dear Readers: Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. While it’s traditionally a day for couples to express their love for one another, let’s stretch the idea to encompass love and gratitude for people living with dementia as well as their caregivers.

The Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is a wonderful resource for dementia information, so to highlight them, I’ll base these suggestions on their gift list. I’ve edited their list for space and in some instances, added my own thoughts. Tuck this away so you can refer to it for birthdays and the next holiday season as well.

Your shopping list from the MN-ND Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association

To do together:

  • Photo books are powerful. Capture photos of their early life, wedding, children, grandchildren, friends and vacations. Viewed together, these can provide a base for conversation and bring back memories for all.
  • Make valentines together as a craft activity.

Gifts for people with Alzheimer’s in the early stages

  • Items to help memory such as magnetic reminder pads for the refrigerator, post-it notes and baskets or trays that can be labeled for storage. Also welcome would be a pocket-sized notebook, erasable whiteboards for key rooms in the house or a memorable calendar featuring family photos (write in special family occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries).
  • Items to help with everyday tasks like a memory phone that can store pictures with the names and contact information of family and friends; an automatic medication dispenser; nightlights that come on automatically; or a clock with the date and time shown large and bright.
  • Items for engagement like a movie, concert, or sports event; CDs or a playlist with a compilation of favorite tunes; DVD collection of favorite movies; or activities such as scrapbooking or other craft projects.

Gifts for people with Alzheimer’s in the middle-to-late stages


  • Gifts that stimulate the senses such as scented lotions, a fluffy bathrobe, a soft blanket or comfortable clothes such as sweatsuits or shoes with hook-and-loop fastening.
  • Framed photos where the people are labeled by name as well as who they are, such as “brother Frank," are helpful.
  • Music in their preferred format.


  • The most important caregiver gift is the gift of time, which might include staying with the person with dementia so the caregiver can go out.
  • Coupons (self-made or other) for housecleaning, cooking a meal, mowing the lawn or snow shoveling.
  • Gift cards and certificates for restaurants, laundry/dry cleaning services; lawn care services; computer/technology support; maid services; or personal pampering services such as massages and pedicures (only if you’re sure that this is something they’d enjoy, and if you’re willing to arrange that the person with dementia is cared for).
  • Books and movies, depending on the caregiver’s preference. Caregiving books inform, but caregivers also need something that speaks to their soul.

The Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota provides information, programs and services at no charge to help people impacted by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. For more information, visit  www.alz.org/mnnd  or call the free 24-hour Helpline at 800-272-3900 .

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver and a nationally-recognized presence in caregiver support. She's the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories,” a longtime newspaper columnist and host of her blog at mindingoureldersblog.com. Carol's an introverted book nerd, so you won't see her mugging in viral videos, but you can easily reach her using the contact form at mindingourelders.com.
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