This Mother's Day, it's important to remember that sensory stimulation is vital for people with Alzheimer's disease. Throughout our lifetimes, we learn to associate specific smells, sounds, sights, tastes, and textures with specific memories. As the disease slowly steals memories from your patient, mother, or friend, give her gifts that may activate some of them.
While there's no way to predict which memories will come and go (or when), the following five gift ideas are especially thoughtful and useful for moms with Alzheimer's disease.
1. Photo book
For mothers and their children, Alzheimer's disease is particularly devastating. Even a lifelong bond isn't enough to preserve memories of names and faces, so give her everyday reminders instead. Make a scrapbook or custom photo book, with a few labeled pages for each of her children and grandchildren. A baby picture or old family photo may trigger old memories, while current pictures will refresh her memory for visits and correspondence.
2. Soft blanket or robe
Keep her warm and cozy with a fluffy, oversize bathrobe or blanket in her very favorite color. You may even get it embroidered with her name and her children's names, or take pictures with her loved ones all bundled up in it, so she feels connected when she uses it.
3. Scented lotions & sprays
If you hope to activate memories or comfort her with familiar smells, do some research. Where did she grow up, and where did she raise her family? What perfume did she wear as a young woman, and which flowers did she love to receive as gifts? Scented lotions and air fresheners recreate everyday smells with strong memory associations, such as clean laundry, freshly cut grass, or ocean air.
Fill an MP3 player with songs that were popular throughout her lifetime, or recruit family members to help make mixed CDs with meaningful music. If she enjoyed it once, she'll likely enjoy it again — regardless of what she remembers about it. Music is also a proven way to elevate her mood and encourage physical activity.
Alzheimer's disease distorts her sense of time, so reorient her with a large-print calendar. Mark all her important family birthdays and holidays, and if it's a picture calendar, pick one with a theme that she'll enjoy. Colorful landscapes are stimulating, but if she has a favorite celebrity or loves animals, revive that passion with a themed calendar.