Holiday Gift Ideas for Seniors to Make It Healthful, Useful and Memorable

Our senior loved ones living in assisted living or other congregate living locations look forward to the holidays and visits with family members near and far.

Family caregivers love visiting them and want to shower them with goodies, often including food treats.

Unfortunately, too many or the wrong kind of treats could turn out to be unhealthy.

Caregivers, especially those who come from a distance, want to help nourish their seniors.

We want to help them bring only food goodies that are safe and healthy for their senior loved ones.

Bringing Safe Food To Their Home

Because many of our senior loved ones live in an assisted living or nursing care home, caregivers feel a strong desire to bring them home baked or cooked treats for the holidays.

Even if they live in their own home, sometimes food treats are dangerous and treats may replace eating the healthy food they need.

There are several reasons why food treats could be dangerous for our seniors. You can still give them a loving gift and keep them healthy.

Here are some tips to help you give the give of love this season if giving food:

  1. Always practice safe food handling when bringing homemade food gifts to any older adult. Seniors are more vulnerable to food poisoning and may become very ill when foods are handled improperly. Keep the food at the proper temperature from your kitchen to their table. Reheat any foods not at the proper temperature before they taste. Always pack cold foods in ice and refrigerate promptly.
  2. Bring small sweet treats, not a whole bag which could be eaten in one sitting. Small treat bags are ideal for their favorite sweets, just enough for one or two servings. Encourage them to share with others too so that they don’t over consume candy that their visitors are apt to bring.
  3. Avoid high fat, high salt treats, as these could disrupt their disease management, especially heart failure, high blood pressure, and edema.
  4. Be aware of any foods not allowed on their treatment plan, foods that could interfere with medications or other treatments.
  5. Find foods that offer nourishment as well as a treat, such as trail mix, granola bars, or fresh fruit.
  6. If you choose to bring a holiday meal, let the kitchen staff know so they don’t send them a meal at that time too.

It is a good idea to discuss your ideas for a food treat with your loved one’s nurse to be sure there are no conflicts with their medical care.

Non-Food Gifts for Seniors

Find other non-food treats that they will love throughout the year and think of you when you aren’t there, such as:

  • family photos in pretty frames
  • an insulated water mug or coffee cup
  • clothing protector
  • magnifying glass
  • pen and paper for notes and doodling
  • nail care goodies
  • foot spa
  • music player and their favorite music, perhaps with headset so they don’t disturb others
  • large print books
  • crossword puzzles
  • word search books
  • adult coloring book and colored pencils
  • sweater, lap blanket or shawl
  • handmade cards
  • monthly gifts that include their favorite things

The Gift of Time

Remember, the greatest gift you can give a senior living in a facility is the gift of your time!

Family caregivers want to visit as often as possible but that isn’t always possible.

Caregivers can’t always spend time each day visiting their senior loved one in a facility but we can connect in other ways that will bring joy.

Technology can help nearby and long distance family members ‘be there’ virtually.

You can FaceTime using your iOS smartphone or tablets (both you and they need to have one) and feel like you are in the room with your senior and them with you. They can see grandkids and great-grandkids doing all sorts of things virtually like reading a story, playing a game or singing together.

Caregivers can also use Skype and video chat via a computer or tablet when your senior is free.

These tech options will require some setup and training to be sure seniors feel comfortable with the technology.

However, staff at care facilities can also help them talk with you using either of these methods if you ask.

Low-Tech Works Too!

Family caregivers can also start a family tradition of writing weekly letters throughout the year not just at the holidays to your senior so that they can get letters from home.

Create a schedule and be sure everyone sticks to it!

A card, handwritten note, photos, or small care package that they can look forward to each week when the mail comes will brighten their year.

They will enjoy every minute spent with you and those they treasure!

So will you!

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