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Lots of options to brighten up lives through presents
As the youngest child in her family, Barbara Dobbin clearly remembers being spoiled at Christmastime growing up in St. John's.
"There was nothing I didn't get," the 82-year-old told The Telegram, seated in her cozy living space at Meadow Creek Retirement Centre in Paradise. "What I wanted, I got."
These days, her needs are more streamlined. She is not keen on clutter, and fills a lot of her time with writing. That said, there are presents she would be more than happy to find room for.
"You know what? I like chocolates, but I've got diabetes and can't eat it," she said with a laugh. "Ain't that horrible?"
Her daughters can typically be relied on to buy clothes, while her sons usually give her money in lieu of a physical present.
"I've got five boys, and they put money in a card. 'Now mom, go out and buy whatever you want yourself.' But the girls shop for me."
There are plenty of different roads to travel when it comes to purchasing presents for adults who are getting up there in years, particularly when taking into account their lifestyle or level of mobility.
Shirley Lucas, chief executive officer of the Alzheimer Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, says that, for people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, an individual's ability to engage with others and enjoy the Christmas season can vary, depending on how long they've been dealing with the disease and other factors.
"It depends on a person's cognitive ability and where they are in the journey of dementia in terms of how they are able to participate," Lucas said. "We do encourage people to simplify things — not overcrowd the house. They can have multiple meals with fewer people as opposed to the large family gatherings. They're somewhat overwhelming from time to time."
As for gifts, Lucas suggests memory photo albums highlighting past events are really helpful for reminiscing. Puzzles or books with crosswords or word-search puzzles can be useful exercises for engaging the brain, she added.
"One of the key things about someone having dementia is to have meaningful gifts," she said. "Maybe plan a meal for the person with dementia and the caregiver and have some quality time with the family, or plan a movie or take them out to dinner to a quiet restaurant to be able to add some meaning to their life and some fun."
At 92, Andrew O'Neil is happy to receive whatever gifts his children have in mind for him.
"Whatever they give me, I'm grateful for," said O'Neil, who is from St. John's and moved to Meadow Creek with his wife three years ago.
That said, he does have some interests that stand out. O'Neil loves music.
"My wife and I used to dance," he said of his wife of 67 years, Catherine, who died four months ago.
He's a fan of country, bluegrass and other genres, and still keeps CDs handy. O'Neil also enjoys watching movies and television shows on DVD. War documentaries and re-enactments are of particular interest to O'Neil, who worked at the Fort Pepperrell American military base in St. John's. He also enjoys sitcoms, westerns, adaptations of famous novels and mysteries.
Irving and Clara Wareham are originally from Carbonear and have resided at Meadow Creek for over four years. Irving can recall that as his own parents got older, he would buy some wool for his mother to help support her knitting hobby. For either his mom or dad, a new sweater or pair of slippers was always appreciated. The latter item is among the gifts he appreciates these days.
"A pair of slippers. I get a pair of pajamas once in a while or a scattered shirt — summer shirt or winter shirt," Irving said.
Clara loves puzzles and enjoys receiving them as gifts.
Keeping in mind the reading habits of others can also prove useful when it comes to gift-giving. The Warehams love reading and subscribe to Downhome Magazine. Dobbin, who still gets out to buy presents for others at Christmastime, is also an avid reader and loves to get a new book — she's read just about all of the James Patterson novels.
"Oh, I like getting books," she said. "If they know my favourite writers, they'll bring me in a book."
Gifts to make daily life easier
• Motion-activated lights
• Wheelchair cup holder
• Walker tote bag
• Automatic can or jar opener
• Memory foam seat cushion
• Electric toothbrush
• Rechargable shaver
For more information on the Alzheimer Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, call toll-free 1-877-776-0608 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.