How to Fill Your Senior’s Mailbox with Love

 

Plan a Christmas Card Signing Party with your Senior!

We’ve been sending Christmas cards for about 145 years. Well, I haven’t personally been sending them that long, but that’s when the first Christmas card originated in the United States. 

Most of the seniors in our lives look forward to getting their mail from the mailbox, finding personal notes and sweet cards from generations of friends. Even now in the electronic communication age, we can all relate with the pleasure of finding personal mail in the mix of bills and solicitations.

Would they love to receive cards (especially in assisted living or a nursing home) and value mailing them out? If your senior is no longer able to send Christmas cards themselves due to dementia or physical limitations, you can help make that happen! Even if your senior doesn’t need help, you’ll enjoy this activity together. 

My senior is independent

Make it a “card party”! Either over zoom or in person . . . put on some holiday music, both of you mix up some hot chocolate with extra whipped cream (I won’t tell if it has peppermint schnapps too). For fun, help them seal, address and stamp the cards. 

Here’s the key—and it works over Zoom too—encourage them to share memories about the people to whom they are sending the cards. Make a point of listening carefully and asking questions. 

My senior needs some help

Show up with:

  1. Cards: This pack of 24 cards has 4 different designs in a traditional style. An alternate is this set of 12 peace dove cards with a general holiday message. 
  2. Stamps: Did you know you can order holiday stamps from Amazon?
  3. A holiday beverage: Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Latte (just add hot water)
  4. Queue up your senior’s favorite festive music on your phone.
  5. Once completed, drop them in the mail for your senior.
My senior needs (a lot of) support

Show up with the supply list from above and maybe choose a 12 card pack so it’s not too tiring for dementia patients. Consider coming with 12 print outs of a favorite poem of your seniors or a special recipe of theirs and include that with the card. 

Add music and a fun drink to the process and it’s a party! Maybe all they do is sign the card and/or lick the envelope, but they are able to send a personal holiday message that will be a sweet gift to those that care about your senior. 

Add some silly and fun . . .

Get a pack of festive Christmas headbands and do a photoshoot for your senior! You can easily print a 4×6” collage photo at your local Walgreens, CVS, etc. in an hour. The photos can be the cover for a set of blank cards (attach the photo with double sided sticky tape) or be slipped inside the card. 

Note: We recommend these products because we think they’re good and we wanted to save you search time. Some of them may earn us a bit when you click on the link.

May you find joy in loving one another well, even if you aren’t wearing a reindeer headband.

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the Co-founder and President of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, doing research work or planning a dinner party while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor.

How to Cure Dementia’s Fidgety Hands: Fun Gifts for the Holidays

fidget ball helps people with dementiaMaybe it was for me, but I thought about him as well. I didn’t want to hand him child’s toys, even when in this stage of dementia.

At 79, when his body and mind were compromised by dementia, I’d visit with him and we played all sorts of activities and games. When it was time for me to go home, I hated leaving him with nothing to keep his hands busy. Handing him something that looked like a child’s toy felt like an insult to him and well, it just made me feel sad. So, I present five (not childlike) tactile fidget gift ideas for your senior with dementia. The benefit? To help them stay busy and feel calm. 

Five gratifying and useful dementia-friendly gift ideas
  1. These sculpture-like metallic tangles twist around in endless combinations and are light and easy to manage. 
  2. For animal lovers, these realistic looking, battery-powered cats and dogs move, respond to touch and even purr, but without the care required by a real pet. They aren’t inexpensive, but are a lot less than a real pet would cost.
  3. This slide fidget widget shows up as a handsome and smooth wooden form that fits easily in one’s hand and has beads that slide back and forth on a secure band. 
  4. Introducing a sensory activity combined with an “I Spy” game. There are 20+ small items mixed in with poly pellets in this napkin-size cloth bag.  These sensory bags come in all sorts of fabric choices. 
  5. Like the tangle mentioned above, this wooden art ball fidget toy can be twisted and formed. Its larger size makes it easier to manage. It comes in two sizes and either a natural wood finish or in black/white. 

Note: We recommend these products because we think they’re good and we wanted to save you time. Some of them may earn us a bit when you click on the link. 

May you find joy in loving one another well, despite dementia! 

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is co-founder and president of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform, she’s probably creating books, sewing, or vacuuming, or cooking while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor. 

Impatient with Repeated Questions? 7 Strategies to Respond with Patience

“What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do now?”

Being repeatedly asked the same question by anyone, whether they are 2 or 70, is frustrating. When it means they are fading cognitively, feelings of grief get mixed into the dynamic. 

How can you respond and save your own sanity? Here are 7 practical tips:

  1. Give yourself permission to be sad about your senior’s mental decline and mourn the fact that they are no longer who they once were. It’s okay to be sad about that. It’s normal and actually loving. 
  2. Remember that your senior is asking repeated questions because of damage to their brain cells, whether it’s because of a stroke, a form of dementia, a traumatic brain injury or something else they are now cognitively disabled. They wouldn’t choose to be confused and aren’t trying to annoy you. 
  3. Look for a reason behind the questions. Are they trying to communicate something else altogether? Does the behavior happen at a particular time of the day or around particular people?
  4. Think about how they are feeling, not what they are doing or saying and respond to their emotion, not their behavior.
  5. Refocus their energy on a new activity, even if it’s just a fidget type gadget that keeps their hands busy. 
  6. When responding to them, do your best to keep your voice calm and don’t try to argue or use logic. The latter response will likely escalate their confusion by adding anxiety.
  7. Restate what they are saying and answer their question as best you can with simple explanations. Consider using visual tools like calendars, clocks or photographs to help them remember. 

This video from UCLA Health offers insights and practical tips for managing repetitive questions.

May you find joy in loving one another well.

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the co-founder of Ways & Wane. She walkedclosely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, sewing, or vacuuming, or cooking while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor.