10 Gifts You Should Absolutely Take To A Nursing Home

Looking for some appropriate gifts to take to a nursing home? Need a gift idea for a special resident on your holiday shopping list? Look no further than these ten appropriate gifts for the elderly!

 Whether the occasion is a holiday, a birthday, or just to say "I Love You", this list should help you with your shopping. Many of these items can be found at dollar stores, so you can combine a few for a fabulous gift basket!

1. Toiletries

Toiletries such as lip balm (especially seasonal flavors!), lotion, deodorant, body spray, aftershave, etc. are always a good gift idea. Do however make sure that the recipient is not allergic and can safely have these items.

Many facilities have a locking cabinet for certain toiletries to make sure they are not stolen or ingested accidentally. Go ahead and take the initiative and label bottles with the recipient's name.

If you shop around, you can piece together an entire gift basket full of toiletries for half the price of pre-packaged gift sets.  (Read here for ideas on making a care box or gift basket for the elderly).

This gives you the opportunity to fully customize the contents--leaving out stuff that aren't needed and including things your recipient would enjoy more.

2. Stuffed Animals 

Most people enjoy a little love. Or at least something cute or funny to look at when they wake up in the morning (that's why we all get married, right?) Teddy bears or similar plushies can make a drab nursing home room seem a bit friendlier.

Don't just grab the first stuffed toy that you see though. Try to find something that would really be appreciated. Are you buying a Christmas gift for an elder who loved cats? Then naturally, a realistic cat plushie weighted to sit on the back of  a recliner would be better than a lamb or a frog or teddy bear. 

For those with dementia, a plushie with long hair that can be combed might be soothing.

Although cute and fun to begin with, stuffed animals that sing or light up can quickly become tiresome, especially if they can't be quieted until they've finished their repertoire. If you really think a resident would like a plushie that sings or talks, make sure it has a shut-off button. 

3. Attractive Blankets

Fleece throws are cheap and come in a variety of colors and prints that are suitable for men or women. A fleece blanket is probably the number one gift recommendation for the elderly. 

Even if the person on your shopping list already has one or two, don't discount the idea of getting another. Blankets need to be laundered, and sometimes it takes a day or two for clean items to get back to the resident's rooms.

Plus, nice blankets and throws also serve a decorative purpose. Having several prints and colors to choose from allows the nursing home resident the chance to change up some of their decor. We all like a change of scenery every now and then!

4. Flower Arrangement

Like plushies, flowers can liven up  a room. Men might not really want a bunch of silk flowers hanging around, but it is a good idea for the ladies on your list.

Just make sure the container is something that can be rinsed easily if dusty (wicker isn't a great idea). Make sure the flowers look like decorative centerpieces, not cheesy "get well" flowers. 

Don't just make it about the flowers. Use a container that will look good throughout the seasons, and you can change out the actual flowers every so often to provide another refreshing change of scenery that is not too overwhelming.

5. Puzzles and Games

Jigsaw puzzles are always popular, as are board games and puzzle books. If you are donating second-hand puzzles, make sure all the pieces are in the original box (for photo reference) and don't look tatty.

Second-hand games are okay too, as long as they are in good condition and the pieces are all present.
Puzzle books should be new.

Games are not only entertaining. They provide a little incentive for the elderly to socialize. Some game ideas may include:

  • Monopoly
  • Life
  • Dominoes
  • Card games
  • Jenga
  • Checkers (Standard and Chinese)
  • Chess 
  • Scrabble
  • Trivia Games
  • Backgammon

The best part about board games is that even the simple ones provide an element of mental stimulation, something that could be beneficial in delaying cognitive decline. 

6. Reading Books

Keep an eye open at book and library sales for large print editions of books. Don't assume that the elderly only like Chicken Soup books either. I know plenty of seniors who enjoy horror, romance, biographies, and westerns too.

Audio books are a wonderful alternative to print books, especially if the reader is so visually impaired that even large text is difficult to read. Audio books can be donated to an individual, or to the nursing home (along with a CD player and headphones) for everyone to enjoy.

7. Arts and Crafts Supplies or Kits

Again, check with the nursing home before gifting anything that could be dangerous, and avoid anything that could cause burns (wood burning pens and hot glue guns are might not be good ideas). Also, make sure that the kits include all the supplies needed to finish the project. 

Don't choose something that needs the use of a kitchen, because residents will most likely not have access to the kitchen area.

Shop around for kits that either fit the individual's preferences, or donate a variety of kits to the home that residents can choose from:

  • Suncatchers
  • Knitting and crochet supplies
  • Plastic canvas
  • Wooden figurines boxes, frames, and plaques to paint
  • Plaster figures
  • Jewelry making supplies
  • Fly tying supplies
  • Blank sketchpads and pencils
  • Adult coloring books and colored pencils

8. Stationery and Other Writing Supplies

Nice paper and envelopes are a terrific gift for the elderly.  Be a real hero and include a book of stamps too. It can be very difficult for a nursing home resident to acquire stamps. 

Blank cards are also a welcome. These can be post cards, or blank greeting cards. (Remember, some seniors are unable to leave the facility to shop for birthday and holiday cards, yet they may want to send these out just as they did before they went to long-term care. They also enjoy giving their fellow residents cards for special occasions.

If you are buying for a relative, you could also include a new address book, already filled in with names and addresses. One of the saddest things I saw in nursing homes were residents who had never been notified when a loved one moved or changed their phone number. Those people became as good as lost if the nursing home staff couldn't track them down.

Other ideas in this category could include some nice pens and pencils, blank journals, and a nice box to keep all the supplies in.

9. Flashlight

When I worked in the nursing home, flashlights and reading lights were highly requested items. For those with poor vision, a flashlight can help them locate a dropped item easily. 

For the person who shares a room, a flashlight or reading light is a way for them to sneak in an extra hour or so of reading or puzzles without disturbing their room-mate.

There are tons of flashlights on the market. Those with LED bulbs produce a very bright light and can go longer on a set of batteries. So, unless there is a safety issue involved, a light can be a thoughtful gift.

Night lights are helpful as well. They come  in many decorative styles and colors, and the bulbs are inexpensive and long-lived. 

10. Companionship

All the trinkets in the world will not replace the best gift for the elderly in nursing homes.

 A visit to the facility is the most precious thing you can give to a nursing home resident. If you can't visit personally, try arranging for other people, such as church members, neighbors, friends, etc. to drop in occasionally.

Physical company, conversation, hand-holding, hugs, and laughter can't be wrapped up with bows, but they will be treasured forever. 

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Need more gift ideas? Check out these gift-giving guides for the elderly too! 

Here are some tips for visiting a nursing home during the holidays: