Holiday Gift Ideas for That Someone With Special Needs

Someone holding shopping bags.
Holiday shopping is always tough, especially when the person you’re shopping for has special needs.

Finding the right gift during the holiday season can feel confusing and stressful. That stress can double when the person you’re shopping for has mobility challenges, memory issues, vision loss or other restrictions or disabilities, whether they’re age-related, the result of recent or chronic medical problems, or a life-long condition. The hot holiday trends may not be best for a grandmother with dementia, a sister with chronic arthritis or a father recovering from heart surgery.

Looking for gift ideas? We asked Samantha Field and Elizabeth Boyd, coordinators in UVA’s Dementia Care Coordination Program, for their thoughts on some fun and useful holiday gifts.

Gifts For the Home

A Package of Happy Memories

Electronic picture frames can be loaded with pictures provided by family and friends, and set to cycle through for a sweet slideshow. On the flip side, if your potential giftee prefers analog to digital, a photo album, calendar or scrapbook loaded with pictures is a thoughtful gift.

Independent Eating

How about something for the kitchen? An electric kettle, instant pot or other electric cooking device lessens stove use and can ease the hassle of cooking and cleaning.

Natural Beauty

A bird feeder that attaches to a window can attract and provide a close-up view of beautiful local birds. Interacting with nature can help relieve stress and boost someone’s mood.

High-Tech Assistants

“Smart” devices with voice-activated assistants, such as Alexa, Google Home or similar devices, can serve as a control hub for the home. They can be used for home lights, TVs, computers or other connected devices, as well as provide easy access to information from the internet.

Stuff Finder

Everyone gets a little absent-minded at times. But if they’ve attached a Tile Mate (a small plastic tile that can be located using an app) to an object and they’ve lost it, they can use their phone to quickly find that item.

Getting Out

Expand the Friend Group

Membership to a local meetup group, senior center or other place for sharing interests can increase socialization, which helps maintain a positive mood and solidify support systems.

Taking Some Time

A gift certificate to a spa for a massage can help provide some time and a reminder that self-care is important. Pair with a gift basket of preferred self-care products, like lotions and soaps. Include Epsom salts and other medicated creams your giftee might appreciate.

Mobility is Independence

People with mobility issues may have a hard time pivoting to get in and out of cars. A swiveling cushion or other item for the car may help them comfortably and securely maintain their lifestyle.

Looking Good, Feeling Good

Tracking Health

A Fitbit or other personal activity tracker can give information on heart rate, sleep cycles and other health metrics useful for maintaining and tracking their wellness plans.

Keeping Motivated

An iPod or other media player with an already-uploaded playlist of preferred or motivational songs can boost someone’s mood. Also, music can enhance memory and soothe anxiety. It can also (especially when paired with the personal activity tracker) provide a boost to get them excited for a workout.

Stylish Savers

Identification jewelry (even for caregivers) can keep be stylish and beautiful while providing peace of mind that, should an emergency occur, critical information is available for healthcare providers. (There are even pieces that can incorporate personal activity trackers!)

Senior with Special Needs?

Have an older loved one recently diagnosed with dementia? Check out UVA’s Dementia Care Coordination Program, a partnership between the Jefferson Area Board for Aging [JABA],  Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services and UVA’s Memory and Aging Care Clinic.

Story Time

Lastly, everyone’s got a whopper of a tale, some more than most. Apps and websites like StoryWorth, FamilySearch Memories and others provide a platform for recording and sharing stories. They can even be used as the foundation for someone to write their own memoir and share their stories with the world.

Most importantly, before you commit to buying anything, you should talk to the person you’re shopping for and find out if there is anything they need. While we may have the best intentions, we can’t anticipate what makes someone happy without communicating with them first!

Happy shopping!

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