senior shopping

CLEARWATER — Holiday gift guides cover everyone from babies, to elementary school kids, to college students, to young adults to mom and dad.

But what about grand mom or other relatives being cared for in an assisted living facility or long-term care unit?

For those who don’t have an elderly relative, first the good news: There are lots of elderly folks living in your neighborhood and in facilities near your home. Now the better news: They are available for you to visit and, if possible, for you to learn from.

What? You had parents, now they’re gone, so you did your job? Not even close. That’s even more reason to adopt an older person for a visit and some loving kindness.

From them, and from you.

First, check with a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or other house of worship to see which retirement or long-term care facilities they have adopted. They almost all do it, because parishioners require spiritual care when they’re in those places, too.

Around Thanksgiving, churches visit their adopted nursing homes to determine what residents want for Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever holiday they celebrate. They put up a list of what the residents request, then put out boxes in the church for parishioners to fill with those items. By pairing your efforts with a church, you’ll know what residents want and avoid buying a repetitive gift.

Second, you can visit a nursing home or assisted living facility between Thanksgiving and Christmas and ask the facility’s activity director what residents need. Most elderly residents have their own spending money for items the facility doesn’t provide. The activity director or other facility administrator makes a weekly run to the store and picks up items for residents.

If you can’t come up with a specific gift idea, you can put some money on a purchase card for use by the resident. It is recommended that you know the resident you do this for, and make sure the resident is in shape to track the card and its use.

Third, if you know a nurse, certified nursing assistant, or other caregiver at a long-term care facility in your neighborhood, ask them what residents might need. Remember, when it comes to clothes and other items to keep them warm, make sure they are of soft material and avoid buttons, zippers, and ties. A senior living administrator in Pinellas County suggests the following items for your captured senior citizen:

• Something to read: Novels, non-fiction that interests them, pictorial history books, and even computer games can be considered depending on the resident’s abilities.

• Something to write in: For higher-functioning residents, how about a daily journal, notebook, or other platform for them to write on? Clipboards for writing in bed and notebooks for storing writing are also important.

• For those able to work an e-reader: How about downloading free or inexpensive e-books for your elderly friend? They can adjust the type size for easy reading. There are tens of thousands of free books online and even more for a dollar or less.

• Adult coloring books and a set of color pencils. These are all the rage; they are more detailed, take more time than children’s coloring books. They help one relax and think about great stuff.

• Easy word puzzles, like “find a word inside a bunch of letters game.”

• A soft blanket for covering legs. For some unknown reason, hospitals, senior citizen residences, and long-term care facilities like to keep thermometers down.

• Pull-on sweatshirt. Make sure it has elastic bands and doesn’t use buttons or fasteners that are hard for arthritic hands.

• Athletic warm-up tops and pants. Also known as sweatpants and sweatshirt. Again, clothes with elastic bands work best.

• Non-skid slippers and non-skid socks. These require no introduction. Make sure you ask what size residents wear before purchasing these for specific residents.

• A soft purse, about 8 inches by 10 inches in size. Women love these because they carry them on the backs of their walkers, hang them from their waists, or keep them in their nightstand drawer.

• Things for their purse: lipstick, compact mirror, eyeliner, hair brush, tweezers — you get the picture.

• Lotions, body wash: The facilities provide razors, shaving cream, deodorant, etc., but everyone has a favorite lotion.

• Time. That means you, dropping by to say hello, to chat, or to ask them advice. Comparing notes about today versus when they were coming up is another great subject. Certainly not all residents are able to interact on this level, but it is important for them to know they’re important enough for you to visit.

The holidays are a great time to visit nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Residents are only too happy to say hello or have someone read to them. It’s a great exercise, especially if you’re living away from your own family at this time of year.