It’s not quite Thanksgiving, but the frantic rush of preparations for Christmas has begun. If you have senior family members or neighbors, the frustrating question is always, “What do I buy for the person who doesn’t need anything?”

While material gifts could satisfy the desires of a senior, why not choose an even more meaningful gift – one from your heart?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Take your senior shopping. Make it a special day by going to a favorite store, perhaps having lunch, or helping them shop online or from catalogues.
  • Wrap and send packages. Physical disabilities, such as arthritis, can present challenges. Schedule a gift-wrapping afternoon complete with hot chocolate, cookies and telling family stories as you wrap packages. Then mail or deliver the packages for your senior.
  • Deck the halls. Decorating can be an overwhelming and exhausting activity at any age. Help your senior get decorations out of storage and determine traditions, e.g., where does the manger scene go? Ask him to help as he can. Make decorating a multigenerational activity if possible and play Christmas music.
  • Send holiday greetings. The handwritten Christmas card is one of the most popular traditions of seniors. Offer to spend an afternoon writing greetings.
  • Focus on others. Adopt a senior from an organization providing Christmas for seniors, such as the Be A Santa To A Senior program by Home Instead Senior Care.
  • Stay connected. Assist your senior in connecting with family or friends through Skype or facetime.
  • Give the gift of time. Companionship is one of the most desirable gifts you can give anyone. Holiday activities, ranging from a short visit to a driving tour to see Christmas lights, can bring back memories of past traditions and celebrations.
  • Relive memorable moments. Seniors with Alzheimer’s and other dementias often are lost in their own world, but there’s nothing like the past to get their attention.

Get on their level, look them in the eye, speak clearly and ask them open-ended questions, such as “Tell me about what you did at Christmas when you were growing up.” Even if they are no longer talking, they might be able to remember old Christmas carols or hymns and might surprise you by singing along.

  • Provide a quiet place. Seniors with hearing problems or memory issues may become agitated with loud noises or too many people around them. Another room where they can be calm should be available.

Remember, people might not remember what gift you gave them for Christmas, but they will remember the time they spend with you. You’ll remember it too!

Rachel Carson is a Certified Senior Advisor and the owner of Home Instead Senior Care serving the Lowcountry since 1997.