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Helping Busy Caregivers Shop for the Holidays

A national study conducted by Perrigo Company reveals that 88% of Americans feel stressed during the holidays, with purchasing presents as the top seasonal stressor. For caregivers, buying gifts may be even more stressful when loved ones say they have everything they need. Following are three creative gifts that loved ones can enjoy with caregivers throughout the year.

Creating Memories: Innovative Gift Certificates

The best possible gift to give is creating memories that will last for many years to come. Research through Harvard University indicates that the mind wanders 47% of the time. To create long-term memories, attention is needed to encode the formation of conscious memories as shared by The Journal of Current Opinion in Neurobiology. So how can you create new memories as a gift? Make special gift certificates for loved ones in which your time and “being present” is the gift. Applications like Canva, Crello, and Microsoft provide free templates for creating gift certificates. Discover new ways that you can spend time with loved ones either at home, locally, or online. Homemade gift certificates can be used throughout the year and include visiting museums (e.g., three-pack with three local museums, virtual online tours, or Virtual Reality), forest bathing (e.g., two outdoor walks in different parks, virtual online walks, or Virtual Reality), concerts or plays (e.g., local with a picnic, live online, YouTube, etc.), movie night (e.g., a six-pack of favorite movies on Netflix, Hulu, etc.), comedy afternoons (e.g., monthly comedy shows on Netflix, Amazon, YouTube), tea or coffee together (e.g., home, local park, neighborhood cafe). You can also choose traditional gift certificates from local vendors to your favorite salon, restaurants, bookstores, etc. Most important, when using the certificates, you must be present since your time together is truly the gift. Turn off mobile devices, as you are able, and be mindful – focus on the art and colors, music and sounds, nature and surroundings, characters and plots, tastes and smells, laughing until your cheeks hurt, and focus on the small things that can be easily overlooked. According to the Queensland Brain Institute, emotion affects the strength and duration of memories. Therefore, make each certificate a special time together since these memories, particularly when associated with strong emotions like love and happiness, as well as with laughter, will make them more durable and ones that will be recollected for many years.

Music PlayLists & Carpool Karaoke: Enjoy Throughout the Year

Music is often cited as the last thing forgotten. New Frontiers journal shares that memory for music is often resistant to brain disease that causes memory loss, including Alzheimer’s disease. The University of Utah Health has found that “music activates the brain, causing whole regions to communicate.” For the upcoming holidays create playlists for loved ones that you can also enjoy. Use Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, or Amazon Prime Music to create playlists that include songs from special events such as a loved one’s wedding, special holidays, decade classics, family favorites, and more. Turn routine weekly drives to medical appointments into Carpool Karaoke by singing favorite songs from different playlists. According to the Chicago Tribune, singing is a natural anti-depressant and has many health benefits such as reducing anxiety, improving mental alertness, and improving mood. Create playlists with new songs or even sounds that loved ones may enjoy such as thunderstorms, ocean waves crashing on the shore, steam engine trains, rainforests, and more. Johns Hopkins University shares that music can keep your brain young as well as “reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.” Reach out to family and friends to see if they have songs to recommend including for loved ones that can be used for playlists. The gift of music has many short- and long-term benefits as it relates to memory.

Education: Support Brain Health, Learning & Well-Being

There is no better gift than education. Sign loved ones up for classes through a senior living center or through a community center. According to the Center for Disease Control, social isolation increases risk of dementia by 50%. Therefore, find classes in which loved ones are able to be with others to learn something new and engage mentally, emotionally, and socially. Classes may include art, music, Tai Chi, mahjong, gardening, chair yoga, and more. Look for workshops offered locally or online in which caregivers can attend with loved ones related to education and self-care such as Maplewood’s online or onsite events, including Power of Positivity; Mindfulness & The Arts; Science & Art of Changing the Brain; and more.

For loved ones who are thinking of gifts for caregivers, AARP provides a gift guide for the “caregivers in your life.” Review the guide to get novel gift ideas for the upcoming holiday seasons. Caregivers may want to glance at the gift guide as well since they are often asked by loved ones what they may want for the holidays.

Be innovative this holiday season. Remember, the best gift is time and the memories you make with loved ones throughout the year.

Our guest blogger,Dr. Kristen Betts, is a Clinical Professor in Drexel University’s School of Education in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on education, neuropedagogy, lifelong learning in addition to Mind, Brain, and Education science.  Dr. Betts teaches multiple classes for Maplewood Senior Living. Be sure to check our EVENTS page to see what is coming up next.

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