Gift Giving Another Causality of Alzheimer’s Disease

Gift Giving Another Causality of Alzheimer’s Disease

By Lori La Bey, of Senior Lifestyle Trends

My hands were aching from shoveling the wet heavy snow and my body was chilled, but I wanted to stop at Mom’s.  If I didn’t do it now I knew I would curl up at home and not want to leave.   So off I went to visit Mom at the nursing home this X-Mas day.  I didn’t even get the card I had picked out for her.  I didn’t trust myself. 

I was afraid I wouldn’t leave the house once I went in.   I figured Mom wouldn’t mind if I brought the card tomorrow. This was my first year I wouldn’t even bring Mom a gift for Christmas. I almost bought flowers, than realized I was going to be buy them for me, not Mom.  The truth is I’m not sure how much she can really see any more. 

I knew for sure she wouldn’t remember the flowers were for her, or who they were from.

I knew beautiful flowers didn’t trigger anything special for her to hold onto, so what would the point be? 

Yes, the flowers would be for me.  I would ”look like” a caring daughter, but flowers have nothing to do with how much I care, how often I visit, or the quality of my visits.  So I decided to pass on performing for looks, purchasing flowers to play a part.  Performing for my ego.  It felt strange to put my gift buying in prospective like that.  Even as I write this knowing full well my thoughts are true, it was so strange to walk in empty handed.

Yet on the other hand, for many years now I’ve whined about the commercialism of Christmas and how disgruntled it makes me feel.  How we have lost the true meaning of the holidays and the simple appreciation for one another.  Since Mom’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I am usually able to look at things in my life in a deeper fashion.  What is relevant and what is not?  What has meaning and what doesn’t and why. 

That part of Alzheimer’s disease has been a gift to me.

But like most Caregivers dealing with this disease, I ping, and I pong.  I can see the good, the bad, and the ugly; depending on the mood I’m in.  I also realize the sadness I feel about not buying a gift for my Mother because there is no joy in giving her a gift at this stage. Who would have thought Alzheimer’s disease could take gift giving from me?  Of all the things I could list which I’ve lost due to this disease, I have to admit, gift giving would not have been something I would have ever thought to write down, but the reality is, gift giving another causality of Alzheimer’s.  Another loss. 

Now in the later stages of Alzheimer’s it is work to try to get a response out of Mom for any gift she receives.  Gift giving is not meant to be work.  It is not meant to be work of recognition of receipt, but many times, it is what we do with an Alzheimer’s patient.   We try to connect and the gift is a tool to do that.  So we try hard to get approval, recognition – for what we have given someone.  When a person with Alzheimer’s is not able to respond to simple comments or directions, it can become counter-productive and frustrating for all. 

I also have to mention, prior to Mom being in her end stages of the disease, she gave me much joy when I gave her something, anything.  She was like a small innocent children thrilled to receive any present or kind gesture from another person.  I guess I need to balance the loss I’m feeling today, with the extra joy she gave me with that glint in her eyes in earlier stages.

I need to focus on that which I already know.  I need to accept and appreciate the gift of our self is simple, easy, and needs no direction or comment. There is no decision on what to buy or how to wrap it.  Our delivery is the important thing with this gift.  Our attitude.  Our love.  Our compassion.

Hoping you all enjoyed the holiday!

25 Replies to “Gift Giving Another Causality of Alzheimer’s Disease”

  1. Isn’t the purpose just to create enjoyable moments? It isn’t really important if things are remembered. If you Mom enjoys the moment, that’s what is important. A gifting moment would have been neat.

    1. HI Rebecca,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Your are right it is about creating joy, but at this stage with my Mother those moments are few and far between. A gift does not seem to have any real affect on her anymore. She doesn’t appear to understand what a gift is, or that it is hers.

      She also isn’t in need of anything to speak of. I get her what she needs as she needs it. Flowers used to bring her joy when she knew they were pretty and special. When she knew they were for her because she is special. Flowers don’t seem to have any effect on her anymore. I’ve tried many times and feel I’m pretty good at looking for the signs of joy within my Mother.

      My voice seems to trigger more joy than thing these days. She sleeps a lot and rarely responds verbally or physically anymore. It’s another stage of the disease.

      Each person responds to this disease differently. Each Caregiver can only do what they feel is best for the situation they are dealing with, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense to others at the time.

  2. As painful as it is, especially during the holiday season, to realize that your loved one has slipped a bit more, and that more–and probably more painful–slippage lies ahead, you’ve learned and shared with all of us this essential message. You’re continuing to give your mother the special love that you, uniquely, are able to give. Your memories of her during her last days may not be joyous; nonetheless, you definitely can look back with justifiable pride that you loved and cared for her superbly.

    1. Hi Larry,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. Alzheimer’s disease is such a strange journey for patients, caegivers, and loved ones. The twist and turns are never ending, as are the lessons the disease can teach us if we open ourselves to learn about compassion, ego, and simple pleasures. Today when I went to leave my Mother, I told her to pucker up I was coming in the my kiss goodbye. She smirked, opened her eyes a hair, and then puckered her lips. After I kissed her, she fell immediately back to sleep. Her ability to connect today, even if brief made my day. Heck probably my week, and the picture I have of her in my mind will stay with me forever.
      Hope you have a wonderful New Year

  3. You, Lori, are the gift to and for your mother! Sometimes the gift needs to be nothing more than you visiting her. For those of us who love giving and seeing the joy in the receiver’s eyes when they receive the gift it is a hard change to see and accept when our loved ones no longer recognize or find joy in the gift such as the flowers. So we need to learn to accept that we and our visit is the best gift we can give.

    I’m so glad that you can carry the memory of your mother puckering up with you. Those are the treasured moments.

    Your story of your experience and coming to terms of the changes that transpire through the stages are so helpful to others to know they are not alone in their journey of aging and Alzheimer’s.

  4. About 2 years ago, I was trying to figure what to give mom for her birthday, which is also a week away from Mother’s Day. Nothing mattered to her anymore, only tending to her basic needs, there were no more wants. I realized that I give her the most precious and valuable gift I can, and that is the gift of me and my time, giving up my life to care for her in these last years. I have always loved to get her just the right gift, often something just pretty to make her smile, but that all vanished as the dementia took over. She appreciates a few things that are in her room right now, a little lit ceramic tree, little things, but they really don’t mean anything special for more then minutes, then her attention is turned elsewhere, usually just whining for someone to come and take care of a problem that isn’t there. I remember the gifts I have given her, and certainly the gifts she has given me through the years, and now there is another gift she has given me since I began caring for her, the gift of sharing this journey with others, to help them along the way. Blessings to you and your mom!

    1. HI Donna,
      Your are right, this journey in and of itself can be a gift if you are willing to look at the glass 1/2 full. It amazes me the wonderful people I have met through this processs, this journey. You sound like you have a great attitude and are a very loving daughter. Your Mother is blessed to have you on her side. Don’t forget to make sure you take care of yourself as well. Blessing to all of you and have a wonderful New Year.

      Also I wanted to let you know I am going to add your blog to my blogroll here as well as my Resource Website

  5. This year was the 1st time I did not bring mom a gift as well. She has Lewy Body w/Parkinsons (another form of dementia). She is slipping further and further away as well, sleeps much of the time. She too does not react to things like a gift, will not even complete the opening of a wrapped gift. I did however, give her the card I bought, and that did get a reaction (if only for a milli-second). My voice is what she reacts to. I feel we are in the same boat. I shovel the driveway at her house, then see her, then go do my own home. If I go home, I know I’ll curl up and not do the rest. She does not seem to even know I am there, but does have some recognition (she does not seem mad at me when I come the next time – or is it me?). Like a coma patient, maybe they do know. If you a truly connected to the person (with your heart), I believe that you can “read” them. I understand what you are saying. The doctors have told me that I am intelligent because I understand, I believe it is love.


    1. Hi Cynthia,

      My heart aches as I read your comment, but I feel joy for you at the same time as you get it. So many people have not gotten to the point of acceptance. You understand how unconditional love, and how to give it. It starts with the level in which you see, feel, and process things from such a different angle. You notice the minute things like their pace of breathing, the milli-second semi smirk, the movement in their eyes, a soft coo in their voice. The list is endless and truly precious for those who can read the communications being sent.

      As difficult as this disease is, it can bear miraculous fruits for living life on a more conscience level. The labor of love supplies the insights to unconditonalism, acceptance, forgiveness, and letting go of our egos and allowing us to appreciate what is here. What is now. What is important.

      Thank you so much for your comments. You and your Mother are in my thoughts and prayers.


  6. Lori,

    How beautiful this has been today, your thoughts, Donna’s, and other messages here. Brought tears to my eyes. Some happy, some sad – they are all OK or appropriate.

    It is true, she is still giving to me, I am still learning from her. There are gifts, communicating at another level. I know when she knows I am talking about her – she smile sometimes, or reach out (and I know it is not a hallucination).

    When I walk the halls at the nursing home, I say “hi” to everyone, toucha shoulder, etc. Don’t tell me they don’t know. They smile, perk up, some just follow me with their eyes. Sure, I’ve been yelled at, even called names. Mostly, I have made them happy, if only for a moment.

    I hope to help someone else, the ones that suffer. I have tried to ease other family members into the routine(s). I remember how hard it was to make the decision to bring my mom there.

    Thank you for your beautiful story, your kind thoughts, all you are offering. This is my first time ever ona blog!

    I too, will keep you/yours in my thoughts and prayers.


    1. Cynthia & Lori,

      I have walked in your shoes for so many days and wouldn’t trade them for the most comfortable pair of slipper on earth.

      My dad holds the record for having been in this nursing home longer than any other resident to date. He has taught me so much about life as he went from senility to dementia and now Alzheimer’s Disease.

      He can’t remember my name or my relationship to him, so most of the time he refers to me as his sister. That’s fine with me because I know he recognizes me as the person who loves and cares about him.

      I massage him weekly and as soon as I put my hands on his shoulder he says, (with a smile on his face), “You’re going to give me a massage, right?” He knows my touch. He is visually impaired and when he hears my voice, he immediately reaches for my hand and places it on his cheek or his head. When I rub he head, he tells me how good it feels.

      I am a massage therapist by profession. Through my dad I have learned first hand, how important touch is to this population. I have learned how delicate they are and how important gentle approach is and also be able to recognize when to step back.

      I also walk the halls and cafeteria giving comforting touch to the other residents who have come to expect me to rub their hands, shoulders or stroke their hair, which seems to be their favorite.

      Christmas gifts, birthday gifts and cards, wow, I don’t remember the last time I pruchased either for my father. Love, patience, understanding, compassion, feeling safe & secure, trust, joy, happiness and laughter are some of the gifts he gave me thoughout my life. These are the gifts I want most to give back to him while he’s alive, day after day after day. They are very inexpensive and you don’t have to shop for them, they’re from the heart.

      Thank you both for sharing your story and I am so glad to be on this journey with you, as at time I feel so all alone. We must pray together, for and with each other.


      1. HI Sandra,

        Thank you so much for writing. I feel the same way about my Mother. The gifts she has giving me far out way the sruggles of this disease. It is all about keeping ones mind open and looking deeper for answers. How to connect. What is important in life. the list goes on.

        The point you bring up about touch is oh so true. Their bodies lack physical touch and we forget how touch makes us feel. How connected we can feel with one another…

        Kudos to you for understanding and appreciating the the gifts you have been given and continue to play forward with those who have memory loss.


  7. HI Cynthia,

    Thank you for your touching remarks.

    I love your comment on “and I know it is not a hallucination” I have some strong feelings on that topic and sometime in the future will have to write on them.

    I also love your willingness to engage other in the nursing home. I do the same. It’s fun and they love it!

    Keep on your path you are a gift to the world!


  8. Sandra & Lori,

    This has been a gift for me, your messages. This time is difficult. Sometimes are easier than others, even when it is heartbreaking. For some reason the last few weeks have become harder. Maybe she is reaching another level. Learning new ways to talk or communicate with mom. I see she wants to be left alone at times. She does not want me there, or most likely, she does no want me to see her like this. Sometimes, I think she feels I am babying her, or I am at a loss for the words, I can’t explain it right now.

    I need to sell her house, and feel terrible about it, but need the money to continue paying for the nursing home. My parents worked so hard for that and wanted to have that be their gift to their children. Feeling like I am betraying her these days. My issue, not hers – right?

    Thanks again, for the messages, sharing your stories, it is both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers,

    1. HI Cynthia,

      I decided your post need more attention as you bring such great points to light, so I have copied your latest comment and added my response to it and it is now a featured piece on the home page.

      Thank you for sharing

      Know you are not alone in this journey.


  9. Dear cynthia,

    There are times when we feel sad, alone, misunderstood, angry, guilty, cheated, deserted, frightened, overwhelmed and lost. These feeling are real and we must recognize them for they are coming from within. We have every right to feel them because life is not being so nice to us.

    A week in Hawaii would be great about now, but I know and you know that’s impossible. However, 20 minutes of “ME” time is a great substitute. Go into your bathroom, light a candle, put on some soothing music and climb in the shower. As the warm water cascades down you body, allow yourself to speak out loud. Say whatever is on you mind and don’t worry if it comes out right, you don’t need to be politically correct at this time. Remember this is “ME” time. Just say it. Just say it. Do this for Cynthia.


  10. Thanks, Sandra. Feeling a lot of pressure these days work, home, mom, other family, friends.

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!


    1. HI Cynthia,

      The pressures can be huge and but remember the rewards are oh so mighty. It’s just getting to that place where you can push the worries aside, even if for a brief moment, to see the light at the end of the tunnel and feel the warmth of the love between you.

      So Take Care, Breathe Deep, and doubt forget you do need and require “ME TIME” to rejuvenate.


  11. Lori,

    Once again, you have outdone yourself. How wonderful a “gift” you are giving to everyone that comes to this forum.

    I am very touched by the response to my most recent posting, and what you have written in response on the Home page.

    I have wanted to say for some time that the picture you chose is so poetic & carries so much meaning to the Alzheimer’s and related afflictions. The bridge, the fog, the haze, the change of season, the reflection in the water, the fluid/lucitity of the water, the light, the open space, the path… WOW! How very fitting, how very beautiful.

    Again, you touch me.

  12. Thanks for your kind words Cynthia. They mean a lot to me.

    As for the picture. I have to admit, it is one of the stock photo wordpress offers. When I saw it I new it was PERFECT! So many others have said the same as you. It really was God Sent.

    Keep up your good work, and yes Caregiving is work no matter how much we want to do what we do…it is still hard work. We just always have to try to remember the gifts Caregiving gives us back. Somedays that is an easier task then other days. LOL


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