19 Gifts for Nursing Home Residents to Show You Care

Updated April 9, 2021
Young woman hugs senior woman in wheelchair with blanket

Finding the perfect gift for a nursing home resident can feel overwhelming, but the key is considering the personality of the recipient. Even though grandma may say she doesn't really need anything, there are some gifts that will make life easier for those in care facilities. Whether you choose a practical gift like a walker bag or a meaningful present like a handmade family tree quilt, it is the thought that counts.

Practical and Fun Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

While flowers are attractive and bring a feeling of warmth, they often come in containers that are too cumbersome for the resident to move about the room. Before purchasing or making gifts for nursing home patients, consider space and what your loved one will need. Some practical and fun gifts for people in nursing homes include the following.

1. Art Supply Kit for Exploration

Many nursing homes have art therapy as part of their regular programming, but even so, your loved one may not get enough of this creative time. Several studies indicate that creating art can help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression in the senior population, and it may even reduce cognitive decline. If you know what your loved one likes to create, you can pick up supplies for a specific project or medium. If not, give lots of different options that are easy to explore, such as colored pencils, clay, washable markers, art papers, and more.

2. Cozy Lap Robe or Quilt

Elderly people often feel cold throughout the day. A lap robe or quilt can solve this problem. Some designs actually tie around the waist to stay in place and have a pouch for holding things. You can purchase a lap quilt, or you can make your own easy quilt out of pretty fabrics. Either way, this is a functional, comfortable, and thoughtful gift that doesn't just take up space.

3. Easy-Care Succulent Garden

Throughout life, your friend or loved one has taken care of growing things like children, pets, and garden plants. This experience of caring for something living can help someone feel useful and fulfilled, but it's difficult to replicate in the nursing home setting. A succulent garden that requires minimal care can make an excellent gift for a nursing home resident. Choose plants that don't need much water or fertilizer. Consider planting your own succulent garden in teacups or family dishes that are familiar and pretty. These look beautiful on a windowsill.

succulent plants

4. Walker Bag for Personal Items

While a walker is great for those with mobility challenges, it makes it difficult to carry things in your hands. You can provide practical help by giving a walker bag to store personal items. You can buy a walker bag online or make your own. Not only is it convenient, but a bag encourages getting out of the room because your grandparent or parent is able to move about the assisted living facility with everything she needs.

5. Cheerful Door Decoration

Help your loved one welcome people to her room with a beautiful door decoration. You can make your own wreath with mesh ribbon, create a welcome plaque with a cheerful, personalized message, or pick up a wreath or decoration that suits your loved one's style. Look for a decoration that is unique and isn't fragile, since other residents may touch it or bump it. Pick something that shows off a special interest, favorite color, or seasonal motif.

6. Adorable Socks With Grips

Grippy socks can help avoid falls, and they don't have to be boring. You can buy grippy socks, or you can make any socks into grippy socks with a little time. This is an easy homemade gift for nursing home residents. To make grippy socks, simply place cardboard inside a sock and decorate the bottom with fabric paint. Puff paint can work especially well. Wait for the paint to dry, and then remove the cardboard. Feet get cold during the night, but if slippers aren't at the ready, socks with grips can make all the difference.

7. Custom Story Book

Many photo sites allow you to create albums with photos and text, and it's a fun project to make a book. This type of personalized book can make a great gift for elderly friends and family. Tell about fun life events, such as family trips and adventures, or make a story book about how your loved one met his or her spouse. You can even create multiple story books to tell about a person's life. These books make a great gifts for dementia patients in nursing homes, too, since they can prompt the person to remember special times.

8. Crossword Puzzle Books

Everyone loves the challenge of crossword puzzles, and they make fun and affordable gifts. In addition, they're also practical. Studies reveal participation in crossword puzzles by elderly people as a factor in the delay of memory decline. There are spiral bound books available for elderly people that want to fold back the book or even rip out pages.

9. Adult Coloring Books and Colored Pencils

A variation on a crossword puzzle book or an art supply kit, an adult coloring book and some nice colored pencils can keep your loved one creatively challenged. Choose the complexity of the coloring book with any motor challenges in mind. If your parent, grandparent, or older friend or relative is struggling with manual dexterity, a simpler coloring book can help keep her from getting frustrated.

Senior Man Coloring An Adult Coloring Book

10. Soothing Hand Lotion

The air conditioning and heat in care facilities can be drying for the skin, but hand and body lotion can help. Lotion also adds a touch of home but is a practical gift to show your love. Instead of choosing a standard formula, find an option that she wouldn't spend money on. Don't know how to choose? Try to select a formula to suit your loved one, like a gentle formula for sensitive skin or a flowery scent for fragrance lovers. You can even make your own hand lotion using easy recipes if you want to give a handmade gift.

11. Pretty Nail Polish

Just because your loved one is aging doesn't mean she doesn't want to be pampered or feel feminine. Nail polish is an inexpensive and special gift for a nursing home resident, and it's even more meaningful if you paint her nails for her. Pick up a bottle of pretty polish at your local drug store and stop by the care home to apply it. You can chat or just sit together as you paint her nails, and she'll be excited about the new shade.

12. Monthly Subscription Box or Club

Monthly subscriptions boxes or clubs make excellent gifts for the elderly in nursing homes. You can choose a subscription box based on your loved one's interests or hobbies, such as craft boxes, makeup subscription boxes, and other fun options. You can also do a large print book-of-the-month club or a monthly flower delivery service. The great thing about these clubs is that the fun lasts all year and gives your loved one something to look forward to each month.

13. Personalized Jigsaw Puzzle of Family Photos

Photo companies can make any family picture into a jigsaw puzzle, and this can make a thoughtful gift for nursing home residents. Choose a puzzle with a level of complexity that's appropriate for the person, and then select a family photo that will be wonderful to see when the puzzle is constructed. You can even laminate the puzzle or mount it to a backing for display in the nursing home room.

14. Digital Picture Frame

A digital picture frame offers an ever-changing display of photos for your loved one to enjoy. Choose a frame you can pre-load or keep updated remotely. Help the resident set the frame up in an easy-view location on an end table or night stand. Try to keep the technological requirements to a minimum, since not all nursing homes have WiFi or reliable network connections.

15. A Window Birdfeeder

Add a bird feeder to the outside of your loved one's window. A bit of nature outside the window may encourage him to go outdoors. You can purchase bird feeders that stick right to the window. This gives your loved one access to birds right outside the window, and it is easier to maintain.

Cardinalis bird perched on plastic glass window feeder

16. Family Tree Quilt

Keep your loved one warm while helping him or her feel loved with a family tree quilt. You can make or buy this type of quilt. To make one, use fabric markers to decorate a plain quilt or fabric with your family tree. You can also add special messages, photos printed on fabric, and other meaningful details. This gift will not only keep your loved one warm, but it may spark memories and nostalgia as she looks at the names on the quilt.

17. Comfortable Wheelchair Cushion

If your loved one is in a wheelchair, it can get very uncomfortable sitting in the same position for long periods. A wheelchair cushion adds everyday comfort. You can purchase or make a wheelchair cushion in a color or fabric that will make the person happy. When sitting on a wheelchair, the cushion eliminates discomfort and even protects the skin.

18. Iron-on Labels for Clothing

Many care facilities have a large laundry area where residents' clothing can get mixed up. To prevent items from going missing, give that special person some iron-on labels for clothing. The iron-on option is effective for nursing homes because they cannot be removed from items easily. This practical gift just might be the best item you've ever given!

19. Homemade Comfort Foods

Provided it doesn't conflict with any dietary restrictions, a great gift for a nursing home resident is a favorite home-cooked meal or snack. Even if the care facility has good food, it can't beat a special recipe or comforting dish. Take the time to buy or make that delicious item, and it will be a gift your loved one will treasure.

The Gift of Your Time

Nothing can take the place of visiting your friend or family member in the nursing home. In fact, a loneliness study conducted by the Division of Geriatrics at the University of California found loneliness to be a predictor in negative health outcomes. The gift of time is a very enriching gift for nursing home residents. Spending half an hour or even just a few moments will be a great experience for all. Even if your grandfather doesn't recognize you or is unable to voice his happiness at your visit on his 80th birthday, you will be grateful that you took the time to show your concern. Some benefits of spending time with the elderly include the following:

  • Learning about the lives of people from other generations
  • Helping an elderly person feel like a valuable member of society
  • Exposing your loved one to the joy of being around children
  • Showing your children every stage of life while learning patience and attentiveness

Senior citizens are valuable members of society, and spending time in their environment is beneficial for everyone involved. The gift of time might be the most valuable gift you can give!

Things to Do in a Nursing Home

Don't know what to do when you visit the nursing home? Giving the gift of time to someone you loved also means you should do something fun together. Depending on mobility and other limitations, these are some ideas for spending time together:

  • Completing crossword puzzles or word searches together
  • Eating dinner together and meeting friends in the dining room
  • Enjoying a homemade dessert you brought along
  • Working on a project together, like a craft or puzzle
  • Talking about family members or shared memories
  • Getting details about other family members by sorting through old photos
  • Writing down a life chronicle
  • Playing board games with family members or other residents
  • Reading a book aloud together
  • Listening to a podcast on a topic which interests you both
  • Attending events together, like church services or planned entertainment
  • Learning a new skill from your loved one, like knitting or crochet
  • Going to the nail salon for a manicure or pedicure
  • Listening to music and discussing memories associated with songs

Homemade Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

Include the younger family members in the gift-giving process. No matter what the age, there are numerous gifts for grandparents ideas that grandchildren can take part in. Ask young children to draw or paint pictures for the elderly resident. Many nursing homes have bulletin boards by the resident's bed. That is a perfect place to put a drawing by a grandchild. Here are a few craft ideas for young children to try:

I Heart You popup card
  • Give the gift of a homemade pop-up card. Why give a plain card when you can make this awesome gift?
  • Make an advent calendar for the holiday season. This way, your loved one is able to celebrate every day of the holiday season!
  • Complete a craft together with an elderly person. For example, a grandparent can teach their grandchild how to knit and use simple patterns designed for beginners. Another craft to try together is a cross stitch bookmark. Not only is it a small item, it is also functional! This is a combination of a craft gift and the gift of time with a loved one!
  • Take something useful, like soap, and create your own for an elderly family member. This is a functional gift that comes in handy to have as well.
  • Put together a sugar scrub and then exfoliate their hands and feet! You could even make this gift along with your favorite nursing home resident.

Being Thoughtful Counts in Gift Giving

When it comes to giving a gift, it is the thought that counts. Consider the pastimes, hobbies, habits, and preferences of the person you know that lives in a nursing home. Once you find a gift, don't wait for a special occasion! Just bring the gift and it will brighten your loved one's day.

19 Gifts for Nursing Home Residents to Show You Care