CNN Underscored has interviewed experts and found the best options to help you cope during this uncertain time. Find all of our coronavirus-related coverage here, and let us know your thoughts here.
Miss being able to just drop in on a dear friend or relative at the assisted living or nursing home? Odds are they miss us even more. Long-term healthcare facilities are not only on lockdown, but social distancing measures have even been implemented inside of them. Long stretches without family interactions or even a card game with friends can be a real challenge. Plenty of studies have directly linked a strong support system to mental wellness and a longer life. So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.
The government is already drafting guidelines for reopening nursing homes — but in the meantime, a carefully chosen gift can comfort loved ones, stave off boredom and keep them connected despite the physical distance. We found some pretty great options, from clever keepsake journals and audiobook players to a pair of next-level lamps that communicate through LED light signals. Pick the one that fits their personality best and it’ll be the next best thing to being there.
Digital Photo Frame ($53.99; amazon.com)
Forget flipping through photo albums. Upgrade mom to a digital photo frame that loops through a slideshow of digital photos while sitting pretty on her bedside table like a 7-inch picture frame. She may not be able to see the family in person yet, but she can relive all her best memories with them all day long. This gadget can hold thousands of photos and can even be set to music. FIll it up before sending it to keep it simple.
Preserved Fresh Eternity Rose ($22.99; amazon.com)
This ‘eternal rose’ may not last forever, but it’ll certainly see loved ones through self-quarantine — and then some. The box holds one jumbo rose that will survive and thrive for up to three years with zero upkeep: not a single ounce of water or sunlight. The secret is a nontoxic preservation process that results in a seemingly magical, mood-enhancing bouquet that brightens a bland nursing home bedroom effortlessly.
Coloring And Classics Subscription Box ($14/month; cratejoy.com)
Combat boredom with a care package chock full of enough puzzle books, coloring books and hardcover novels to keep their imaginations active and problem-solving skills sharp. The company will ship out a starter pack, colored pencils included, within two business days. Curate reading selections based on genre and choose a one-time order or opt for monthly deliveries.
Tranquility 12-pound Weighted Blanket ($49; target.com)
Sleep patterns and circadian rhythms change as a natural part of the aging process, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Throw in the uneasiness of social distancing and it’s a recipe for shoddy shut-eye. A weighted blanket can be a game-changer. It’s known to alleviate anxiety and promote deep, restful sleep — and may be especially comforting for those who miss the feel of a hug. A 12-pound version suits anyone who weighs 100 to 150 pounds.
Caspari Secret Garden Large Type Playing Cards, 2 Decks Included ($16.50; amazon.com)
When social distancing is behind them, they’ll get to play bridge or poker — but in the meantime, there’s no shame in a game of solitaire. These playing cards bear watercolor flower designs on one side and large-sized font on the other. Two standard decks of 52 cards each will arrive in a gold gift box for safekeeping. We call that a pretty good deal.
Dreamy Positano 1000-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle ($28.99; amazon.com)
They may be staying in, but that doesn’t mean they can’t transport themselves to a faraway place. This jigsaw puzzle scene features a photo of one of Italy’s most iconic coastal towns, Positano, and has 1,000 pieces so it will keep them busy for… a while. Added bonus: Jigsaw puzzles have also been proven to be good for visual and spatial cognition. For more jigsaw inspiration, see all of our favorite puzzles.
MP3 Player, 16GB MP3 Player with Bluetooth 4.2 ($29.99; amazon.com)
The power of music is undeniable for all ages, but especially for seniors dealing with memory loss or dementia. In fact, music therapy is used in nursing homes to help residents improve their cognitive functioning, calm their nerves and even exercise their bodies. Try uploading a customized playlist of their favorite tunes to this 16-gig MP3 player and gifting it as the ultimate pick-me-up.
Grandmother’s Journal: Memories and Keepsakes for My Grandchild ($15.06, originally $18.95; amazon.com)
Is grandma an avid storyteller? This illustrated journal lets her take a journey down memory lane, writing down stories from her childhood and beyond as a memento for her grandchildren and future generations. It’s structured, so it prompts her to recall specific life events and it even includes a fill-in family tree. If her memory could use a bit of jogging, we say that’s a perfect excuse for a family Zoom session.
Long Distance Friendship Lamp ($198 for a pair; uncommongoods.com)
The kids can let grandma know they’re thinking of her no matter how far away they are right now with these light-up lamps that sync together and light up on both ends when touched. Assign each child a color and grandma will know who’s checking in to say hello. The LED lamps double as some pretty fascinating decor, too. Check out more creative ways that we found to keep in touch here.
Fire HD 8 Tablet filled with Audible Books ($89.99; amazon.com)
Load up this lightweight, eight-inch tablet with Audible audiobooks and let them enjoy endless hours of storytelling that will easily wile away the time till they can have visitors again. This Fire HD 8 tablet has 16 gigs of storage and lasts for 10 hours on a single charge. Thanks to its bright, glare-free screen, the Fire is perfect for e-books, too. Program it to display large-sized font for easier reading. The WiFi-enabled device is also great for streaming movies and TV shows, and for staying in touch via email.
Letters to My Mom: Write Now. Read Later. Treasure Forever. ($7.99, originally $14.95; amazon.com)
Got a houseful of people missing their loved one? This set of 12 letters with retro fold-and-mail-style envelopes is an adorable way to reflect on her life from the point of view of each family member. Or, fill them all out yourself for the person you’re missing. Each letter includes prompts like “A special memory I have of you is…” or “I always think of you when…”. The kit even includes fun stickers for sealing. They can choose to wait to open the letters, or read them while they wait to meet again. Bonus: The set comes in a Letters to Dad edition, too.
Nature Gear Window Bird Feeder ($33.17; amazon.com)
We’re all watching the world from our windows these days. Give loved ones something fascinating to keep an eye on. This weatherproof acrylic birdhouse and feeder by Nature Gear is a safe refuge for winged visitors of all kinds — and it keeps out squirrels. It adheres to the window of her room and is completely transparent, making it a cinch to see what birds are up to. The food tray slides easily in and out for refills, too. If their room is on the ground floor, ask if this can be put up on the outside of their window to be refilled with each visit.
RCA Wireless TV Headphones ($59.99; amazon.com)
Let’s face it: TV watching is at an all-time high for everyone and seniors in nursing homes are no exception. Help them truly enjoy binge-watching new shows and experience the best possible audio on movie nights with these sound-amplifying wireless headphones by RCA. They deliver crystal-clear audio and have long-range transmission, so they can sit as far from the set as they want.
The Best Box Ever Bakery Cookie Assortment Subscription Box (starting at $25/month; cratejoy.com)
It’s natural for seniors to crave sweets, and snacks are definitely a pick-me-up for most people in nursing homes. This ‘Box of Happiness’ is filled with a half or full-dozen beautifully decorated sugar cookies with special messages. Added bonus: They’re all handmade and baked right here in the U.S.
Therapy Dough ($15; uncommongoods.com)
This adult version of the stuff they played with as a kid will keep their hands busy and their minds thinking creatively about what to make next. Given the time they have to spend away from their family, now is the perfect time for such a thoughtfully offbeat gift. It’s infused with delicious essential oils that are said to have soothing effects — choose from mood-boosting orange, calming lavender or energizing peppermint.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.