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Helping Caregivers: Gifts for Caregivers and People Facing Illness

holiday gift pictureSome people just have a talent for buying meaningful gifts and a natural inclination for knowing the right thing to say or do in a tough situation.  Some of us have a good heart, but need a little inspiration!

We have shared some advice in the past on gifts for seniors: ideas for gifts for assisted living residents, older relatives who are downsizing or facing chronic illness.  Now, we’d like to share some ideas for what to get caregivers–what types of gifts and help caregivers might truly appreciate and need. 

Caregivers can be an overlooked group at the holidays.  Many people you know are caregiving and you may not even realize to what extent someone you know is involved in caregiving and perhaps feeling a bit stressed out this holiday season.  Similarly, many individuals and families are dealing with a chronic illness or facing a tough battle with a serious diagnosis.  Holidays can be a tough time.

First, take a little time to think about the caregiver/gift recipient.  You may be able to brainstorm and come up with some ideas just by thinking about what the person enjoys, hobbies/interests (maybe things they have not had time for lately but once enjoyed or need a “new” way to enjoy) and conversations you have had in recent months.

Here are some ideas and resources for gift giving:

The Gift of Relaxation

Caregivers are generally in great need of rest and relaxation.  Some gift ideas in this category include: a gift certificate for a massage or a “day at the spa”, relaxation music, an inspiring book, something cozy like a fuzzy blanket or warm robe or a bath gift basket/lavender scented bath salts, lotions, etc.

Think about the practicality of using the gift of relaxation.  For example, a day at the spa may seem impossible to the caregiver right now.  Perhaps you can also offer help with the care recipient or make sure help is available for using the day out (maybe it’s possible to set up someone to help and even plan and go together to the spa day?).  Or, maybe right now, the “at home” gift choice is better, such as bath salts or relaxing lotions. 

This is also true for someone who is currently dealing with his or her own illness.  The person may not feel like getting a massage right now, or might just be too exhausted to take time to go to a spa.  Do a little digging–maybe you can give a gift card for iTunes if the person likes to download music or audio books to listen to while at treatment.  Nice, personal touches can make all the difference in a hospital stay too.  Check out our special resources section for people facing hospitalization or ongoing treatments.

Time and Care Giving (giving the gift of self and assistance)

A caregiver’s most precious resource is often time (and energy!).  For a person facing an illness, much of their time and energy is also caught up in treatment and appointments.  Can you offer to help out in whatever way the person is comfortable?  For example, maybe the caregiver does not feel comfortable having someone stay with their loved one but would be glad to have your help with shopping or running an errand?  Sometimes you might need to just suggest it, i.e. “I am going to Sam’s club.  Can I pick up some items for you?” or “I’d love to see you but I know you have so many appointments right now.  Maybe I can drive you to your therapy sessions and it will give us some time together.”

Words of support and a regular phone call can be the best gift of all for someone who is feeling isolated.  Maybe you can visit and bring a special treat (go above and beyond and find out if there’s a special family recipe the person hasn’t had time to make that you could recreate and bring over). 

Depending on the situation, you might even purchase services for the person, such as a home health gift certificate that could be used for respite care or household help and errands or a cleaning service or someone to help put up the outdoor holiday decorations (there are companies that do this now!).  This can be a bit tricky–for some people, providing a cleaning company gift certificate might be highly offensive, while for others it would be a welcome relief. Bringing over meals might be appreciated, or if you are at a distance, purchase prepared meals from somewhere like Honeybaked Ham or Let’s Dish.

Special Resources (caregiver gift ideas, gifts for someone facing chronic or acute illness and recovery)

Stylish hospital gowns such as these from Annie and Isabel or other comfortable, easy clothes. Buck and Buck is one company a number of our clients have used for clothes appropriate to special conditions or for someone in a nursing home or hospital and PajamaGram sends comfy PJs in a stylish package.

Entertainment/distraction items: books (or credit for an eReader), puzzle books/crosswords, music (iTunes gift card, or get a small MP3 player and stock it up with music).  If you know the person is going to be hospitalized, find out if the hospital has a pay TV option and if you can purchase that for them.

Comfort/personal items: window clings, a framed picture, a lap blanket–anything to personalize a hospital room or serve as a reminder that you care when someone is recovering at home, in rehabilitation or undergoing treatment.  One clever idea we have seen is sending beautiful photos of flowers or nature–in place of actual flowers/plants which may be restricted or difficult if the person is moving rooms or has allergies.

Slippers or non-slip socks: hospitals usually provide the socks, but something more fun or stylish might help the patient feel a little better.  Also, flip flops or shower shoes are a good thing for patients to have at the hospital (but what is safe for the particular patient may vary).

Gift baskets: you can get creative and put your own together or do a google search for some great ideas and items targeted to someone with an illness or relaxation packages for caregivers.

Inspirational items: a book or CD/MP3 on relaxation techniques, an inspiring story or quotations. 

a hug for a caregiverFinding just the right way to give is a bit of a detective game, as any of these suggestions could be right or wrong depending on the individual’s situation.  However, knowing you care and support the person is always a gift worth giving.  Just listening and spending some time together can mean a lot.  If you know of resources and ideas to help or can do a little research for the caregiver, that might also be a welcome (and useful) gift. 

Aging Wisely offers a number of caregiver and eldercare resources on our website.  If we can help to point you to anything specific or give you ideas (or you have a suggestion for us), we welcome your input or questions!  We believe in the gift of knowledge and we are happy to have you share any of our resources (check out our recommended reading for caregivers section too)!

You (or a caregiver you know) can reach us directly at 727-447-5845 for eldercare help, care consultations, caregiver resources and more!

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