As a companion to the Unique Gifts for Patients post, and with the holiday season in full season, this is a good time to think about gifts for caregivers.
Keep in mind the following about the needs of a caregiver
• Time is their number one issue. Gifts that help them enjoy their free time or create some time are appreciated. While certain gadgets are wonderful gifts and time savers, many caregiver aren’t going to be exactly thrilled with an automatic pillbox as their Christmas or birthday present.
• While it may seem like a cute idea to give them a homemade coupon book offering various services, like childcare, trash removal, or lawn care, they aren’t going to be thinking about “redeeming” their coupon as it’s one more thing they’d need to keep track of. If you want to offer a service that you think they need, make a card that let’s them know what you will do and when. Some examples:
- “I am your snowplow man/woman for January and February.”
- “Smith’s Lawn Service will cut your grass the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month for July, August and September.”
- “Annie’s Catering will provide dinner for you and your family on Monday nights for the month of January.” With this one, you can include a “menu” so they can “order” the dishes they would like to receive.
With the card, consider something small like a box of their favorite candy, an ornament for their tree, a tin of homemade cookies etc.
• Caregivers need to know they can depend on people. If you offer your service, be sure you show up and complete the task.
• They don’t always have the ability to adjust their schedule to do various things, in fact some can’t leave their charge unless there is a sitter or an attendant that can take their place. If you give a gift that will take them away from their charge, such as theater tickets or a spa weekend, line up a sitter for the time they will be gone.
• Isolation and loneliness can be real issues for many caregivers. While they may be dealing with lots of people, such as medical providers, personal care attendants, aids etc., their life may feel like it’s home, doctor’s office, pharmacy and home again. Giving them a chance to be with friends for an evening-be it at someone’s house, a restaurant or at the theater- is a wonderful gift.
• Finances are often very tight, so if you are comfortable doing this, help them by paying off some of their bills. Giving them cash to do this is not recommended, since too often cash can be spent for other purposes. Writing the check to the utility company or other business is a better way to go. This is also where gift cards come in handy. Gas, grocery store and pharmacy cards are always useful.
• They need to be reminded that they are important and special. When you give gifts that are more about the person they are caring for-such as automated pill boxes-you aren’t really recognizing the caregiver for themselves. Caregivers spend a large part of their day giving, so help them recharge by providing a gift that is special and meaningful to them.
• Unless they express specific interest, books and magazines about caregiving, or the particular condition a person is living with, are often never read. If you want to give a book, consider something that allows them to escape for an hour or two.
Electronics: There are a variety of items to choose from at all price points.
• Tablets: While many will already have a computer, tablets (e.g. iPad) are very handy and there are some androids for as little as $129. Consumer Reports December 2013 recommends the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Tablet, which is selling for $230.
• E Readers: Kindle or other electronic book devices are also user friendly and it allows them to have something interesting to read, particularly if they have to wait long hours at the hospital or health center. You can pick these up fairly cheaply as there are all sorts of deals on them at the moment. Amazon currently has a Kindle 6” for $89
• E Fitness: Fitting in exercising can be difficult. There are various electronic games such as Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution that will provide both entertainment and exercise. An exercise, yoga or Tai Chi video might also be appreciated.
• Streaming Media Players: They no longer have to miss their favorite TV program as an Apple TV or Roku allows them to download and watch various shows and movies using such websites as Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Premium. Apple TV can be bought for as little as $85, while Roku is priced lower. Consumer Reports recommends Google Chromecast for $35. This does require some cables that may not make it as practical as the other options.
• iPhone: Consumer Reports recommends the 16 GB, which will vary in price based on carrier.
Pampering: Not everyone likes to be touched, so do some checking first to make sure they’ll appreciate one of the following:
• Spa: An afternoon, day or weekend
• Massage: Having a massage in their home.
• Hair Salon: Having your hair done can give a considerable lift.
• Pedicure/Manicure: These aren’t just for ladies.
Since these can be pricey, a group of friends can pitch in to make this possible.
Baskets: Baskets are an easy way to put together a variety of items around a theme. Some ideas to consider
• Bath/Spa: For those that love long baths, include such items as bath matt and pillow; special soaps; sugar scrubs; loofahs and other “scrubbing devices;” candles; plants; body lotion for after the bath and even a bottle of champagne.
• Teatime: The whole idea of tea sounds relaxing. Include things like a special tea mug; cookies; teas; brewing pot; tea bag rest; honey; special sugars
• Hot Chocolate: Include a box of good quality hot chocolate, a mug, marshmallows, cinnamon sticks, and a chocolate spoon.
• Candles: A great way to set a relaxing mood, focus on candles without scent. Flame less candles are always a good option, but if you go with waxed candles, include special lighter or matches; a candle snuffer, wick trimmer, candle shaver and candle holder(s)
• Evening for Two: Include a card that gives the date when you’ll be bringing over dinner to share with them. In the basket include special plates, napkins, napkin rings, bottle of wine, glasses, candles and other items to make this a special night. If you want to bring them dinner and a movie, a video, popcorn and a box of “movie” candy would be good things to add.
• Food: Include ready to eat items that are as healthy as possible. Such items could include: fresh and dried fruits, nuts, dark chocolate, cheese, crackers, smoked salmon, wine or sparking apple cider, napkins.
• Other: If they have a special interest, design a basket around that theme. For the movie lover, a gift certificate to Netflix along with a nice bowl for pop corn, and several boxes of Snowcaps, Twizzlers or whatever kind they like. Keep in mind that giving a gift basket of golf items, when it’s nearly impossible for them to get away for a game, isn’t the best idea.
Can’t afford to fill a basket, consider something much simpler such as matching socks and nail polish; journal and pen set; favorite hand or body lotion, etc.
Arts and Crafts: I could write volumes about the importance of using your hands to engage in creative activities. Not only does it reduce stress, increase immune function, but it also elevates mood. An art kit-colored pens, pencils, markers, water colors, paper etc.-might make a good gift. There are a variety of craft kits that can be picked up at places like Michael’s or Joann Fabrics.
Puzzles and Games: Be it a jig saw puzzle, crossword, Sudoku, hidden word or something else, activities that can be worked on when there is time, can be fun and relaxing. There are many apps for activities like this.
Bring the outside in: Nature is a healing force so things like a Zen garden, plants, flowers, water feature, bird feeder, wind chimes or even a sound machine featuring nature sounds can be calming and relaxing.
Gift Cards: Always a great way to ensure that people get something they’ll want, the variety of gift cards are never ending. In additionto the various ones at your local grocery store, consider things like cleaning service and respite care.