Gifts for Caregivers
If your friends and relatives ask you what kind of gifts you would like now that you are a caregiver, here are some ideas to share with them. Feel free to make suggestions since they don’t know what you would enjoy. You can purchase some of these gifts for yourself if no one is kind enough to buy them for you. Some are intangible things like the gift of time. You can ask for that, too.
To the Friends and Relatives of a Caregiver – please consider giving your special caregiver some gifts he or she could really use.
Time is probably the most welcome gift. Offer to run errands, stay with the person needing care for a few hours, mow the lawn, provide transportation, do grocery shopping, or cook a meal. A few hours of your time can mean so much to a caregiver, who may be overwhelmed with chores and unable to leave the care recipient to do them.
Visit in person or by telephone regularly. Ask about how the caregiver is doing, not just about how the care receiver is doing. The caregiver needs love, attention, and prayers, also. Let the caregiver share how he or she feels. Listen without being judgmental. Don’t tell the caregiver what you think he or she should have done. Keep visiting even if the care receiver no longer recognizes you or is unable to communicate. This will mean a lot to the caregiver, and it is a way to honor the care receiver.
Invite the caregiver out for lunch or to a concert if someone can be found to stay with the care receiver. One way to free up the caregiver for your outing, if the caregiver is willing and agrees to register the care receiver in advance, is to take the care receiver to an assisted living facility day program. Some adult day care programs may provide similar drop-in services for one day of care as needed after the registration is on file. To make use of assisted living day programs or adult day care, the care receiver must be willing to go, also.
You may need to offer your support to your caregiving friend or relative several times before it is accepted, as many caregivers are slow to let others help them, even though research has shown that the sooner a caregiver accepts help, the longer he or she is likely to be able to continue caregiving, with fewer mental and physical health problems.
Some caregivers have learned to accept help by dividing the caregiving workload into little pieces that can be given to people who offer to help. Caregivers like these may tell you what they need and give you alternate suggestions if they don’t need what you offer.
If you are part of a family in which a person other than you has primary responsibility for caregiving, agree to meet with a care manager to plan ways that other family members and friends can help. Having an objective professional facilitate a family meeting makes it easier to see how various relatives and friends can do their part to support the primary caregiver.
Gift Certificates and Prepaid Gift Cards
If you can’t provide time-saving services yourself, consider giving gift certificates for services that may have been provided by the care receiver in the past but need to be purchased now: lawn mowing, swimming pool cleaning, errand-running service, home handy person, prepaid cab fare, etc. Chances are that the care receiver and primary caregiver are either spending money beyond their budget for these services or doing without them most of the time.
Gift certificates for services are nice as occasional gifts, or you may want to go in with relatives and friends to provide a needed service year-round. If a company can?t give you an actual gift certificate for service, you may be able to pay in advance or have the bills sent to you. For more about the taxi cab billing program with deposit so that the caregiver does not have use cash for each ride, see “Transportation Options for Seniors” online here. To find errand-running services, look up “Errands” in the Senior Resource Directory.
Also consider regular gift certificates or prepaid gift cards that can be used like a credit card until the total amount of the gift is reached. These are useful for online ordering, for restaurants (those with delivery, take-out, or drive-through service may be needed), and for grocery, drug, video, discount, and other stores that the caregiver may use. For convenience, some drug stores sell prepaid gift cards for various restaurants and stores (look for hanging displays near the check-out line). Some banks sell prepaid VISA or Mastercard gift cards that can be used anywhere the credit cards are used. To find places to buy these online, try your bank’s web site or do an Internet search for “prepaid gift cards.”
A caregiver who would not accept cash gifts from relatives and friends may accept gift certificates or prepaid gift cards. Since caregiving is expensive, gift certificates and prepaid gift cards may help with basic needs or make it possible to add enjoyable items that aren’t in the budget.
One way to encourage a reluctant caregiver to accept help is to make your own gift certificates. You can even search the Internet for blank certificates you can fill in. They can say things like, “One free lawn mowing, courtesy of ,” “Dinner for two, served by your personal chef, __,” “Car washing by _,” etc. These can be from an individual or part of a family or neighborhood gift basket, and persons of all ages may be able to participate. Make sure telephone numbers of the people offering the services are included. You may have to remind the caregiver to use the gift certificates. See “Flowers, Gift Baskets, and Massages” below.
We know one woman who not only cooks meals but also delivers them to her sister up the street in a wagon. However, many Florida caregivers do not have relatives nearby. If you aren’t close enough to cook for the caregiver you want to support, why not purchase some frozen meals from a company that can deliver meals right to your caregiving friend or relative’s door? Some companies offer special diets as well as regular diets and deliver packages with as few as ten meals at a cost of about $5.00 per complete meal (making your gift $50.00). Some companies sell breakfast meals, and at least one serves all of Florida. Caregivers can save many hours a week by using frozen meals.
Flowers, Care Baskets, and Massages
Research at Rutgers University has shown that flowers ease depression, inspire social networking, and refresh memory. One way to say “thanks” or “hang in there” is to send flowers. Unless a person is allergic to certain flowers that shouldn’t be chosen, flowers are a welcome gift for a caregiver who may not take time to think of his or her own needs. Call your favorite florist, stop by a grocery store floral section, or order online.
Another option is to order care packages from websites on the list of Caregiver Web Sites in this Handbook and also online here. Try Gifts for Caregivers on Caregiving.com; they offer care packages such as the Caregiver’s At-Home Spa set. Prices range from about $15.00 to $35.00 and benefit the non-profit Center for Family Caregivers.
Some stores that sell beautiful candles, soap, lotion, and other bath products also make up baskets with their products if requested. Check your nearby mall, but make sure your caregiving friend or relative does not have allergies to perfumed products like these or choose items that are more mildly scented. Some companies allow products to be returned even after they are opened. To find online stores, do a general search for gift baskets, candles, etc.
You can make your own personalized care basket by putting in things like gift certificates, a book or video (see Magazine Subscriptions, Videos, and Books below), and comfort items such as tea, candles, chocolate, teddy bear, angel, heart-healthy snacks or gourmet cookies, sports memorabilia, etc. based on what you know about your special caregiver.
A whole group of family members and friends, neighbors, or a faith community can offer support to a caregiver they know by joining together to make a care basket (and it can be a box decorated with colorful paper rather than a basket), with different people contributing different items. See “Gift Certificates” above.
Caregivers may enjoy massages for stress reduction, promoting relaxation, or pain relief. It does not have to be a whole body massage, but can focus on the face or even the feet. A gift certificate from a licensed massage therapist in the local area makes a wonderful gift, either alone or as part of a gift basket.
Music has been shown to be healing, stress reducing, and sleep enhancing for caregivers as well as care receivers. Music goes beyond language to help people connect. Music to set a relaxing tone is recommended for caregivers when trying to bathe or provide other care to a care receiver. Music is also good for reminiscence activities with care receivers. Persons with dementia have been able to sing, listen to music, play musical instruments, and even compose songs. Audiotapes or CD’s in the favorite styles of the caregiver and the care receiver may be appreciated. A CD Player would make a nice gift If your care receiver does not have one already.
Magazine Subscriptions, Videos, and Books
You can order caregiving magazine subscriptions, videos, and books online or by calling toll-free numbers. These can be sent directly to your caregiving friend or relative’s home. Some of the videos teach caregiving skills, and the books and magazines provide information and reduce feelings of isolation because they bring the stories of other caregivers and the latest caregiving news into the caregiver’s home.
A year’s subscription to Today’s Caregiver Magazine (six issues) is available from the Today’s Caregiver/Caregiver.com web site, www.caregiver.com, or call toll-free 1-800-829-2734. Among the books for purchase on the same web site is The Fearless Caregiver: How to Get the Best Care for Your Loved One and Still Have a Life of Your Own. This comforting book offers stories and advice from caregivers and encouragement to caregivers to trust themselves.
The Educated Caregiver video series offers tools, tips, and advice for caregivers. A set of three videos by Life View Resources is available by calling 1-800-395-5433 or is on the www.lifeviewresources.com web site. You may find this prize-winning video for sale on other web sites, but you can see video clips before purchasing on the Life View web site.
There are other good books and videos for caregivers. For more information, see Caregiver Books and Videos and Caregiver Web Sites in this Handbook. Web sites may sell books and videos, offer reviews, or link to link to online bookstores.
In addition to any other gifts you may give, help your special caregiver find information that will make caregiving easier and more rewarding. Lists of other caregiving and disease-related sites are available here.
If the caregiver does not know how to use the Internet, you can give a few lessons. Lessons are also available from libraries and senior centers. This Handbook has a list of senior centers. Local government pages of telephone books list libraries, or go online to the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative web site, www.pplc.us.
In addition to having a web site, most national organizations associated with specific diseases have toll-free numbers. For example, a caregiver can call the American Stroke Association at 1-888-478-7653 to receive big packets of information geared to the stroke survivor and to the caregiver. They’ll even provide a free year’s subscription to Stroke Connection Magazine. See “Toll-Free Information Lines”.