Nearly any season has its typical gift giving occasions.
From yuletide to birthdays and anniversaries, the need
to find an appropriate gift presents itself. When the
gifts are for caregivers or their special needs loved
ones, it becomes necessary to place a little more
thought into the right gift.
The individual who once knitted or did other handicrafts
may now be impaired with a debilitating function that
prevents fine hand maneuvers. In a case like this, the
gift of massage may help restore some hand movement, or
provide much needed pain alleviation. Although massage
can be expensive, some therapists will offer “bulk”
rates, or can be asked about “short sessions” for the
elderly. This may be especially attractive since fragile
individuals may not tolerate much handling, however
gentle. Keep caregivers in mind for this type of
gift, also. The same principles of time and cost
apply. With massage, you may want to pre-pay the
tip, or give a small bill appended to the massage
receipt, a note reading “It’s all taken care of.”
Caregivers may be at a loss for loved ones’ gifts,
especially in the case of dementia. A few small
items from a “dollar” store may save funds and provide
just as much enjoyment. Think twice about breakable
items, because a beloved statue or water globe that
breaks may create sadness for caregiver and family.
Small stuffed animals or dolls may appear juvenile, but
not to the patient with dementia. The sensory
stimulation from textured fabric and stuffing may
provide comfort to the individual, as well as
companionship. While friends, family and
caregivers are much needed sources of stimulation, there
is a unique sense of constancy from a rag doll or teddy
bear. There is no obligation or demand to interact with
the figure, and whatever is received from it comes from
within the loved one’s heart.
Remind individuals that as a caregiver you appreciate
them giving you samples from hotels (soap, lotions), or
cleaning out their home of powders and colognes that may
be “new” or barely used, but they are not acceptable as
gifts for you or your family member.
This important point helps you as a caregiver retain
your dignity and your loved one’s.
We have all been through the fruitcake that has been
given from one household to another. While that
occasionally happens, in the long run, allowing used
products to be wrapped up as gifts because the person
with dementia “doesn’t know anyway” only contributes to
devaluing them. As a caregiver, you may not only come to
regret permitting this, but may eventually resent the
person who gives the gift. It’s much better to say
“Grandma would really prefer one of your home baked
cherry pies” in a kind, but firm voice that sets limits.
If you are pushed up against the comment about a family
member not being able to tell the difference, a simple
“But I will” can suffice.
Alzheimer’s and related conditions may coexist with
everything from diabetes to transitory infections.
While Medicare and backup insurances may help with
costs, a gift card to a pharmacy to help out with these
expenditures is also a thoughtful gift.
Gift cards come in many styles, and a loaded up coffee
card may come in handy for both caregiver and loved one.
A Sunday afternoon at the coffee shop may break up a
dull weekend when there is no respite care.
Likewise, restaurant and grocery cards defray cost of
living, and help out to buy that “something special” a
loved one has a taste for.
Practical gift options also include enrolling the loved
on in the Safe Return program from the Alzheimer’s
Association. For caregivers, the organization supplies
jewelry that indicates one is a caregiver. The
Safe Return program operates 365 days a year, 24 hours a
day. Friends and family can pool funds to offer
this gift to those who care for the person.
Individuals in home improvement occupations can offer
their services to help make the home a safer place. This
is especially helpful when larger bathrooms are needed,
doorways replaced with wider-swinging hinges, or other
ideas that make home design safer.
Clothing repair or alteration can be a gift as well.
Budgets may not be able to handle buying new clothes,
but everything old becomes new when adorned with fabric
paint or iron on decals. A favorite blouse that
has become stained may not be able to have the stain
removed. Yet, the dye artist can create a new
piece with a run through the washing machine. Even later
stage patients can appreciate a re-working of color. As
long as everyone is careful that paint or sewn on items
hold fast, it becomes a snappy garment.
Ideally, the gift caregivers and
interested parties want to give is the gift of healing
and recovery. Such an option exists in making
donations in the name of the family unit and patient.
Until a lasting cure is found for Alzheimer’s and
related processes, any gift from the heart is special.
Gifting Do, Gifting Don’t
Be aware of the ability of the person to use
equipment, even something simple like a radio.
You may spend time showing them how to use it, but
even early stage patients may find they are
frustrated. This calls attention to their
memory disorder and can push caregivers to the limit
if they are unfamiliar with the equipment (such as
Don’t assume that the individual has the same tastes
they once did. Grandma may have loved orange,
but can’t stand it now. Take the current
situation and likes into consideration.
Don’t be upset if the loved one expresses
displeasure over the gift. Their minds are
changing, and it often has nothing to do with you or
your selection. Later, they may grow to like
your choice very much.
When giving to caregivers, use
the same rules. Caring for the loved one short
circuits the whole
family, and it may not be a case of like or
dislike. Include receipts to allow for
exchanges. Purchasing an
expensive piece of jewelry may seem like a great
way to uplift someone who has to deal with the
if it isn’t practical because standard gear is a
t-shirt and sweats, it’s best to forego the
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