Sadie Holloway is an advocate for caregivers looking after their elderly parents. She has experience working in the social services sector.
Caring for an elderly family member, especially caring for people with dementia and other complex needs, can take a toll on the health and well-being of caregivers. Here are some gift ideas to let a family caregiver know how much you appreciate all she is doing to look after a loved one.
Monthly Subscription for Unlimited Audiobooks
Many caregivers find it hard to take a break and sit down to read a book or enjoy some favorite songs or podcasts. Some caregivers might come down hard on themselves and think, "Well, if I have time to sit down and read a book, that means I've got too much time on my hands! I should be doing something useful!" But reading for pleasure can actually help caregivers reduce stress and feelings of burnout, and better equip them to carry on with caregiving.
What's great about an audiobook is that it can be listened to on headphones while doing other things. For caregivers who have difficulty letting themselves sit down and do nothing, audiobooks free their hands to take care of mundane household chores. Folding laundry takes on a whole new dimension with a romance novel playing in the background. Vacuuming can feel like an adventure when done while listening to an action-packed mystery. The idea is that anything that lets the caregiver take a mental break from having to think too much can provide a measure of much-needed respite.
Gifts that Encourage the Pursuit of Favorite Hobbies
Read any self-help website or article on caregiver stress, and you'll find one question frequently crops up as a burnout warning sign: Have you stopped engaging in hobbies and activities that you once enjoyed before becoming a caregiver? Ironically, while recreational activities, crafts, games, and hobbies are promoted as a way to keep dementia patients active, how often are caregivers encouraged to do the same for themselves?
Hobbies and recreational activities can build confidence, stimulate the mind, and remind the caregiver that she has an identity of her own. She is not just a caregiver. She is a whole person who deserves to spend time doing things she loves to do.
A painting class, gourmet cooking lessons, a trip to a botanical garden or tickets to an art museum are thoughtful caregiver gifts that offer a meaningful retreat from the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for a loved one.
Subscription to a Monthly Themed Gift Box
For as little as $ 25.00 a month, you can send a care package to someone who is looking after an elderly parent. There's a variety of gift box options available to suit your budget and the caregiver's needs. For example, a monthly delivery of healthy organic treats might be nice for someone who often forgets to find time to eat. Spa products delivered right to the caregiver might give her the permission she needs to take a time out and pamper herself.
What's lovely about these gift boxes is that they can give the caregiver something to look forward to each month. And more often than not, the package will probably arrive exactly when she needs it!
Look for some of these gift subscriptions online:
- Spa products
- Gourmet snacks
- Chocolate from around the world
- Games, crafts and puzzles
- Scarves, jewelry and fashion accessories
- Exotic spices
- Teas, coffees and hot chocolates
- Gardening supplies
- Gourmet cheeses
- Fitness products
Gentle Reminders on Giving Gifts to Family Caregivers
- Consider giving these gifts "Just because" instead of tying them to a regular holiday or event (such as a birthday or Christmas).
- Give gifts that are just for the caregiver. A caregiver shouldn't be made to feel like they must share the gift with the person they care for. For example, if you give a caregiver movie or theater tickets, avoid suggesting that they must take their relative to the show with them.
- Avoid gifts that are high maintenance. While photo frames, indoor plants, or sentimental wall hangings might seem like thoughtful gifts, consider how much time and effort will need to go into maintaining it. Will it just be one more thing that needs to be watered or dusted along will myriad other household chores?
- Check the terms and conditions on gift cards and gift certificates. It may be a while before the caregiver finds the time to use a gift card, if she remembers to use it at all. If you decide to give a gift card or voucher, make sure the terms and conditions are not too restrictive in case the card doesn't get used right away.
- Give gifts that aren't related to the caregiver's regular duties. As helpful as gift certificates for housecleaning services might seem, it's not something that is specifically for the caregiver. If you can provide practical assistance such as hot meals, light housekeeping or errands, do so to help lighten the caregiver's load, but not as a way to express appreciation. (Hint: Close friends and family members should be offering the caregiver practical assistance on a regular basis so that she doesn't feel like the world is on her shoulders.)
© 2017 Sadie Holloway
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 13, 2017:
Sadie, this is a very thoughtful article. Been there as a caregiver, and sometimes I felt forgotten. Your ideas will bring recognition, cheer and other positive feelings. Well done.