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Caring Gifts for Caregivers
By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer
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.