There is no denying, caregiving is hard work. Between full or part-time jobs, doctor appointments, medical research and the demands of everyday life, family caregivers are pulled in many directions, usually with little time left to rest, relax and refresh—time they so desperately need. And caregiving during the holiday season is especially difficult.
As you think about what to get the people on your holiday shopping list, consider giving something special to the caregivers in your life. Ask yourself, what would make a caregiver’s life easier, simpler, more fun?
Consider the following gift ideas:
- Sleep. Who can’t use extra sleep? Coordinate a morning free from responsibilities so the caregiver in your life can get an extra wink. The average person will spend 1/3 of his or her lifetime sleeping. Buy a caregiver luxury sheets and pillows. Help make their bed a haven for rest and relaxation.
- A listening ear. Caregiving can be isolating. Often, caregivers are so focused on getting through each day’s challenges and obstacles, their personal lives are neglected. Ironically, this is a time they need support more than ever. Set a regular date to visit. Bring coffee or special treats. Simply listen, without judging or offering advice (unless explicitly asked for!). Reconnecting can go a long way toward helping a caregiver rejuvenate.
- Encouragement. Each and every day caregivers navigate unchartered waters. This can be a time filled with doubt and insecurity. Recognize the amazing sacrifices caregivers make. Send funny cards or “thinking of you” notes with words of encouragement and support. Tell them how well they are doing. Family caregivers are unsung heroes.
- Help. How often have you said, “let me know what I can do” or “just call if you need anything.” And then, how often have you received a call asking for help? My guess is not often. Offer to help a caregiver in specific ways. For example, shovel the sidewalk, wash laundry, do household repairs, pick up groceries, run errands, or make or bring a meal. Read between the lines and hear what a caregiver is not saying.
- Gift certificates to a favorite restaurant, grocery store or gas station. Treat a caregiver to their favorite restaurant. Better yet, coordinate a night off so your loved one can enjoy an evening while indulging in a favorite meal. Or purchase gift cards to a local gas station or grocery store—these practical gifts will be much appreciated.
- Respite. Give caregivers the gift of time. Offer to visit Mom or Dad in place of the caregiver so he or she can take a nap, take a walk, go to a movie or catch up with friends. You might consider creating a “coupon book” with respite options.
- A spa appointment. Caregivers give so much of themselves, often at great expense to their own health and well-being. A massage, haircut or color, pedicure or manicure appointment will help them feel pampered and taken care of.
- E-reader, tablet or smart phone. Technology may make a caregiver’s life easier. Consider devices with dual purposes, for fun and function. These electronics may make coordinating schedules easier, or allow a caregiver to shop for groceries online, or simply do research while waiting at the doctor’s office.
- Movie rental subscription. Give caregivers the gift of immediate gratification via Netflix or other rental subscriptions. With movies delivered directly to your mailbox or streamed online, your favorite caregiver can enjoy a “night off” without leaving the house.
- House cleaning service. The hustle and bustle of the holidays can make everyday life a little more chaotic. Eliminate several tasks from a caregiver’s list by enlisting help from a cleaning service.
Keep in mind, gifts for caregivers don’t need to cost a lot of money. Often, what caregivers really want are intangible—the gift of time, empathy, understanding.
About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, nonprofit hospice serving more than 30 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hrrv.org.