A season ticket to the symphony makes a grand gift for a very good friend who’s fond of classical music. But, what if the friend is a full-time caregiver for her aging mother who is in the advanced stages Alzheimer’s? Does the gift come with the promise of a qualified sitter? Think about it; if there is no one willing to take the caregiver’s place on concert nights, then the gift is useless. Parents of children with high-risk medical conditions often face problems other parents don’t have to think about. Presenting a young mother with incense, potpourri, scented candles or perfume for her birthday is not a wise choice if her child has a serious respiratory condition.
A caregiver has little time and energy on most days to take care of everything that needs to be done around the house, so gifts of help are rarely refused. Friends, extended family members, and even close family members often don’t understand why some gifts can’t be used or cannot be brought into the home. Listed here are gifts and ideas caregivers can use and why some gifts may not be suitable.
Ideas for Gifts a Caregiver Might Like
A primary caregiver works 24/7 most times with rarely a break or respite time she can call her own. If the person has the added duties of a home business or has to work outside the home to make ends meet, the difficulties multiply exponentially. Outsiders don’t often see the brutally overwhelming stress, workload, and problems caregivers cope with when caring for another person. It makes sense that gifts of assistance for caregivers are welcome.
- A gift of time. A precious commodity to someone who most likely never has a free moment without worry or stress. Taking over patient care duties for a day or two (or more) is the ultimate gift for a stressed caregiver.
- A night out. Dinner and a movie, tickets to a concert or favorite play are most always welcome. Arrange for a responsible person to take over the caregiving if necessary.
- Home repairs, chores or household errands. There is always work to be done around a home.
- Entertain or spend time with the elderly person or child who is disabled. This gives the caregiver time for a relaxing bath or time to do quick house cleaning.
- Volunteer special service or a specific talent. Example: An electrician might add improved outdoor lighting to the porch or walkway. A landscaper might design and build a relaxing garden retreat in the backyard for both the caregiver and the patient.
- A home-cooked dinner one night a week for a month (or more). A busy caregiver rarely has time to spend on a complicated meal (or even a simple homemade recipe). A turkey casserole, a dish of lasagna or something special would be most appreciated.
- Books, magazines, a favorite movie DVD or music CD. These items are relaxing and usually make welcome gifts.
Choosing a Gift for the Caregiver of an Alzheimer’s Patient
In-home patients with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia can become frustrated, angry – even combative. Advanced-stage seniors often don’t realize what they’re doing. In the event of an angry outburst, small heavy objects like snow globes and figurines, lamps and radios, etc. make harmful projectile weapons. Here are a few concerns when choosing a gift for the caregiver of an aging senior or Alzheimer’s patient:
- Refrain from purchasing a gift item that has to be assembled (unless the gift comes with an offer to set it up or put it together).
- Steer clear of complicated gifts (like a cell phone with a multitude of great features) unless it’s something the caregiver really wants. Choose something that’s easily programmed or something that can be used right away.
- As mentioned in the previous section, inquire before giving the caregiver a pet to keep her company. A pet means trips to the vet for shots, buying pet food and general cleanup or maintenance chores. Pets can also cause mobility-challenged or sight-impaired elderly persons to fall.
Gifts Primary Home Caregivers May Not be Able to Use
There are some items a home caregiver may not be able to use because of the patient’s condition. For example, a beautiful living room wall mirror may not be suitable for the caregiver of a family member with Alzheimer’s disease. Why? Because as the disease progresses, the patient may not recognize his reflection and sees the person looking back as a stranger. This is upsetting for many Alzheimer’s clients who may become agitated or angry at the “other person”.
Think before buying or offering gifts or services the caregiver may not be able to use or cannot afford to maintain later on. Some things might even pose a danger to the household. An older child diagnosed with the intermittent explosive disorder can become easily agitated and damage property. Glass decorative items or even a pretty set of drinking glasses can suddenly become dangerous weapons.
The best advice is to ask first, even if it means spoiling a surprise unless the gift giver is absolutely certain the gift won’t be a problem. Other items that may not be good to give as a caregiver gift are:
- Scented items such as perfumes or candles. The elderly person or disabled family member with a respiratory disorder may not be able to tolerate scented air fresheners, perfumes or candles.
- Sharp items that an aggressive elderly person or child might use to inflict harm.
- Figurines or collectible items unless the recipient has a safe place to display such things.
- Expensive electronics unless the recipient has a safe place store or hook them up.
- Expensive jewelry. Small valuable items (including MP3 players, etc.) may have to be hidden from the Alzheimer’s patient who takes and hides things in unusual places. Caregivers spend a lot of time looking for lost items.
- A short homemade bookshelf is a nice gift, but a tall bookshelf can easily be turned over by an angry child with an intermittent explosive disorder (IED).
- Ask the caregiver before buying food gifts for a family if a child in her care has serious food allergies that might present a problem.
- If you want to give a caregiver mom or dad a sweater or other apparel, then ask before you buy. The child in his or her care may have an allergy to certain materials.
- Don’t buy a pet for the family unless you consult the parents first. Pet dander and fur can trigger allergy symptoms.
Friends and distant relatives rarely have a clue as to how exhausting and how much work is involved in being a full-time home caregiver. Holidays and birthdays can be difficult times for caregivers who may have to modify traditional plans or keep celebrations low-key for the patient’s sake. Choose a sensible gift for the family member who is also a home caregiver. Most gift mistakes can be avoided simply by thinking ahead and considering any dangerous scenarios that could arise.