To the Friends and Relatives of a Caregiver – please consider giving your special caregiver some gifts he or she could really use.
Caregivers are also deserving of consideration when it comes time to give. Perhaps your sister or brother is caring for a parent because they live in the same city. Your grandmother or grandfather might be lucky to have your parents looking after them. Caring for a loved one with any disability is very rewarding, but it is also very demanding, stressful and tiring. Give them something to show that what they are doing is appreciated.
The two things that a busy caregiver wants and needs more than anything are help and a break from his routine. Even if you don’t live close enough to take over for a day, you can still provide care indirectly. Adult day programs for people with Alzheimer’s disease are getting increasingly common. If there is a center in the caregiver’s area, arrange for the loved one to spend a day there. Perhaps arrange for a day each week, or a couple of days a month.
Another option is to hire an in-home caregiver for a day, or for a day each week or each month. This might be better than taking your loved one to a day program if he or she is insecure about being in new places. If you are feeling particularly benevolent, send the caregiver to a spa for a day of relaxation and rejuvenation on that day.
A housecleaning service would also be a most welcome gift for someone who has precious little time for much of anything but giving the best care she is capable of. So would meals delivered to the house, a laundry service, and groceries delivered. Anything you can do to lighten the load will be greatly appreciated.
If you live nearby, drop off a meal occasionally, or invite everyone to your home for dinner and a little social time. Offer to run errands, get groceries, or to pick up the dry-cleaning. Offer to help with the laundry every week, or vacuum regularly for your friend.
Time can be the most precious commodities to anyone who is caring for another who is disabled. Time by themselves, time to rejuvenate, time to spend with friends or even on the phone. Whatever you can do to provide extra time will be greatly appreciated.
Time is probably the most welcome gift. Offer to run errands, stay with the person needing care for a few hours, mow the lawn, provide transportation, do grocery shopping, or cook a meal. A few hours of your time can mean so much to a caregiver, who may be overwhelmed with chores and unable to leave the care recipient to do them.
Visit in person or by telephone regularly. Ask about how the caregiver is doing, not just about how the care receiver is doing. The caregiver needs love, attention, and prayers, also. Let the caregiver share how he or she feels. Listen without being judgmental. Don’t tell the caregiver what you think he or she should have done. Keep visiting even if the care receiver no longer recognizes you or is unable to communicate. This will mean a lot to the caregiver, and it is a way to honor the care receiver.
Invite the caregiver out for lunch or to a concert if someone can be found to stay with the care receiver. One way to free up the caregiver for your outing, if the caregiver is willing and agrees to register the care receiver in advance, is to take the care receiver to an assisted living facility day program. Some adult day care programs may provide similar drop-in services for one day of care as needed after the registration is on file. To make use of assisted living day programs or adult day care, the care receiver must be willing to go, also.
You may need to offer your support to your caregiving friend or relative several times before it is accepted, as many caregivers are slow to let others help them, even though research has shown that the sooner a caregiver accepts help, the longer he or she is likely to be able to continue caregiving, with fewer mental and physical health problems.
Some caregivers have learned to accept help by dividing the caregiving workload into little pieces that can be given to people who offer to help. Caregivers like these may tell you what they need and give you alternate suggestions if they don’t need what you offer.
If you are part of a family in which a person other than you has primary responsibility for caregiving, agree to meet with a care manager to plan ways that other family members and friends can help. Having an objective professional facilitate a family meeting makes it easier to see how various relatives and friends can do their part to support the primary caregiver.
Gift Certificates and Prepaid Gift Cards
If you can’t provide time-saving services yourself, consider giving gift certificates for services that may have been provided by the care receiver in the past but need to be purchased now: lawn mowing, swimming pool cleaning, errand-running service, home handy person, prepaid cab fare, etc. Chances are that the care receiver and primary caregiver are either spending money beyond their budget for these services or doing without them most of the time.
Also consider regular gift certificates or prepaid gift cards that can be used like a credit card until the total amount of the gift is reached. These are useful for online ordering, for restaurants (those with delivery, take-out, or drive-through service may be needed), and for grocery, drug, video, discount, and other stores that the caregiver may use. For convenience, some drug stores sell prepaid gift cards for various restaurants and stores (look for hanging displays near the check-out line). Some banks sell prepaid VISA or Mastercard gift cards that can be used anywhere the credit cards are used. To find places to buy these online, try your bank’s web site or do an Internet search for “prepaid gift cards.”
A caregiver who would not accept cash gifts from relatives and friends may accept gift certificates or prepaid gift cards. Since caregiving is expensive, gift certificates and prepaid gift cards may help with basic needs or make it possible to add enjoyable items that aren’t in the budget.
One way to encourage a reluctant caregiver to accept help is to make your own gift certificates. You can even search the Internet for blank certificates you can fill in. They can say things like, “One free lawn mowing, courtesy of ,” “Dinner for two, served by your personal chef, __,” “Car washing by _,” etc. These can be from an individual or part of a family or neighborhood gift basket, and persons of all ages may be able to participate. Make sure telephone numbers of the people offering the services are included. You may have to remind the caregiver to use the gift certificates.
Caregivers can save many hours a week by using frozen meals.
Do you have the gift of cooking or baking? Offer to bring by a meal for the caregiver and their family. Tip: Rather than ask if you can bring a meal, let them know you're planning on bringing a meal and ask what day would work well for their schedule. Call ahead of time and ask for food preferences and allergies.
You can also consider setting up a meal schedule, with their permission, on a website that allows different people to sign up to provide meals on certain days. One such website is Take Them A Meal. For example, if the person with dementia is in the last stages of Alzheimer's or the caregiver is sick, you can create a schedule online for needed meals and encourage others to sign up. You can include dietary preferences and each meal maker can indicate what meal their bringing so that the person does not receive a similar meal several days in a row.
Flowers, Care Baskets, and Massages
Research at Rutgers University has shown that flowers ease depression, inspire social networking, and refresh memory. One way to say “thanks” or “hang in there” is to send flowers. Unless a person is allergic to certain flowers that shouldn’t be chosen, flowers are a welcome gift for a caregiver who may not take time to think of his or her own needs. Call your favorite florist, stop by a grocery store floral section, or order online.
Some stores that sell beautiful candles, soap, lotion, and other bath products also make up baskets with their products if requested. Check your nearby mall, but make sure your caregiving friend or relative does not have allergies to perfumed products like these or choose items that are more mildly scented. Some companies allow products to be returned even after they are opened. To find online stores, do a general search for gift baskets, candles, etc.
You can make your own personalized care basket by putting in things like gift certificates, a book or video and comfort items such as tea, candles, chocolate, teddy bear, angel, heart-healthy snacks or gourmet cookies, sports memorabilia, etc. based on what you know about your special caregiver.
A whole group of family members and friends, neighbors, or a faith community can offer support to a caregiver they know by joining together to make a care basket (and it can be a box decorated with colorful paper rather than a basket), with different people contributing different items. See “Gift Certificates” above.
Caregivers may enjoy massages for stress reduction, promoting relaxation, or pain relief. It does not have to be a whole body massage, but can focus on the face or even the feet. A gift certificate from a licensed massage therapist in the local area makes a wonderful gift, either alone or as part of a gift basket.
Other great gifts are candles, lavender oil for the bath, music — anything to create a calming space or a journal for writing down thoughts and feelings about being a caregiver. Journaling is a healing way to process thoughts and emotions.
Music has been shown to be healing, stress reducing, and sleep enhancing for caregivers as well as care receivers. Music goes beyond language to help people connect. Music to set a relaxing tone is recommended for caregivers when trying to bathe or provide other care to a care receiver. Music is also good for reminiscence activities with care receivers. Persons with dementia have been able to sing, listen to music, play musical instruments, and even compose songs. CD’s in the favorite styles of the caregiver and the care receiver may be appreciated. An MP3 player or iTunes gift certificates are also great ideas.
Magazine Subscriptions, Videos, and Books
A subscription to a favorite magazine or gift certificates to Netflix or Amazon make fantastic gifts in addition to an enjoyable fiction or nonfiction book. Another great idea is a DVR/TiVo with a year's worth of services that will allow caregivers to record favorite shows they may not be able watch in real time but can enjoy later during downtime.
Take your friend out for coffee or go for a walk with her. Ask how she's doing and let her know that you really would like an honest answer to that question. And then, just listen. Ssshhhhh… Keep all of your opinions and ideas and suggestions to yourself for awhile and let the caregiver talk about whatever she wants to- whether that's the joys and challenges of her caregiver role or something completely unrelated. Be there for her. Be with her.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another progressive dementia it is also important to consider the stage when selecting a gift for a person with Alzheimer’s. In the earliest stages, gifts need not be so very different than what you might have given her before the diagnosis. Games and activities should reflect her interests and challenge her to exercise her brain as well as her body. As the condition progresses activities should be less challenging than earlier activities, but should still be challenging at their level. Later stage gifts should concentrate on providing comfort while stimulating the senses. And remember, a gift that was appropriate when she was in the early stages of the disease will likely not hold her interest later. For the next few weeks we'll be looking at a number of gift ideas. This week comes from National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners.
For the residents living in nursing homes or assisted living (or home care) these are some recommendations:
For the residents living in nursing homes or assisted living (or home care) these are some recommendations:
- Perfume / cologne that they have worn in the past
- Powder & hand lotions
- Make up (Their preference)
- Costume Jewelry (Be aware of choking hazards with long necklaces)
- Loose fitting clothes (always ask their size and color choice)
- Loose fitting night gowns
- DVD / CD’s
- iPods, iPads, Kindle
- Sound machines
- Aroma therapy
- Gift Certificates to iTunes
- Bird Feeders, Hanger / Stand and Bird Seed for outside their room window
- Fake fish tanks with fake fish for their room or day room
- Terrariums enclosed with plants (These require little watering)
- Pictures of families
- Video’s of special events such as weddings, graduations, new babies
- Pretty frames for wall or dresser
- Paintings for the wall
- Sports Pennants
- Photo albums with loved ones families
- Electronic Photo Albums
- Netflix Gift Certificate
- Build a bear with a recording of the loved ones voice and special message
- Body Pillows with your loved one’s scent (cologne / perfume) on pillow will provide comfort
- Crafts and art supplies that the family recommends and nurse approves
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another progressive dementia it is also important to consider the stage when selecting a gift for a person with Alzheimer’s. In the earliest stages, gifts need not be so very different than what you might have given her before the diagnosis. Games and activities should reflect her interests and challenge her to exercise her brain as well as her body. As the condition progresses activities should be less challenging than earlier activities, but should still be challenging at their level. Later stage gifts should concentrate on providing comfort while stimulating the senses. And remember, a gift that was appropriate when she was in the early stages of the disease will likely not hold her interest later. For the next few weeks we'll be looking at a number of gift ideas. This week comes from The Alzheimer's Association
In the early stages
Items to help remember things
- magnetic reminder refrigerator pads
- Post-It notes
- baskets or trays that can be labeled within cabinets or drawers
- a small pocket-sized diary or notebook
- erasable white boards for key rooms in the house
- a memorable calendar featuring family photos – write special family occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries
Items to help with everyday tasks
- a memory phone that can store up to eight pictures with the names and contact information of family and friends automatic medication dispenser that can help the person living with Alzheimer’s remember to take medicine
- nightlights that come on automatically when it gets dark
- a clock with the date and time in large type
Items to help keep the person engaged
- an outing to a movie, play or concert, sporting event, museum or possibly an organized holiday shopping trip with friends and family
- favorite musical CDs or CD with compilation of favorite tunes
- A DVD collection of favorite movies
- activities such as scrapbooking or other craft projects
In the middle-to-late stages
Sensory stimulation gifts
Stimulating the five senses may bring back pleasant memories. Give gifts such as:
- scented lotions
- a fluffy bathrobe in a favorite color
- a soft blanket or afghan to keep warm
Get comfortable, easy to remove, easily washable clothes such as:
- sweat suits
- large banded socks
- shoes with Velcro ties
- wrinkle free nightgowns, nightshirts and robes
Research shows that music has a positive impact on individuals with Alzheimer’s, bringing them back to good times, increasing stimulation and providing an opportunity to interact with family members. Buy favorite CDs or burn a CD full of musical favorites
Framed photographs or a photo collage
Copy photos of family members and friends at photo centers, insert the names of the people in the photo and put in frames or in a photo album created specifically for that person.
MedicAlert + Alzheimer's Association Safe Return
Enroll the person in MedicAlert + Safe Return, a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for wandering and medical emergencies.
If you're like many who are caring for a loved one with dementia, the holiday season may not feel so merry. Memories of better times may surface as reminders of what you've lost or what has changed. At a time when you believe you should be happy, you may instead find that stress, disappointment and sadness prevail.
At the same time, you may think that you should live up to expectations of family traditions and how things ought to be. As a caregiver, it isn't realistic to think that you will have the time or the energy to participate in all of the holiday activities as you once did.
Yet, by adjusting your expectations and modifying some traditions, you can still find meaning and joy for you and your family. Here are some ideas.
Keep it simple at home
If you're caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer's at home:
- Make preparations together. If you bake, your loved one may be able to participate by measuring flour, stirring batter or rolling dough. You may find it meaningful to open holiday cards or wrap gifts together. Remember to concentrate on the process, rather than the result.
- Tone down your decorations. Blinking lights and large decorative displays can cause disorientation. Avoid lighted candles and other safety hazards, as well as decorations that could be mistaken for edible treats — such as artificial fruits.
- Host quiet, slow-paced gatherings. Music, conversation and meal preparation all add to the noise and stimulation of an event. Yet for a person who has Alzheimer's, a calm and quiet environment usually is best. Keep daily routines in place as much as possible and, as needed, provide your loved one a place to rest during family get-togethers.
Be practical away from home
If your loved one lives in a nursing home or other facility:
- Celebrate in the most familiar setting. For many people who have Alzheimer's, a change of environment — even a visit home — can cause anxiety. Instead of creating that disruption, consider holding a small family celebration at the facility. You might also participate in holiday activities planned for the residents.
- Minimize visitor traffic. Arrange for a few family members to drop in on different days. Even if your loved one isn't sure who's who, two or three familiar faces are likely to be welcome, while nine or 10 people may be overwhelming.
- Schedule visits at your loved one's best time of day. People who have Alzheimer's tire easily, especially as the disease progresses. Your loved one may appreciate morning and lunchtime visitors more than those in the afternoon or evening.
Care for yourself
Consider your needs, as well as those of your loved one. To manage your expectations of yourself:
- Pick and choose. Decide which holiday activities and traditions are most important, and focus on those you enjoy. Remember that you can't do it all.
- Simplify. Bake fewer cookies. Buy fewer gifts. Don't feel pressured to display all of your holiday decorations or include a handwritten note with each holiday card. Ask others to provide portions of holiday meals.
- Delegate. Remember family members and friends who've offered their assistance. Let them help with cleaning, addressing cards and shopping for gifts. Ask if one of your children or a close friend could stay with your loved one while you go to a holiday party.
Trust your instincts
As a caregiver, you know your loved one's abilities best. You also know what's most likely to agitate or upset your loved one. Resist pressure to celebrate the way others may expect you to. Remember, you can't control the progress of Alzheimer's or protect your loved one from all distress — but by planning and setting firm boundaries, you can avoid needless holiday stress and enjoy the warmth of the season.