Ask a caregiver what he or she needs most, and you might get “time” as an answer. During the holiday season, you certainly can relieve caregivers as a gift. If you’re looking for more tangible options, though, try one of these special treats to ease the caregiving burden.
Pre-loaded tablets and subscription services
A tablet pre-loaded with music, audiobooks, e-books and -magazines, or even photos is a kind and personal gesture, and something most caregivers wouldn’t spend time building on their own. To make the gift even more long lasting, consider adding a subscription service of something your caregiving friend or family member loves, like
- an Audible audiobook membership
- a movie or channel subscription service like BritBox or Netflix
- a specialized music streaming account on Spotify
- book collections at Oyster, Scribd, or Overdrive and magazine subscriptions with Texture or Readly
For even more specialization, consider enrollment in something unusual, like a detective story book club for mystery lovers.
Caregivers spend so much time looking after another person’s needs that they sometimes forget to take care of themselves. Better self-care helps boost the emotional strength of not only caregiver but also the care recipient, too. Some special body products can help caregivers feel healthy and cared for all year around.
Hand lotions are simple but always-needed items for almost anyone. Caregivers keep themselves and their patients healthy with frequent handwashing, but this can be very drying to skin, especially during the winter months.
Although Vaseline ointment is best to lock in moisture and protect the skin, it can be greasy and isn’t enjoyable to use. Unscented alternatives for men and women include Eucerin and Vanicream, which are both thick but completely absorbed creams. These creams are even used by some pharmacies to compound, or specially make, skin medications, so they are good choices for sensitive skin, too.
A few drops of tea tree oil (available in pharmacies and natural product stores) added to unscented lotions are refreshing and cleansing, too. Diluted tea tree oil has been used for more than 100 years to protect against different germs, including fungal infections.
Favorite essential oils can be mixed into these basic products, too, for a more personalized gift. Scents like peppermint and lemon are calming and invigorating all in one, making them perfect for stressful, busy caregiving situations.
If you don’t want to mix your own, you can buy products with essential oils already mixed in: Griffin Remedy, a natural-ingredient body care company, and numerous other companies provide vegan and low-allergen options to avoid irritation to caregiver or patient skin.
But, if lotions are not amenable to hands-on caregiving work, shower gels or even oil diffusers offer similar benefits. An aromatherapy diffuser takes up little space, and scents can change as often as the recipient wants. These gifts are easy on the giver, too, because costs are typically low.
Online class enrollment
One of the first things to go when a caregiver gets busy is the personal hobby—whether that is a regular weekly yoga class, a monthly book group, a class at a local community college or rec center, or gathering to watch a favorite sports team. With the advent of online classes at free or affordable subscription rates, these favorite stress-relieving activities can be brought directly to the caregiver at home instead.
Although these classes don’t always provide the benefit of a new locale or a group of friends, the options to relax with a favorite hobby when the time is convenient can outweigh what’s missed by leaving home and can take advantage of 21st century social medial platforms to reduce social isolation of caregivers — a common risk for increased caregiver stress and depression.
Online courses from Alison.com, Lynda.com, and more are often free directly at the site or through local library programs. Subscriptions or one-time class purchases are custom-fit for interests, too: for example, Craftsy offers single-lesson video classes for less than $20 to learn or improve a skill.
Online box orders can help a caregiver enjoy hobbies on his or her own time, too, if that’s a better fit. Boxes from places like CrateJoy cover a wide range of interests and can be delivered year-round, for just a few months, or only once, depending on your budget. If a favorite store offers classes or specials, too, a simple gift card lets the caregiver treat himself or herself anytime.
Sometimes, a simple gift like a warm blanket is enough to show your appreciation and love for a caregiver. A new blanket, shawl, or robe can be used anytime to stay cozy during or between caregiving.
To make a gift like this more personal, consider a handmade item if you know how to quilt, knit, or sew—or provide a regular cuddly surprise with a monthly box of socks for men or women from SockFancy or lined leggings or exercise clothing from a company like My Sweat Style.
Don’t forget that caregiving isn’t always about challenges and schedules. Often, a patient simply needs a caregiver available for sometimes help. In between, the daily routine can be surprisingly regular and even boring.
A gift basket for a movie night or a game night lets the caregiver and patient enjoy each other’s company in a fun and new way. Movie baskets could include popcorn or candy treats; games should involve little movement, such as cards or puzzles and wooden board games like mancala or shut the box.
Both baskets can include comfort items like chair pads or neck warmers, too. Basket gifts are personal and custom-sized to your budget, making them ideal for you the giver, also.
Although caregiving has many rewards, like personal growth, or the chance to model good behavior for others, the role is often equally stressful—especially when caregiving is required or is full-time, and especially for women caregivers and those without an extra income.
Caregiver needs are often invisible, and it’s easy for caregivers to feel underappreciated. Whether you have a large or small budget, and whether the caregiver in your life is committed for the short or long term, there’s a gift to fit you both that shows your appreciation for all that they do.
Nicole Van Hoey is a freelance writer and editor for consumer and professional health publications. She underwent open heart surgery in August 2016 and writes about the experience, including cardiac rehab, for HealthCentral. She can be found on Twitter @VHMedComm and writing about family life after heart surgery at Bloglovin’.