11 Gift Ideas for People with Chronic Illness

by Lene Andersen, MSW Patient Advocate

Gifts and chronic illness

People who live with chronic illness are just like everyone else when it comes to giving and receiving gifts. A good present depends on the recipient’s personality and interests. But when someone has a chronic illness, there are certain types of gifts that may be very welcome. Gifts that show you understand the impact of the condition or that can help them get better quality of life.

Ordering with credit card online.

Gift certificates

Gift certificates are especially useful when a person with a chronic illness can use them online instead of having to spend precious energy going to the mall. Something general, such as a credit card with a specific amount, may be better than a gift certificate to a particular store. The person may have a lot of medical expenses and might prefer to spend the money on medication instead of books or clothes.

Woman relaxing in bathtub reading a book.

Care packages

Living with chronic illness can be pretty awful. Pain and other symptoms can make you feel sick, isolated, and depressed. Care packages can help you feel a little pampered during a hard time, and be a reminder that you’re not alone. Include treats, movies, books, music, luxurious bath soaps (but only if the person is not sensitive to scent).

Man delivery package to woman at home.

Monthly services

Membership in one of the many “of the month” clubs can be a fantastic gift for someone who needs a bit of spoiling and who has trouble going out. Once a month, they’d get a package in the mail along a particular theme. These services can provide clothes, a variety of foods and drinks, yarn, games, books, and much more.

"Sick" teddy bear.

Pain management kits

Managing chronic pain requires a variety of techniques. Putting together a pain management kit can be a thoughtful gift. Include heat and ice packs, kinesics tape, a bit of entertainment (music, movies, or reading material), pain relieving creams, a soft, comfy shirt, massage oil, and a stuffed animal for comfort. You may also want to tuck in some inspirational or comforting messages.

Cinema tickets.


Gift certificates for tickets to an event or going to the movies may be a great idea if you’ve noticed the person hasn’t been out to a social event for a while. Making it a gift certificate rather than tickets for a particular day builds in flexibility — chronic illness can be unpredictable. Also consider giving the gift of yourself as company and a drive to and from the location or movie theatre.

Man getting a relaxing massage.

Contributions to alternative therapies

Alternative therapies such as massage, acupuncture, float tank, naturopathy and more may play a valuable role in managing a chronic illness. Unfortunately, these types of treatments are often not covered by insurance and can be expensive. Contributing to the cost can be a very thoughtful gift.

Young smiling woman writing notes.

Personalized coupons

If you think gifts certificates are boring and impersonal, why not make your own? Create a book of coupons for personalized services. These can include a meal for the freezer, being a ride and note-taker at a doctor’s appointment, mowing the lawn, babysitting children, offering house cleaning, and so on.

Woman reading a book on a picnic table outside.

Inspirational books

Dealing with chronic illness is an ongoing challenge. Books written by others with chronic conditions can be very helpful in framing a person’s thinking about their condition and learning new techniques to cope. Ask other people with chronic illness for recommendations or search on Amazon. It’s best to stay away from books with the word “cure” in the title. Most chronic illnesses don’t actually have a cure.

Donation jar.


Is the person for whom you’re shopping passionate about advocacy? Do they participate in fundraising for a particular cause? If so, a donation to their favorite cause in their name can be very meaningful. Similarly, giving them a copy of a letter you wrote to a lawmaker about the importance of research funding for their condition can be very touching. Especially if you include the story of why it’s important to you.


Awareness jewelry

Many people with chronic illness find a way to make extra money. Some design and sell jewelry that has an awareness component for conditions. It can be in the shape of the design itself, or perhaps in the colors that symbolize the condition. It can be obvious or subtle. Do a search for jewelry and the name of the condition on Etsy to see all the different choices.

Young adult women friends spending time together.

Your time

Chronic illness can be a relationship killer, gradually removing family, friends, and lovers from a person’s life. Sticking around, being supportive, and giving the gift of yourself is the biggest present you can give anyone who lives with a chronic illness. Don’t do it out of charity. Do it because you care about them and enjoy their company. Find a way to keep the relationship alive around and with the illness.

Lene  Andersen, MSW
Meet Our Writer
Lene Andersen, MSW

Lene Andersen is an author, health and disability advocate, and photographer living in Toronto. Lene (pronounced Lena) has lived with rheumatoid arthritis since she was four years old and uses her experience to help others with chronic illness. She has written several books, including Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain, and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain, as well as the award-winning blog, The Seated View. Lene serves on HealthCentral's Health Advocates Advisory Board, and is a Social Ambassador for the RAHealthCentral on Facebook page, facebook.com/rahealthcentral. She is also one of HealthCentral's Live Bold, Live Now heroes — watch her incredible journey of living with RA.