This year, family caregivers are feeling more overworked, exhausted, anxious, depressed and sleep-deprived than ever. If you’re shopping up holiday gifts this season, here are a few of our favorite gift ideas for caregivers.
The pandemic has taken an enormous toll on caregivers who are staying home, figuring out ways to observe the holiday safely and looking after a loved one around the clock. According to a report published by the Alzheimer’s Society UK in September, more than nine in 10 caregivers said extra caring hours had caused their mental or physical health to suffer. The survey of over 1,000 caregivers showed that more than two thirds of them reported feeling “constantly exhausted.”
Sending holiday gifts, big or small, can be reminders for caregivers that loved ones are thinking of them, and perhaps spur moments of joy, gratitude, and strength. It’s a way of offering support when so many people are living in isolation during the pandemic. And according to Jennie Clark, gerontologist and memory support program manager at Stanford Health Care, a support network is more important than ever for caregivers as they juggle caring for themselves while assisting a loved one during the pandemic.
“Caregivers really need to know that they are some angels in the world,” Clark told Being Patient, “and they’re saints doing really, really hard work to give the person that they care for and love a better chance at life.”
While the pandemic has dashed the hopes of many to gather with friends and family and forced people to celebrate in different ways, gift-giving is a holiday tradition that endures amid the public health shutdown.
Here are nine of our favorite holiday gift ideas for family caregivers:
1. A Meal They Don’t Need to Think About.
Caregivers do it all. A gift certificate for a service such as home meal delivery can help lighten the load.
The gift: Check out Seamless or other delivery services that allow users to order take-out from local restaurants and have it delivered to their door; Daily Harvest which delivers the makings of healthy smoothies and food bowls on a subscription basis; or Mom’s Meals, a company that offers prepared and refrigerated meals nationwide with menus designed to be heart-friendly, or diabetes-friendly, or renal-friendly, among other options.
2. A Better Night’s Sleep.
Deep, sound sleep is inextricably linked with cognitive health — and mental wellbeing. But especially for dementia caregivers, it can be hard to come by. Weighted blankets are designed to provide comforting pressure that reduces anxiety. Yes, they have been recommended for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias (because they simulate “the feeling of a hug”), but they may provide comfort to anyone — caregivers included — thanks to the science of “deep touch pressure,” which stimulates a sense of calm and security during sleep. Or, a scented eye pillow, filled with barley and lavender, helps soothe the senses and block out excess light during much-needed, much-deserved naps.
3. A Better Start to the Day.
A restless mind can keep people wide awake. On the other hand, setting a bedside routine helps people wind down from a busy day. For caregivers, following a nightly routine and getting a good night’s rest is all the more important. With features like mood lighting and soothing sounds, a “smart” alarm clock with customizable sleep and waking programs can set the right tone for bedtime — and for waking up refreshed.
The gift: Hatch Restore.
4. A Coffee Subscription.
On the note of an uplifting morning routine: For coffee lovers, consider a coffee subscription to morning brew from an independent, organic, and/or local roaster. Fresh beans or grounds are delivered on schedule to save time.
The gift: Chromatic Coffee Co. coffee subscription.
5. A Little Break.
Sarah Dulaney, a nurse coordinator at the University of California San Francisco’s Care Ecosystem study, a remote dementia care coordination program, suggested that, aside from giving the caregiver in your life a physical object, consider starting a project remotely with the person under their care. It’s valuable time spent together for the gift giver, that may also mean the caregiver gets some welcomed time to themselves.
“Calling the person with dementia, if they’re able to talk on the phone or [through] a video call, with the purpose of documenting their life story, is a project you can work on together over time,” Dulaney told Being Patient. “You’re offering to engage the person in something that’s meaningful to them, [and it may] give the caregiver a break.”
“Caregivers really need to know that they are
some angels in the world, and they’re saints doing really,
really hard work to give the person that they
care for and love a better chance at life.”
6. A Therapy Journal.
Caregiving is a journey — and it can be fraught with worry, fear and frustration, especially during pandemic. Journaling about emotions and thoughts can keep stress and anxiety at bay. This one, with journal entries, structured exercises, as well as notes and tips from therapists, was designed by cognitive behavioral experts to help people process anxiety.
The gift: The Anti-Anxiety Notebook.
7. A Back and Neck Massager.
After a long day of caregiving, sitting back and relaxing on a heated massage pillow is the perfect way to relax a tired body.
The gift: Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager.
8. Caregiving Help.
Sometimes the best gift can simply be offering to help. Dulaney said friends and families can assist caregivers with their ‘honey-do’ lists, helping with home maintenance such as changing light bulbs or air filters, or fixing plumbing issues. Loved ones could also offer to clean the gutters, blow out the sprinklers, maintain the lawn and shovel snow outside the house. Delivering meals can take some weight off the shoulders of caregivers. Caregivers may also have unfinished paperwork for taxes and insurance, and people could help by talking through the steps and details with them. Whether you’re helping in person or hiring help, don’t forget to keep social distancing measures in mind.
Contact Nicholas Chan at email@example.com