Gift ideas for frail loved ones
Practical presents for the hard-to-buy-for
By Lisa M. Petsche
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Friends and relatives of seniors who are housebound or reside in a care facility often find it difficult to come up with suitable gift ideas.
They must take into account, for example, any sensory impairments - such as vision or hearing loss - the recipient may have, as well as dietary restrictions resulting from a medical condition, dental issues or a swallowing disorder. Gift shopping for someone who is mentally impaired due to dementia can also be challenging.
The following is a wide range of ideas to consider, depending on the recipient's situation.
- Toiletries such as moisturizing lotion; bar soap and deodorant; a toothbrush and toothpaste or denture cleaner; conditioning shampoo; facial tissue; a comb or hairbrush and hair accessories; cologne; talcum powder; lipstick and nail polish; a hand mirror.
- Apparel such as track suits, pajamas or nightgowns, underwear and socks. Consider adaptive clothing - such as Velcro-closing dresses and shirts - which can make dressing much easier. All items should be easy-care.
- A lap blanket.
- Velcro-closing running shoes or slippers with non-skid soles.
- A personalized drinking cup or mug. Adapted dishes and utensils - such as plates with rims - can be another good idea, to maximize independence with eating. These can be found at medical supply stores.
- A reacher (from a medical supply shop) for picking up things off the floor or retrieving items on high shelves.
- A portable telephone, or a phone with an over-sized, lighted keypad. Look for one with a programmable memory for frequently used numbers.
- Writing paper and envelopes or a set of all-occasion cards, along with a book of postage stamps.
- Hearing aid batteries.
- A night-light (decorative ones can be found in gift shops and crafters' stores).
- A rechargeable flashlight that automatically comes on when the power fails.
- A gift certificate to a pharmacy or other business that offers free delivery.
- Taxi vouchers or a book of tickets for accessible transportation.
- A special tabletop or window decoration.
- A large photo calendar reflecting a favorite interest, such as pets, gardening or sports.
- Family photos, either framed or assembled in an album. Use labels to identify individuals, and include the date each photo was taken.
- Children's art work, laminated or framed.
- A soft, stuffed animal.
- Scented sachets for tucking into drawers.
- A magazine subscription, large-print book or "talking"
book (on audiotape). Picture books (coffee table type) are another good idea.
- A deck of playing cards, perhaps in large print
- Costume jewelry or a colorful scarf.
- Plants - silk is usually best, since no care is required.
- A small radio or CD player and favorite music.
- Food items and treats that take into account dietary restrictions. Bring enough so the person can share with caregivers or fellow residents if he or she wishes.
If the person resides in a nursing home, staff may be able to provide other suggestions as well. They can also supply information regarding preferred brands of toiletries, proper clothing and shoe size, and favorite treats. If in doubt, consult with them regarding the appropriateness of an item you have in mind.
Lisa M. Petsche is a medical social worker and a freelance writer specializing in health and elder care issues.