Christmas gifts for caregivers: What do we give?

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

It’s December and most of us already are shopping. Gift giving is the norm at this time of year to show appreciation to those who are caring for our loved ones.

But here’s the big question: What do we give?


The answer to today’s question is likely to vary, depending on the caregiving situation. If you are looking for a gift for someone who is caring for a loved one 24/7 at home, then there is nothing like giving the gift of time. It might look like this:

  • Give a certificate for an afternoon or evening out that clearly states that you will stay with the person who is in need of care.
  • If you are handy, offer an afternoon of service in order to take care of needed chores around the house.
  • Give an afternoon out where you assist in helping the caregiver and the caregivee, so that they can go out for an appointment or simply for a meal. This is especially appreciated when the people involved are spouses and actively assist with the transportation and transfers along the way.
  • If you have more than one person in on the gift, provide a short getaway where one person takes the caregiver out and the other stays in with the one needing care.
  • Provide some freezer meals that are easily reheated. Better yet, take requests for favorite meals ahead of time so you can prepare foods you know the recipients will enjoy.
  • Offer to Christmas shop, wrap gifts, bake cookies.
You can find holiday fruit baskets in many stores, or you can make your own -- but did you know Amazon also sells and ships a wide array of gift baskets? Click this photo to see an example on Amazon.

You can find holiday fruit baskets in many stores, or you can make your own — but did you know Amazon also sells and ships a wide array of gift baskets? Click this photo to see an example on Amazon.


If you want to show your appreciation to staff members in a facility where your loved one lives, first and foremost check with the facility itself on staff policies. Some institutions have strict rules on whether staff members can accept gifts from residents or their families.

If they cannot receive gifts you can usually still get a little creative and show your appreciation by making your gift an “it’s for everyone” experience:

  • Put a decorated basket in your family member’s room along with a note that asks people to take one. Fill it with stocking stuffer items such as candy, individual hand sanitizers, or something that shows your family members personality. I once knew a gentleman that had lost his ability to talk. However, whenever we saw him he would give my kids a quarter. In his case it would be perfect to share that story and have a bowl of quarters out as a keepsake. My dad loved tractors so a perfect gift for his basket would be a bunch of miniature tractors. Staff members love to be able to get to know their patients a little better.
  • Consider sponsoring a pizza party (or something similar) for a staff during a certain shift. Let them know ahead of time that you will be buying lunch/dinner by having pizza delivered. Bringing donuts also goes over well.

If specific staff members can receive gifts, then anything goes. Wondering whether money is appreciated? Keep in mind that many of these employees are not making much money for the work that they do. A gift of money along with a note that says “Thank you—spend this on yourself” gives the person permission to do just that. Gift cards are also nice. Talk to your family member about who should receive such a gift. As an occasional visitor, you may not know which staff members have the closest relationship with your loved one.

With any of these ideas, it really is the thought that counts. Big or small they really will be appreciated.

Have you got ideas to share? Add a Comment below—or share this column with friends via Facebook (click the blue-“f” icons) or email (the small envelope-shaped icons).

How to have a happy Thanksgiving with a wheelchair or walker

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

Will there be a wheelchair or walker coming to your Thanksgiving dinner this year?

This week, I’m keeping the column short and to the point: I’m sharing some very helpful tips that are well known to veteran caregivers, but aren’t so well known to the occasional caregiver.

PLEASE, think about friends and family coming to your holiday celebrations—and send them this column. Put it up on Facebook by using the blue-“f” Facebook buttons. Or, email it using the envelope-shaped icons. You can even print this column and physically hand it to friends.

Trust me: If you’ve got relatives volunteering to bring a disabled loved one to the family celebration—they need to see today’s column.


Put away any throw rugs, especially those that don’t have a rubber backing. They can cause people to trip if they catch the edge. Uneven surfaces are more difficult to negotiate whether walking or in a wheelchair.

Clear away clutter and leave the widest pathways possible inside and outside of your house.

Have a couple of nice sturdy chairs ready that aren’t low to the ground. Lazy boys and cushy couches are great but they can be really hard to get out of.

Do a bathroom check. If there are no grab bars available keep in mind that people often will take hold—and push hard—on anything that’s available when they try to stand. This often leads to breaking toilet paper holders off the wall. The lack of a grab bar also can lead to falls that are not only dangerous, but can suddenly transform your whole holiday weekend in a tragic way.

If stairs are a must allow the person to hold on to a sturdy handrail rather than taking your hand. Permanent objects are more secure and you can be there to steady along with their hand on the solid railing.

Plan ahead for the best placement for your guest at the dining room table.

Finally if you aren’t familiar with transferring your loved one from one place to another—check out this video. Proper technique and a gait belt can make all difference. (If no one has introduced you to this common device, sometimes called a “transfer belt,” you’ll find that it’s a very useful, adjustable belt that aids in careful lifting of a disabled person. Amazon sells many varieties.)


IF YOU DON’T SEE A VIDEO SCREEN, in your version of this column—or if you’re printing out this column to share with friends: You also can access the YouTube video directly by going to

Smell dinner cooking on the charcoal? But can we relax?

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

CaregivING DOESN’T take holidays.

That’s a top complaint from millions of caregivers all across the nation. The truth is: We might like to enjoy more time away from our responsibilities, but our loved ones need us all the time, in most cases. Finding vacation-replacement care is very tough. It’s expensive—if we can even find professionals to replace us. It’s hard to muster volunteers for vacations.

Outdoor barbecue in a parkRight now, we’re all smelling the smoke of picnic fires—at least figuratively. We are coming off the holiday weekend where it seems the whole country has been doing nothing but BBQing and kicking back with friends.

However, no matter what Facebook may say there are still millions that weren’t relaxing at a lake somewhere. Rather, millions of us were attending to the needs of others. So, today, let me just salute all of us who maintain the tedious duties that make millions of needy lives continue to thrive among us.

I know what you have to shoulder: Many things you do go unnoticed and unsaid. Every day is like the day before. If you do take a break, the guilt sets in and sucks out all the joy. It is a challenge to include those we care for in festivities, but sad not do so as well.

Unless you surround yourself with other caregivers it can be difficult to find people who understand how we feel. Our goal—here at We Are Caregivers—is to build a community that does understand. a place where you can find encouragement, but also reality.

We know it’s true: Caregiving doesn’t take holidays. Chronic needs are there everyday. But, caregivers can and do find refreshment. There are lots of strategies for this. I welcome you, please, to share a tip you’ve discovered. Or, tell us about how you’re finding your own slice of summer vacation. Let’s share our hard-earned wisdom, shall we?

And, please, share this column with friends. Sharing this column can show you care. Ask friends for ideas. Click the blue-“f” Facebook icons and “Like” this column, so your friends will see it online. Or, use the little envelope-shaped icons to email to friends. Take a moment and add a comment below, so friends will see your thoughts. Together, we can make a difference.