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).

Changing seasons; looming holidays: So much to do! Help?

Heather Jose photo.

Heather Jose

WE need your help!

Please, read this column and contribute a tip—even a few words. Then, next week, I will compile our brightest ideas and provide a printable check list we all can use to get ready for this “new year” we are entering.

What new year?

Holidays comingHere’s how it unfolds in our household: My daughter runs cross country on her high school team. Last week started with a meet on Tuesday. The weather in Mid-Michigan? 92 degrees, sunny, and humid. Friday she ran again at the Michigan State Invitational in Lansing. As I was preparing to watch her meet—I was finding my winter coat and gloves to stand in 50 degrees, heavy clouds and wind.

Children are back in school; the weather is yo-yoing; the leaves are starting to change and the construction barrels are vanishing. Even if you don’t have students in your household, most employers have a big post-Labor-Day push. Before we know it the year-end holidays will be upon us.

Change is good—sometimes—but it can also be a challenge.

Here at WeAreCaregivers we are bringing together a community of readers who can help each through challenges that caregivers face. In that spirit, we are asking you to help us by offering some insight from your experience with caregiving.

Do you have a tip you could share for dealing with the coming changes in daily routines? Have you got tips for helping caregivers with the piles of leaves—and piles of snow—soon to come in many regions? How about an idea for making the holidays more enjoyable? Do you find that doing—or not doing—certain activities make life a lot easier?


One thing that helps me is to take a few minutes to plan dinners for the week. It isn’t earth shattering, but it makes life better for all of us, especially at times when everyone’s schedule is in overdrive.

Are you part of a congregation starting a new fall-and-winter season? Looking for good ideas for your youth group? Are you part of a community-service group? Men’s group? Hospitality group? What ideas can you share for reaching out to caregivers in the coming seasons?

Here’s another example of a great tip: Organize volunteers to provide respite care for the caregivers in your community—so they each can have a holiday-shopping day free of their normal caregiving duties. Another example: Organize men and women who are handy with repairs to check out the wooden ramps at homes around your community. Any of your neighbors need help fixing a ramp so it’s sturdy for wet, icy and snowy weather?

I’m sure your mind already is whirring away …


We are going to pull together the tips you share with us. You don’t need to write a long note. A sentence or less is fine. We will take all of your fabulous advice and compile it for you to share next week. Together we will be better.

Add a comment below or email us at [email protected]

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.