Seven Great Holiday Gifts for the Family Caregivers in Your Life

Senior couple exchanging holiday gifts

'Tis the season … for stress! No matter which holiday traditions your family celebrates, it's likely that this time of year brings an extra workload of decorating, shopping, baking and entertaining.

And for people who are providing care for an elderly spouse, parent or other loved one, the stress level can be overwhelming. They might already be juggling caregiving with their job duties and other family responsibilities, compounded by a swirl of emotions about their loved one's condition.

This year, be sure to consider the needs of caregivers as you plan for the holidays. Encourage them to tell you what they want and need. Here are some suggestions for bringing more joy to a caregiver's holidays:

Offer to host the celebration at your place this year. "To Grandmother's house we go … " Is the caregiver's home your family's traditional gathering place for the holidays? If Grandmother (or Sister, or Brother) is providing care for Grandfather, whose Alzheimer's is progressing, they may have far less time and energy for preparations. Offer to hold the gathering at your place this year. Then when the caregiver arrives, they can sit back and enjoy some stress-free holiday cheer!

Bring the holidays to the caregiver's home. Maybe everyone gathers at Cousin Beth's house for New Year's Eve — her home has a lovely view of the fireworks and she surprises her guests each year with funny noisemakers and a delicious spread. But this year, Cousin Beth's husband is struggling with the effects of a serious stroke. He is most comfortable at home where he can stick to his routine. Offer to bring the party to their place! Take over the food, help decorate, and ask other family members to pitch in. Make it a potluck, or have the party catered. And don't forget the cleanup.

If the caregiver treasures their traditional hosting role, make it happen! Yale University researchers recently reported on the many impacts of caregiving, and noted an often-overlooked emotional burden: Caregiving compromises the caregiver's ability to do things they love. A well-meaning offer to host the celebration at your place, or to take the helm at the caregiver's place, might actually be a source of sadness for a person who absolutely loves holiday preparations. Instead, make a plan with other family members to be with the person who needs care, or chip in for respite care. For the caregiver, free time for holiday decorating, shopping, baking or gift wrapping could be very joyous indeed.

GRandparents and grandchildren at Hanukkah celebration

Help out with holiday cards, shopping and wrapping. The days leading up to the holidays can be the busiest! If circumstances will make it difficult for the caregiver to get to the mall and post office, offer to help out. Maybe Aunt Emily likes to give Hanukkah gifts, but she's not familiar with online shopping. If she needs to stay home with Grandpa, plan a virtual shopping trip to her favorite stores — from the comfort of home.

Choose gifts that will be welcome. If your family exchanges holiday gifts, you no doubt like to select things the recipients will love. For caregivers, consider gifts that can make their lives easier. Check out senior care technologies, such as a personal alarm, GPS tracking or smartphone app (just as important, include a promise to set everything up and provide training and tech support). How about a gift certificate for housekeeping, a meal service, lawn care or other home maintenance services? Does their car or computer need a tune-up? What about some pampering, such as a day at the spa, a manicure, theater tickets or dinner at a great restaurant, with an offer to care for their loved one while they're enjoying their special day or night? Teens might give homemade gift certificates, redeemable for mowing the lawn, washing the car, or helping with spring cleaning.

Include the elder in preparations and festivities. Sometimes when an older relative has dementia, hearing loss, visual impairment, or other physical or cognitive disability, family aren't sure how to interact with them — and so, the senior ends up feeling sidelined at family gatherings. Observing this, it's difficult for the caregiver to enjoy the festivities! Ask the caregiver for suggestions. If the senior has memory loss, bring cute name tags for guests. Get out photo albums so the senior can share holiday memories with young guests. Maybe the senior would enjoy a "secret" shopping trip with you to select a gift for the caregiver?

One last reminder: Don't be a swooper! A poll in the August 2017 issue of the Caring Right at Home online newsletter asked about caregiver pet peeves. At the top of the list was out-of-town guests who don't know the whole situation, but make judgments about care. Don't be that guy! Acknowledge all that the caregiver does. If you're concerned about something, plan a quiet time to ask what you can do. Find time for a family meeting about sharing the load, which might be the very best gift of all for the caregiver.

Right at Home, Inc. is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned providers of in home care services.