The holiday season is a perfect time to celebrate the caregivers in your life. An estimated 44 million people in the U.S. are taking care of friends and family members, without pay and often at the expense of their own health. Caregivers are more likely to suffer from depression and other mood disorders than non-caregivers.
Other health and financial issues suffered by caregivers include the following:
- Caregivers who are depressed have higher rates of other mood disorders like anxiety and other issues like substance abuse.
- Caregivers have a higher incidence of physical illness, both major and minor.
- The immune system of caregivers is noticeably weaker, resulting in more illness that is harder to get rid of.
- Caregivers are more likely to be obese. This combined with stress may be why caregivers are at increased risk for heart disease.
The mark of an excellent caregiver is the same trait that is so dangerous for them. They are more likely to ignore their own needs – mental, physical, and financial – to care for another person. This selfless giving should be rewarded year ‘round, but the holidays are a good reminder to put our amazing caregivers first. Here are eight great gift ideas for chronic pain caregivers.
1. Time off
If you can, arrange for a paid day or two off for your caregiver, even if your caregiver is an normally unpaid family member. Caregiving is often a 24/7 job. Respite care gives caregivers some time to catch their breath and take a break.
2. The gift of relaxation
Send your caregiver to a day spa for a massage, a mani/pedi, a facial, or all three. Many caregivers do not practice self-care, and this can get them started. If money is an issue (and spa services can be pricey), put together a relaxation kit that includes bath salts, lotion, a lavender candle, an eye mask, and a favorite book or magazine. Pair this with an afternoon off!
3. _______ of the Month clubs
Gift of the Month clubs remind your caregiver how much you appreciate them for the entire year, not just during the holidays. There are tons of clubs to choose from at many different price points. Again, if money is tight, you can make your own gift of the month club by purchasing 12 small gifts and presenting them all at once, wrapped and labelled for each month. Then when the 1st of the month comes around, sit down with a cup of tea and open the gift together.
4. Gift certificates
While this may seem impersonal at first glance, gift certificates for favorite hobbies or activities can be a deeply personal way to acknowledge that you understand the importance of fun in your caregiver’s life. Whether it’s a class pass for their favorite yoga studio, a gift certificate for an hour of horseback riding, or a gift card for an arts and crafts store, tailoring this to your caregiver’s hobbies tells them that you want them to enjoy themselves, too.
Caregivers tend to neglect their own needs and put the needs of their patient first. This includes grabbing food on the go that may be loaded with artificial ingredients, fat, salt, and sugar. Consider making food a gift, but not in the traditional fruit basket or holiday candy sense. If your caregiver does not live with you, consider cooking a week of meals for them for their freezer. This can be done over the course of several days, and meals can be labelled for cooking instructions.
Try gluten free, dairy free freezer meals, or stick with something simple, like this easy recipe for single-pan chicken fajitas: one pound of chicken breasts, cut into strips; two green peppers, cut into strips; one large onion, sliced thin; one cup pineapple juice, and fajita seasoning (use a premade packet from the store, or make your own for a healthier option). Mix all ingredients in a larger Ziploc freezer bag, with the instructions to defrost before baking in a large glass container for 15 minutes at 350⁰. This can be served over rice or with flour tortillas, sour cream, chopped lettuce, and avocado.
6. Make one special dinner
Every chronic pain patient should own a crockpot, a simple kitchen tool that makes cooking fast and easy. Use it to make a special dinner for your caregiver. This is a great idea for pain patients who live with their caregiver. Pick a day when you are feeling strong, then prepare, serve, and clean up from the meal. Don’t talk about pain or prescriptions or doctors: use the meal to focus on your caregiver. Listen and ask questions. This is a priceless gift.
7. Something they want
This is a vague suggestion, but in many cases, caregivers focus only on the things they need. Many caregivers spend their own money on the needs of their patients, often neglecting their own needs and wants. Buy your caregiver a gift that they just want. Something that is frivolous and special to them, something they would never buy for themselves because they think it is unnecessary and they just don’t need it.
This gift can be larger or small, depending on your budget. It requires that you listen to them as they mention something in passing, like a certain candle or a kitchen gadget or article of clothing. Sometimes the best gifts are things that people want but would never buy for themselves because they have other spending priorities. This can be a lovely, thoughtful surprise for your caregiver.
A heartfelt gift needn’t cost anything. Take the time to write a letter to your caregiver, expressing your thanks and appreciation for everything they do. Be specific and tell them how they make your life better. Write from the heart.
If you are a caregiver, what presents would you add to this list?
Image by JD Hancock via Flickr