On Thursday, we are making our annual trek to Christmas shop for the residents. Four of us commandeer two carts each and fill them with fuzzy socks, lap blankets, lotion, ladies' scarves and whatever else we can think of. This particular store is down a set of stairs, so watching us haul multiple bags up those stairs and through the mall is comical. We struggle them back to work and fill the gift bags with the articles, personalizing each present. On Christmas eve, Santa stops and hands out the treasures as residents drink egg nog and snack on sugar cookies. It's a lovely tradition.
As I stand in the store each year with my list, trying to figure out what would be the best gift for this or that person, I always have a moment of panic. Did I get enough gifts? Will they like them? Can we get them all home? There's no doubt that shopping for people in the last few years of their life is a challenge.
9. Look for creative gifts
Between birthdays and Christmas, I've given many gifts to elders over the years. As a care partner, you may get asked by family and friends, "What can I give them?" It's not an easy question to answer. Here are a few of my suggestions:
- Elders often have poor circulation. Because of this, they may feel cold when others in the family are sweating. Socks, cardigan-style sweaters, lap blankets and shawls are often appreciated through the winter.
- Lotion and more lotion. Make sure it's a good quality, as an elder's skin needs to be protected. The smallest crack can become a wound, so lotion is appreciated.
- A notepad or blank book. If they can still write, this is a great gift.
- A picture in a nice frame. Capture a shot of your elder cuddling a great-granchild or holding a new baby. Or by themselves in the garden or other great background. A good picture of themselves is never disdained.
- Dates. No, not the edible kind. A gift of time is one of the most precious commodities to someone whose time is limited. A coupon for time together at a local coffee shop, lunch together or multiple coupons for visits during the year would be much appreciated. These can also serve as a gift of time for you as care partner to have a few hours of respite.
10. Remember Christmas past
Some people's hesitation regarding spending time with elders is, "I don't know what to say." The answer to that is an entire blog, but suffice it to say that reminiscing is a fun way to spend time together. Even if they don't remember, you do. Don't begin with, "Do you remember the time..." They may not, and that may cause distress. Instead say, "I remember when..." Tell stories of times you spent together, especially funny ones or those that show how much this elder has influenced you. Go beyond Christmas and explore your family history together. Pull out old photo albums to spark more memories. Laugh. Perhaps cry. Remember.
“Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can't make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you'll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time." Rick Warren 1
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