Friday, January 14, 2011

Gifts for Loved Ones Who are Ill or Infirmed

A friend of mine was just in a sledding accident, and I am also beginning to hear reports of neighborhood families being taken over by winter colds and flu, which has had me thinking this week about the different ways friends, and loved ones, can offer a little extra TLC to those affected.

Whether someone has broken a bone, has come down with the flu, or has been diagnosed with a major illness, it's always thoughtful to stop by with a nice gift to remind them that you care and to help them through a difficult time.  A gift can be the provision of a helping hand (or access to them), useful aids, or items to help pass the time.  These tangible items let our loved ones know we are concerned about them. Such tokens can brighten their day and help them maintain a positive outlook.


Flowers are like a breath of fresh air and, for many, are a little luxury that many of us don’t treat ourselves to very often.  They don’t last long, however, so if you do bring flowers, it might be nice to add a little extra gift that provides a long lasting remembrance, like a handkerchief or an assortment of magazines either on a variety of subjects or focus on a topic or hobby that is of special interest to your friend.  

There are two other longer lasting gift giving options for flowers.  You can choose a pretty flowering plant, (violets are always nice), but you may could also plant paper whites or amaryllis bulbs in pebbles in a shallow pot and the person who is bedridden can enjoy watching the bulbs grow and bloom without the need for constant watering. 

My kids and I planted paper whites on Christmas day and they took less than two weeks to bloom.  They were planted in a clear glass container with colored pebbles and my kids were fascinated by watching the roots and shoots grow day by day.  One side note, I have to admit, my family did not enjoy the flower’s scent, so maybe amaryllis or daffodil bulbs would be a better choice for someone confined to one room!

Lounge Wear

Often times someone who is sick spends most of their time in pajamas or comfy clothing.  When looking for these as a gift, one should consider comfort, fit and use. The outfit should be comfortable, soft to the touch, and not needing to be dry-cleaned.  Make sure to take into account any special needs the person may have. Does s/he have limited hand mobility? Would buttons work better then a pull over?  If they are on IV would short sleeves be preferable? When selecting a size, always go safe and choose a size up from what you think the person might be.

For women, bed jackets make a considerate gift. They are robe-like garments that stop at the waist. When worn in bed they do not get tangled around the wearer's legs.

Food and Snacks.

When a person isn’t feeling well, they probably will not want/be able to cook for themselves.  Delivering a meal to them, therefore,  would be a thoughtful and helpful gesture.  I, personally, don’t have much time these days to cook for my own family let alone for an extra one, so what I tend to do when a friend is ill is to drop by my local specialty store and pick up an already roasted chicken, vegetable and potato sides (a tray of mac and cheese, too,  if kids are in the house) as well as some fresh berries and a dessert.

I usually add a bottle of sparkling juice, as well as paper plates/napkins/disposable forks, etc., so there are no worries about washing dishes afterwards.

While you are at the food store, it might be a nice idea to pick up some healthy, non-perishable snacks for the person to enjoy themselves, or for them to have something to offer and serve their guests. 

Be sure to determine whether the patient is on any dietary restrictions like sugar, caffeine, etc. Chocolates, fruit, nuts, and other easy to display finger foods are always great.

Gift certificates to local restaurants would also be a special treat, (remember to give them the menu as well)!   Gift certificates to grocery stores that deliver would also be a thoughtful gift so they can stock up on staples like milk, bread, coffee, etc.

Things to Do to Keep One's Minds Occupied
Has your friend or family member been talking about trying knitting or working on a new puzzle? Sometimes the only thing holding them back is not having the time or supplies. Give the person who is bored during chemo treatments knitting needles and some yarn, if you know they have been meaning to learn, or embroidery or crochet.  If you are a quilter, offer to work on a quilting project together to help pass the time while you are visiting.  Anything to keep them busy and something that shows thought on your part.

If your friend hasn’t expressed interest in a hobby maybe writing about their experience may be a healing outlet for them, so the gift of a journal is a possibility, or some beautiful stationary for them to write thank you notes or catch up with an old friend or loved one.


A new book is even better when you are someone who is stuck in the house and can take a person into a fantasy world by far better then a hospital bed.  If you can, take the time to write a short inscription inside the front cover to send them your thoughts of love and care. Find a New York Times best seller that you think they will like, or a gift card to download books if they have a Kindle or other electronic book.  You can also choose books that would help them revisit the classics.  Don’t forget a bookmark that they can use well after the book is finished! 


It is cold outside, so make it warm and toasty inside. Think easy microwavable heating pads, or electric blankets. It can't hurt to think practical and give someone you love a (safe) portable heater if you know they have a drafty apartment during these cold winter months.

Specialized Gadgets
There is a gadget for every conceivable disability; you just need to find it. If you are someone with weak hands there are bottle openers, hands free mouse for the computer, zipper pulls, and more. There are sneakers that don't need tying, and there are kitchen gadgets that practically cook the food itself. If you are someone who is UV sensitive there are great clothes with UV built right into them. For mobility issues, there are fancy canes, pretty walkers, and scooters that can get you from here to there real quick.

Many people living with sickness don't have the money to spend on a quirky color extra cane and  limited budgets makes it hard to try new things. See if you can find a gadget that will help out someone you love. I am sure they will thank you for it!

Door to Door Service

There are many stores that "deliver" services like hair salons that makes house calls, or nail salons. Think of different things that the recipient would really enjoy. Maybe getting their lawn mowed would be a treat? A maid for a day?  Laundry wash and fold service?  A carpenter for a couple of hours to help fix all those pesky items like a broken cabinet hinge or a leaky faucet?

You may also consider a gift certificate to their favorite drug store or discount store to defray the cost of prescriptions, medical equipment and other health-related items. Use your imagination and give your friend a gift certificate for something they can really use and appreciate.


Coping with an illness or recovering from an injury or surgical procedure typically results in the use of more linen. Linens such as cheerful and luxurious face cloths, towels, pillow cases or sheets are much appreciated. Put them in a gift basket with a colorful bow for a thoughtful and practical gift.

Cancer Survivors

Sylvie Fortin, a breast cancer survivor, developed a suggested gift guide for people who don’t know what to buy for someone with breast cancer, or any type of cancer that requires chemotherapy or radiation treatments.  When putting her list together, she researched the different helpful items she felt would help her while undergoing chemotherapy, keeping in mind there will be at least 12–15 days out of each month where she wouldn’t be feeling very well, dealing with nausea, hair loss, increased susceptibility to infections, etc. If you are shopping for a man, just dsiregard the references to breasts or mastectomys!

Prosthetic breast form $240.00
A custom fit mastectomy shirt$ 36.00
Mastectomy bra$50.00
A wig for around the neighborhood$100.00
A headwrap scarf $8.00
A full coverage hat $24.00
Wig hair care supply kit $39.00
A cozy sleep cap  $20.00
A box of Gravol (reduces nausea) $9.00
A case of Ginger Ale $5.00
A case of water bottles $5.00
A bowl of hot and comforting soup $1.50
A luxury terrycloth bathrobe $60.00
A soft blanket (for chemo treatment days) $23.00
Bed serving tray $15.00
A sleep mask  $10.00
Soft cotton pajamas  $21.00
Parking money for hospital trips $15.00
Hand sanitizer $2.00
A squishy pillow $6.00
Specialty hypoallergenic makeup $25.00
Digital thermometer $20.00
Book light (for long nights of insomnia)$18.00
Fresh fruit $30.00
Self tanning lotion $18.00
A bottle of hypoallergenic body lotion $6.00
A stick of medicated lip balm $2.00

best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!