Much like the question of, “What can I get my loved one with dementia for Christmas?” I get the same question for care partners. Family members and friends wanting to do something for someone who is a care partner. Each person is different, each person’s needs and wants may inform a different list. I have decided this year to respond to that frequent question knowing that it is sometimes helpful to reframe our gift-giving habits, our relationships with others, and remember we all approach the dementia journey in different ways. Many of these gifts will be similar to the list from part 1.
The gifts I recommend are not all material, and in some cases, they are best given throughout the year. Not everyone can go home during this time, and though the world looks and sounds different it is still the same day to day life. So, the first gift is to think about something you do throughout the year.
- Two boxes of cards. One for you and one for them. Send them little notes throughout the year and offer the opportunity to reciprocate. Send notes letting them know you are thinking of them, and care about them. You can get note cards from everywhere from Etsy to Target. Find a local artist or make your own!
- Items that feed their hobbies and interests. Books, art supplies, games, movies, music, technology. Think about how they like to spend their time. Are they a reader? Do they like puzzles and games? Do they enjoy watching new/old movies? Are they fascinated by technology and there is something in that world you could purchase for them within your budget? Think about who this person is, was, and still becoming.
- A meal subscription box or bringing over the ingredients for a specific meal you can make together. Invite weekly or monthly dinner nights, cooking together and enjoy a meal in one’s company apart from the caregiver role. Allowing them to be a friend, mother, or husband for an hour or two. By doing something in the home instead of going out to dinner, it may offer the comfort of knowing they are still close to the one they are caring for in case something happens that they need to attend to.
- A nice item of clothing, that makes them feel good, that they can wear as a comfort item and function in their day-to-day. Clothing is oftentimes a go-to for many people, but we may hesitate to purchase something new for others when we don’t know what they might like. Think about, does this person like to put a top on over their head? Or should it be button-down? Are they always cold? Hot? Think of favorite colors and materials. All of this can bring a level of comfort and even joy. I think Dudley Stephens fleeces are a great option that offers a variety of styles that will flow with the role of a care partner, yet look nice, and are made of a comforting material.
- Something they like but will not purchase for themselves because they think they don’t need it, or because they feel they should. Something that they say, “Where would I where or use that? I have to care for (person here) and I don’t need that now.” Each person, care partner or not, deserves to feel good about themselves, enjoy something new, and have something special. What would this be for the person you are thinking of now?
- Your time. Your laughter. Your stories. Your smile. Take the time to visit. They may be lonely or lonely for your specific relationship with them. They are experiencing loss as well, your friendship and relationship with them are valued more than you may ever know.
- Find respite opportunities that align with their interests, hobbies, and desires. Can you take them away for a weekend, an afternoon, an hour? Can you take them out for coffee or bring coffee to them? Can you offer to clean their house, cook a meal, or do their yard work? Could you hire a service that comes into one’s home to offer a hair cut or care service that might be of interest?
Not all gifts need to be related to dementia, a thing or crammed into December. Give the gift of the best version of yourself, caring for and loving each person. Listen, see, and love the other and you will learn what you need to do.