Caregivers are friends, relatives, or spouses who play a primary role in helping a loved one — an individual managing cancer or another medical condition — with daily living activities and medical tasks. According to a report conducted by AARP and The National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 1 in 5 Americans are caregivers, while 6 in 10 of these caregivers continue to work while caregiving.
As someone who's being cared for or the loved one of a caregiver, you probably want to show that person how much you appreciate them. One way to express your gratitude is with a thoughtful gift. In this post, we'll cover the do's and don'ts of gifting for cancer caregivers and then provide some thoughtful gift ideas.
Do's and Don'ts of Cancer Caregiver Gifts
In most cases, a caregiver will be happy to receive any gift you give them — after all, it's the thought that counts. However, if you carefully choose a gift to suit a caregiver's needs or personality, you can make an even greater impact. Here are a few do's to point you in the right direction:
- Be thoughtful: Think about items or experiences a caregiver has said they would love to have or specific areas in which you think they may appreciate the support. For example, you may want to consider activities they talk about or places they want to explore. You might then plan to help them so they can take time off to enjoy a relaxing experience.
- Include a note: Where it's appropriate, include a handwritten message with your gift to express how much you appreciate a caregiver.
- Show you listen: Show that you listen to the caregiver when they speak by choosing a gift that reflects something they've talked about. Avoid giving a general gift, like cash, unless a caregiver has specifically asked for financial assistance.
The following are some of the don'ts you may want to avoid:
- Substitute a gift for emotional support: Caregiving can be emotionally rewarding, but it's also challenging and hard work. Though a thoughtful gift shows appreciation, nothing replaces your support and understanding. Strive to keep communication open between yourself and the caregiver, and take time to talk.
- Get something that requires extra work: Many caregivers are busy individuals, so it may be best to avoid gifts that require considerable time or energy if you can't then help them balance the load. In this instance, gifts that can help them relax and unwind may be safer.
- Choose gifts that may affect the care recipient's health: A care recipient and caregiver often spend a significant amount of time together, so you may want to avoid gift items that could impact the care recipient. As an example, radiation and certain chemotherapy types can change a patient's sense of smell, so some scents may be too strong.1 For this reason, you may wish to avoid gifting perfumes, fresh flowers, or other heavily scented items.
Thoughtful Gifts for Caregivers
While caregivers frequently feel a greater sense of purpose or meaning fulfilling their role, stress and physical strain often go hand-in-hand.2 Keeping this in mind, you can choose a gift for a caregiver that helps them unwind and enjoy some time to themselves. Here are 15 gift-giving ideas:
1. Laundry Help or Cleaning Assistance
Research suggests 76% of caregivers help their care recipient with housework like laundry and cleaning tasks, both of which can build up fast and take a lot of time to tackle.2 If a caregiver is responsible for cleaning and doing laundry in their caregiving, consider how you can help them catch up.
2. Food Shopping
Food shopping can be difficult to fit into a packed schedule. Give a caregiver assistance by helping with food shopping for a week. If the caregiver would appreciate help paying for their own groceries, consider treating them to a gift card from their favorite grocery store.
3. Self-Pampering Gift Set
It's common for caregivers to neglect personal self-care, and most could use a relaxing massage. Help a caregiver manage stress and enjoy rejuvenation with a thoughtful self-pampering gift set.
Think about the caregiver's needs and what they like, and use this information to choose their gifts. For example, if they often mention having sore feet, you could surprise them with a foot massager. If they love to curl up with a blanket and warm cup of tea, consider getting them a soft throw blanket in their favorite color and a personalized mug packed with a soothing tea, like chamomile or lavender.
Does the caregiver enjoy writing in their free time? Consider getting them a beautiful journal to jot down their hopes and dreams. Journaling can be a great way to reduce stress and express thoughts and feelings.
5. Book or Movie
Sometimes caregivers may appreciate a mental escape, and an uplifting book or a funny movie can be a ticket to another place and time. Think about the caregiver's personality and the types of films and books they enjoy.
6. Hobby Gifts
It's easy for caregivers to put their own interests aside, but it's still important they have time to enjoy their hobbies. Find out what a caregiver likes to do, whether that be painting, jewelry-making, or another hobby, and get them a gift to bring more of that activity into their life.
Give a caregiver a break, and consider cooking for them or using a meal delivery service. Some companies deliver completely prepared meals, while others send all the ingredients and cooking instructions. You can also order delivery from a local restaurant to give a caregiver a breather.
8. Child Care or Pet Sitting
In addition to being a caregiver, your friend or family member might have children or pets to look after. Help out yourself or hire a babysitter or pet sitter to relieve them of their duties and give them a chance to enjoy some peaceful alone time.
9. Gift Cards
People love receiving gift cards. According to the National Retail Federation, gift cards were at the top of shoppers' wish lists in 2019.3 If a caregiver has a favorite store or restaurant, consider giving them a gift card to that location. That way, they can treat themselves to something special. You can also provide a gift certificate for a cleaning or food delivery service to give them a break from chores.
10. Time Off
Is there a way that you or someone else could take over the caregiver's role for a few days or even a few hours? A simple break from caregiving allows a caregiver to rest and return to their duties feeling refreshed.
11. Fun and Relaxing Experience
Sometimes the best gifts are experiences rather than objects. According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the gift of experience leads to more significant improvements in relationship strength than a material gift.4
Think about fun or relaxing activities a caregiver might enjoy, like a day at the spa or a stay at a lakeside cabin, and make arrangements for them to have that experience. Make sure you have someone to take over their caregiving role while they're away.
12. Personalized Gift
Consider giving a caregiver a personalized gift like a customized coffee tumbler featuring their name or a heartfelt message. You might also consider a custom T-shirt, water bottle, or tote bag — whatever the caregiver will use and enjoy. Either way, you can make a caregiver feel special when giving them something created especially for them.
13. Cozy Pajamas
Who doesn't love a cozy pair of pajamas? Surprise a caregiver with a comfortable new pair of pajamas they can look forward to wearing when they unwind at the end of the day.
14. Monthly Subscription
You can give a caregiver a treat to look forward to every month by getting them a monthly subscription. Bring them regular moments of joy with a healthy snack, beauty supply, magazine, or book subscription.
15. A Listening Ear and a Hug
Show your appreciation and support by simply lending your ear and hugging a caregiver. Besides being comforting, hugs are known to decrease stress levels and boost the immune system, which are great benefits for you and the caregiver.5
Show Them You Care with a Thoughtful Gift
Being a caregiver is a full-time role and can be physically and emotionally demanding despite its many rewards. By showing your appreciation and acknowledging a caregiver's needs, you can help them feel loved, supported, and motivated to keep going.
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- American Cancer Society. Taste and Smell Changes. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/eating-problems/taste-smell-changes.html. Accessed October 27, 2020.
- The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Caregiving in the U.S. 2020. https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2020/05/full-report-caregiving-in-the-united-states.doi.10.26419-2Fppi.00103.001.pdf. Published May 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020.
- National Retail Federation. Holiday Shoppers Plan to Spend 4 Percent More This Year. https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/holiday-shoppers-plan-spend-4-percent-more-year. Published October 24, 2019. Accessed October 27, 2020.
- Chan C, Mogilner C. Experiential Gifts Foster Stronger Social Relationships Than Material Gifts. J. Consum. Res. 2017; 43 (6): 913-931. Oxford Academic. https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article-abstract/43/6/913/2632328?redirectedFrom=fulltext. Published December 11, 2016. Accessed October 27, 2020.
- Cleveland Clinic. Why Hugging Is Actually Good for Your Health. Health Essentials. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-hugging-is-actually-good-for-your-health-video/. Published October 21, 2020. Accessed October 27, 2020.