By Karen Bromberg
So, the turkey is gone. The leftovers are a memory. With Thanksgiving now in the past (even the bruises from Black Friday have faded), we can now turn our attention to: Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and the gifts we’re getting ready to give and receive.
If you are like me, getting the exact right gift for the people on you list can be quite the challenge. There are so many things to consider. Are they going to like what we got? Is it the right color? The right size? Do they still want that pasta maker they spoke about back in June or are they now, suddenly, into gourmet ice cream making? And what about little Johnny? Is he ready for his first two-wheel bicycle? Or would he like a computer game instead?
Typically, if we’re on the giving side of the equation, our goal is to get gifts that the people in our lives will enjoy. If we’re on the receiving end, while we appreciate everything, we especially appreciate those gifts that show that thought went into the gift’s selection.
Since we family caregivers often don’t know what he need or want (about anything if it pertains to our needs), it becomes that much more difficult for others to get a sense of what kind(s) of gifts will make us happy.
In previous blog posts, Caregiver Stress and Caregiver Burnout to name two, I talk about the importance of dialing back the stress and I give tips for how overwhelmed caregivers can do go about doing that.
In today’s blog post, I want to talk about how we can incorporate some of those tips into potential gifts.
An Overwhelmed Caregiver’s Wish-list
Imagine this, your friend approaches you. “I need your help,” she may say. “I’ve thought about it and thought about it but I still have no idea what you’d like this Christmas. I know it’s terrible of me to ask but I REALLY want to get you something you’ll love. I know this year has been so hard for you and I’d like to get you something that’ll make you smile, but I honestly have no idea what that would be. Can you at least give me a clue?”
Now, granted, most of us probably won’t have a conversation like the one I’ve sketched out above but wouldn’t it be great if we had a list at the ready, you know, just in case someone did?
And even if no one did, even if you get that kitchen item you have no idea how to use, a list at the ready could serve to solidify at least in your own mind what you’d like to get so you can give it to yourself.
That’s why I created the list below. I wanted to give you an example of what I’m talking about. Granted it’s a generic list. The main point is to give ideas and provide a jumping off point.
I encourage you to make the list your own. Take a few moments, jot down the things you like and don’t be afraid to be creative. Let you mind wander, maybe even go a little wild. Think about what would make you happy.
With all that you do day in and day out, if anyone deserves it, you do!
- Gift certificates to the movies. I love this idea. Movies are so great. Sit in dark. Escape for a couple of hours. Can it get any better than that? Movies offer us a break, taking us to far away places and introducing us to new and interesting characters. But what if your caregiving situation doesn’t permit you to leave your house? If that’s the case, how about asking a friend, neighbor or relative to stay with your caregiving recipient? Could that be a possibility? Let the person know that you need to take a break. Assure him/her that it will only be for a couple of hours. Of course, you’re going to want to make sure that your care recipient is on board and your going to want to make sure that the person you are leaving your care recipient with is responsible and knows the ins and outs of how to care for your loved one (remember-safety first). If all that is “a go,” then by all means — Enjoy and have some popcorn for me!
- But what if your loved one isn’t on board with the idea of you being out of the house? What then? What if he/she doesn’t feel safe? Well, then how about asking that same friend, neighbor or relative to come over. You could go into your room and stream a movie, or rest or read or do anything else that will allow you to recharge. The beauty of this idea is that you can get what makes sense for you and if your loved one needs to be reassured that you are around, all you have to do is stick your head out so that he/she one can see you. It’s a win-win for both you and the person you are caring for.
- Now if that doesn’t work at all, if your loved one doesn’t want you out of his/her sight and doesn’t feel safe with anyone but you, no problem. Forget the whole movie idea and instead how about a gift of month of dinners? A month of dinners, you may ask. Yes, a month of dinner. That way you can eat healthy and have it not take a lot of time. There are online services that will deliver “dinner kits,” packages that have all the ingredients already cut up. You might need to add meat or chicken. A few minutes in a pan over the flame and Voila! Dinner is ready.
- If your caregiving recipient happens to live in a facility (such as an assisted living residence or nursing home), meaning that you are not responsible for his/her care 24/7, then how about permitting yourself a total day of pampering? Calling a friend, going out for brunch then on to a mani/pedi, followed by a massage or facial. Do you like going to the theater? If so, then how about following all that up with a play? Do you prefer music? Then what about a concert? Make it a day that not only recharges your body but your soul as well.
- Or, if you prefer, how about grabbing your spouse or friend and going away for the weekend? Find someplace that will clear your mind and relax your body. Of course, you’ll have your cell phone with you – as caregivers, its part of our wardrobe. Of course you’ll check to make sure that wherever you go you’ll have cell service, it’s what we do as caregivers. If you prefer though,and if it makes sense in your caregiving life, how about asking a relative to check in with the facility for you. You can make arrangements with that relative to get in touch should there is a problem, or if it makes YOU feel better, you can make arrangements to check in with him/her once a day while you are gone.
- But what if you’re too pooped to do any of that? How about a home spa treatment instead? There are so many options that we can choose from. Simply Google home spa treatments then create your own perfect package.
- Last, but hardly least, there are books. To my mind, there’s nothing quite like curling up with a good book to make one feel transported. And with so many choices – the good old book-book, the eBook, and the audible book – it’s just so easy.
As I said earlier in this piece, these are all just generic suggestions. You have to tailor them so that they make sense for your caregiving situation and for the person/people you are caring for. As I always say, each caregiving situation is different and while I can propose some ideas, I can’t know what will work for you in your specific situation. Remember, when it comes to your caregiving journey and the people you care for . . . YOU are the expert!
While the holiday season can bring such joy, it can also bring confusion and uncertainly when it comes to the giving and receiving of presents. Having a list can help not only those buying gifts for you, it can solidify in your own mind what you would like.
Don’t forget. Be creative. Ask yourself, “What would I like? Who knows, maybe by just writing it down you’ll be able to call it into being.
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Help You Thru, LLC, an online resource for family caregivers offering resources, relaxation and relaxation techniques to overwhelmed caregivers. Feel free to contact her, either by email at email@example.com or via phone 929-276-2109.
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"FIVE THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO REDUCE CAREGIVER OVERWHELM"