It’s the holiday season and that means gifts. Almost all of the winter holidays have a gift giving component that is sure to brighten the spirit of any recipient. But when you live with chronic pain the idea of shopping for gifts, wrapping packages, and celebrating the holidays can feel overwhelming. On the other hand, if a friend or someone in your family deals with the effects of chronic pain what makes good gifts for pain sufferers? Here are a few ideas for both categories.
Great gifts for pain sufferers
Here are some of our favorite gift ideas for chronic pain patients.
1. Heating pad
Heat therapy is an excellent way to treat both chronic pain and acute muscle aches. Safe heat use is important and there are a number of heating pads on the market today that are designed for home use. Electric heating pads, hot water bottles, or microwavable rice bags can all be very soothing for pain.
2. Gift card for spa treatment or massage
Massage therapy is also helpful for a variety of chronic pain conditions but treatments can be expensive and feel like an impossible luxury. Treat your friends or family to a spa or massage gift certificate. This could be even better if you share the experience or send them to someone you already know and trust as an excellent therapist.
3. Help around the house
Chronic pain often makes it difficult to do many everyday tasks. Cooking, cleaning, home maintenance, and other daily chores can cause pain. Rather than give a tangible, wrapped present, offer to help your loved one around their house. Go grocery shopping for them, help clean the bathrooms and kitchen, or repair a pesky issue in their home.
This can be done in a number of ways including spending the evening at their home to make some family favorites. Or, you could get them a certificate to a local restaurant or meal delivery service. Good, healthy food can really lift someone’s spirits and help keep their diet balanced, which certainly helps with chronic pain.
To celebrate the holidays and give the gifts of health and warmth, consider putting together a tea pack. You could include a mug, some local honey, and your favorite teas or teas you know they love. This can be very personalized. There are also commercially prepared tea packages you can purchase.
6. A journal
Experts suggest that people suffering from chronic pain conditions should write about their experience. It helps them process their feelings and can provide more details to doctors regarding their symptoms between office visits. Make the journaling experience special by purchasing a nice journal and personalizing it for your loved one. Add photographs or other cut and paste pictures. Write inspirational quotes throughout the book so they are surprised when they come across one.
7. Comfortable pajamas and slippers
Sometimes it is all about small comforts. Chronic pain can cause depression and anxiety, which is difficult to control through conventional means. Even if your loved one is seeking treatment, a small gesture will help them know you care. Put together a comfort kit with soft, warm, winter pajamas and a pair of fuzzy slippers with non-slip soles to help them get around the house easier.
Make a donation to the organization most closely aligned with the treatment or research of your loved one’s chronic pain condition. Send them a card to let them know which organization you’ve donated money to and wish them a happy holiday season. This is one of the easiest gifts for pain sufferers, but it means so much.
Celebrate your caregivers
The holiday season is also a perfect time to celebrate the caregivers in your life. An estimated 44 million people in the U.S. are taking care of friends and family members, without pay and often at the expense of their own health. Caregivers are more likely to suffer from depression and other mood disorders than non-caregivers.
Other health and financial issues suffered by caregivers include the following:
- Caregivers who are depressed have higher rates of other mood disorders like anxiety and other issues like substance abuse.
- Caregivers have a higher incidence of physical illness, both major and minor.
- The immune system of caregivers is noticeably weaker, resulting in more illness that is harder to get rid of.
- Caregivers are more likely to be obese. This combined with stress may be why caregivers are at increased risk for heart disease.
The mark of an excellent caregiver is the same trait that is so dangerous for them. They are more likely to ignore their own needs – mental, physical, and financial – to care for another person. This selfless giving should be rewarded year ‘round, but the holidays are a good reminder to put our amazing caregivers first. Here are eight great gift ideas for chronic pain caregivers.
1. Time off
If you can, arrange for a paid day or two off for your caregiver, even if your caregiver is an normally unpaid family member. Caregiving is often a 24/7 job. Respite care gives caregivers some time to catch their breath and take a break.
2. The gift of relaxation
Send your caregiver to a day spa for a massage, a mani/pedi, a facial, or all three. Many caregivers do not practice self-care, and this can get them started. If money is an issue (and spa services can be pricey), put together a relaxation kit that includes bath salts, lotion, a lavender candle, an eye mask, and a favorite book or magazine. Pair this with an afternoon off!
3. _______ of the Month clubs
Gift of the Month clubs remind your caregiver how much you appreciate them for the entire year, not just during the holidays. There are tons of clubs to choose from at many different price points. Again, if money is tight, you can make your own gift of the month club by purchasing 12 small gifts and presenting them all at once, wrapped and labelled for each month. Then when the 1st of the month comes around, sit down with a cup of tea and open the gift together.
4. Gift certificates
While this may seem impersonal at first glance, gift certificates for favorite hobbies or activities can be a deeply personal way to acknowledge that you understand the importance of fun in your caregiver’s life. Whether it’s a class pass for their favorite yoga studio, a gift certificate for an hour of horseback riding, or a gift card for an arts and crafts store, tailoring this to your caregiver’s hobbies tells them that you want them to enjoy themselves, too.
Caregivers tend to neglect their own needs and put the needs of their patient first. This includes grabbing food on the go that may be loaded with artificial ingredients, fat, salt, and sugar. Consider making food a gift, but not in the traditional fruit basket or holiday candy sense. If your caregiver does not live with you, consider cooking a week of meals for them for their freezer. This can be done over the course of several days, and meals can be labelled for cooking instructions.
Try gluten free, dairy free freezer meals, or stick with something simple, like this easy recipe for single-pan chicken fajitas: one pound of chicken breasts, cut into strips; two green peppers, cut into strips; one large onion, sliced thin; one cup pineapple juice, and fajita seasoning (use a premade packet from the store, or make your own for a healthier option). Mix all ingredients in a larger Ziploc freezer bag, with the instructions to defrost before baking in a large glass container for 15 minutes at 350⁰. This can be served over rice or with flour tortillas, sour cream, chopped lettuce, and avocado.
6. Make one special dinner
Every chronic pain patient should own a crockpot, a simple kitchen tool that makes cooking fast and easy. Use it to make a special dinner for your caregiver. This is a great idea for pain patients who live with their caregiver. Pick a day when you are feeling strong, then prepare, serve, and clean up from the meal. Don’t talk about pain or prescriptions or doctors: use the meal to focus on your caregiver. Listen and ask questions. This is a priceless gift.
7. Something they want
This is a vague suggestion, but in many cases, caregivers focus only on the things they need. Many caregivers spend their own money on the needs of their patients, often neglecting their own needs and wants. Buy your caregiver a gift that they just want. Something that is frivolous and special to them, something they would never buy for themselves because they think it is unnecessary and they just don’t need it.
This gift can be larger or small, depending on your budget. It requires that you listen to them as they mention something in passing, like a certain candle or a kitchen gadget or article of clothing. Sometimes the best gifts are things that people want but would never buy for themselves because they have other spending priorities. This can be a lovely, thoughtful surprise for your caregiver.
A heartfelt gift needn’t cost anything. Take the time to write a letter to your caregiver, expressing your thanks and appreciation for everything they do. Be specific and tell them how they make your life better. Write from the heart.
Ways to make gift giving easier
If you’re on the giving end of the holiday season you may be dreading the process. Many chronic conditions make shopping difficult and some, like arthritis, can make it challenging to wrap presents or mail holiday cards.
There are other ways to make shopping and wrapping easier. You can use Amazon.com to order all your gifts. You can even have them wrapped and sent directly to your recipients. Other tools exist to help like electric sheers to cut wrapping paper without using repetitive motion.
Call in younger kids or nieces and nephews to help with wrapping. Use bags and tissue paper liberally. Make it a fun game for them to stuff and primp the cutest bags.
Gift giving should never be hard. Your loved one just wants to know that you care. Whether you’re on the giving or getting side this year make sure you share the true meaning of the holidays and spread love and joy. Remember, it truly is the thought that counts.
What are your favorite gifts for pain sufferers suggestions?