When fishing for ideas of what to get your loved one for Christmas, does any of this sound familiar?
“Oh, don’t get me anything,” or “I really don’t need anything, I’ve got everything I could ever want!”
How about, “Spend your money on your family, I’m okay.”?
These were all things we heard from Betsy’s mother as she grew into a very advanced age. Each year Betsy struggled to find just the right gift for her mother, something she would be able to use and enjoy throughout the year. You see, my mother-in-law was rarely one to enjoy something that would be put on a shelf and looked at. Always a pragmatic woman, she saw little value in trinkets and the like. But give her something that she could use and enjoy, and you won her heart!
One year, Betsy had each of our daughters make both of their grandmothers fleece lap blankets. She bought two large pieces of the fabric for each of our mothers. One piece was solid, and the other was patterned in a complimentary color array. The girls cut fringes on each edge and then knotted the two pieces together all around. That gift was treasured by our mothers for as long as they lived, and now each daughter has a blanket that belonged to one of their grandmothers.
Remember, Christmas is about more than presents, or candy and sweets, or parties. There are lots of things you can do as a family caregiver to create new Christmas memories for your love one that are unique and greatly appreciated! Whether your gift comes in a box or as an experience, keep in mind your loved one’s abilities and preferences. Betsy’s mother probably wouldn’t have enjoyed a cooking class, and mine would have been game for almost anything! But the best gifts come from the heart, and Betsy and I have ideas for what to get your aging loved one that they would never consider asking for! Consider these:
- Host a virtual caroling party with family members or your mom’s friends. While you can’t safely all sit around the living room and rattle the rafters with some favorite tunes, you can use available technology to gather virtually. Use Zoom to see everyone and all feel like you are together, even when you aren’t. Tell stories about caroling years before and see what funny tales emerge.
- Let the grandkids bake Christmas cookies to bring over and leave on the porch. Let Grandma or Grandpa be the taste testers, and talk through the storm door, or even sing Christmas songs through the window together. The little ones could even put on a Christmas play in the yard if the weather permits.
- Have a decorating party. Arthritic joints and balance problems make decorating difficult for many seniors, and it doesn’t really feel much like Christmas without the trimmings. This year it’s been especially difficult to feel joyful coming into the holidays, but both you and those you care for will feel more cheerful when you pull out seasonal decorations and talk about family traditions as you dress the house up a little for the holidays.
- Take a drive and see the lights. This used to be one of our favorite holiday traditions when I was young, and when seniors don’t see as well at night, driving may be reduced, restricted, or abandoned. Drive through some well-decorated neighborhoods; the “oooh’s” and “aaah’s” will definitely be worth it, and social distancing isn’t even a concern!
- Write Christmas cards together or help your loved one address theirs for an afternoon. Talk about the people these cards will go to and catch up on little details as you do.
Betsy and I hope you’ll share your heart about thoughts on new perspectives for giving meaningful gifts to aging loved ones this year and in the years ahead.