If you are shopping for a loved one with a chronic illness, long-term illness, or disability, you may feel unsure of their needs, wants and special daily circumstances. Most of these gifts are either for comfort or meant to inspire, yet are still appropriate for someone who is mostly confined to their home or uses a walking aid, if applicable. Here are several gift ideas along with advice to help you shop (from someone who has personal experience with chronic illness, and great friends and family.) *Starred shops are run by disabled sellers who work extra-hard to support themselves.
Internet Subscriptions allow your chronic friend to watch movies and television any time instantly from anywhere. Especially on those bad days when doing nothing but resting is the best and only option, distraction therapy like settling in to great movies and television is a wonderful gift they will certainly thank you for. Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu Plus are the most popular video streaming subscriptions and all cost about $100 per year. The Amazon Prime subscription also allows someone with a Kindle device access to a wide variety of ebooks, audio books, and music, alongside streaming video.
To relax those sore muscles, give your loved one the gift of luxury bath salts. There is a variety to choose from online and in stores from very inexpensive to extremely high end. This Etsy shop, JamilhaAromatherapy mixes small batches of unique scented therapeutic bath salts like this one for $20.95. Research shows that Epsom salt baths detoxify the body, help re-hydrate muscles, help relieve sore muscles, aches, cramps, and spasms. Salt baths can also be helpful for headaches and migraine pain as long as the product isn’t overly scented. [Keep in mind that not everyone with a disability is able to soak in a bathtub.]
This faux fur heating pad by Sunbeam sits around the neck and shoulders delivering 4 settings of pain-soothing heat. It is subtly weighted so you can move around or sleep easily without the heating pad slipping off. I personally have both the gray fox and the brown and black leopard print and adore them- especially during the colder months. There aren’t many fashion- friendly items made strictly for easing pain and this item checks both boxes. The soft fur is very comforting, and people will only comment on the beautiful soft fur, not an obvious heating pad. Even though it is made to fit securely around the neck and shoulders, I use mine wherever I need heat. Currently, on Amazon; both prints are $39.98. Find other attractive heating pads and heating blankets here on Smile.Amazon.com (Amazon Smile donates a portion of your purchase to a charity of your choosing: RSDSA for instance).
If you have a loved one who appreciates laughing in the face of his or her ailment, this note card stationary set will certainly be the best medicine this holiday! Artist, Eliza Stein depicts medication growing from plants in the style of vintage botanical illustrations. Featured here is a set of blank stationary for $16. Whether your loved one enjoys mailing notes to his/her friends or would prefer hanging these up on their wall to admire, these note cards will suit their quirky sensibility. Personally, I enjoy sending snail mail to friends and I’m always on the lookout for unique stationary. I’m just in love with this tongue and cheek medication art, aren’t you?
Art Lessons: The year after I was diagnosed with chronic pain in my leg, my hands began cramping so badly I had trouble typing at work and using a pen to write or draw. For Christmas, my mother gifted me knitting lessons. It was a fun private lesson with my mom, my sister and I, and at 23, I knew how to knit! Even better, it helped my hand cramping and dexterity issues as I continued working at it over time, and the craft gave me another distraction from my pain. Over the years, I’ve learned I am far from alone in my chronic crafting, as people with long term illness tend to utilize the arts as a top-tier coping mechanism. This holiday, consider giving your loved one lessons for jewelry-making, scrap booking, quilting, music lessons, or photography classes. Encouraging them to get in touch with their inner artist could change their lives. If they are homebound, instead consider an art set for them to try at their own pace. (If you are a disabled artist or crafter, visit our Facebook art share group: Chronically Inspired.)
Walking Aid Accessories: If the individual you are buying for uses a wheelchair, electric scooter, crutches, cane or walker on a regular basis, keep these things in mind as you shop. Unless you find something fantastic that you think will improve their walking aid experience greatly (like this sweet hands-free umbrella shown above), try not to focus only on buying items revolved around their walking aid. While a funny personalized license plate for their scooter would be a cute and thoughtful addition to any gift (ie. “Hotwheels”), some might feel their disability has overshadowed who they are as a person. That said, there are so many interesting accessories for the disabled shopper today. Stocking stuffers are a perfect place to add handy ergonomic gadgets to help in the kitchen, car, toolshed or at work, like these linked in this Forbes.com article. As long as you include those personal touches, they will know you still see them as they always have been.
Loungewear: I know what you’re thinking, “I’m so lucky to live in a time in which adult unicorn onesies exist.” Almost every animal, mythical creature or superhero is available on Ebay as adult one-piece pajamas. These are super cute and remind me of the classical literary quote, “Life is getting too complicated, time to be a unicorn.” Since I wear pajamas all the time, I usually like clothing items that are very comfortable and can also pass for casual wear. Instead of a robe, I like to wear a long comfy sweater, for instance. Whatever cozy item you find, make sure your friend can wash it easily in the washing machine. For more loungewear ideas and shops, check out my article from last year, Pajama Chic.
Pet Gifts: You might think a pet gift doesn’t count, but our pets are our partners in crime and help take care of us when we don’t feel well (which is all the time). Give your loved one a gift for their pet and watch their eyes twinkle brighter than the Christmas tree! Some suggestions are: a fancy print or sports print dog collar with name, address and phone number embossed like these quiet collars at Pup Panache, this doggie backpack/carrying satchel called The Kurgo Max Pack would be an excellent gift for any helper-dog on the go, or commission a portrait of your friend and his furry bestie by contacting professional portrait artist *Alfredo Dods Macapas.
Monthly Subscriptions and Gift Certificates: Most people with chronic illness have regular “down periods” in which we can struggle to do simple tasks, and even our closest friends won’t know about it. Giving the gift of resources shows you care how much your friend’s life has been affected. Consider a subscription to a house cleaning agency, lawn care service, gift cards to a restaurant that delivers, baby sitting agency, dog walking service, or a gift certificate to a hair salon to use on a day your loved one needs extra help caring for her hair. Some salons will even send a hair dresser out to a person’s home if it is nearby. Pharmacies, grocery stores, and online stores like Amazon are common shopping spots for people with special health needs (or anyone actually). If you’d like to know more about the free things you can do throughout the year, this wonderful article gives insight into how friends can make a big difference during a health challenge.
Awareness Items come in everything from funny coffee mugs to inspiring apparel. Awareness gifts can share hope, sport a ribbon, or include information about your loved one’s condition. Every girl loves receiving jewelry, and if she can feel empowered at the same time, big win! Find unique awareness earrings and necklaces from blogger FindingoutFibro’s new shop, *The Hopeful Spoon for $10 and under (as featured above) with listings of colors and conditions for your shopping convenience. Use special coupon code 10SPOONIE for 10% off any purchase throughout December! To help your friend with her own personal awareness, check out this beautiful journal download that helps anyone with a health challenge keep track of doctor visits, financials, prescriptions, symptoms, etc. from *Marie Pugh Designs. To shop more stores and items by disabled entrepreneurs, read this article by my friend at Lifeinslowmotionblog.com.
While shopping for your loved one, steer clear of:
-I would stay away from giving an herbal supplement or vitamin on a gift-giving occasion (unless it’s a stocking stuffer and you aren’t spending much money on it). Likely, your friend already has a daily medication and supplements program approved by his/her doctor.
-Books aimed at healing or promising wellness are a no-no, especially if you are not also chronically ill or disabled yourself.
-When buying shoes or slippers as gifts, be aware that many people with chronic health conditions have “picky” feet. If you do find shoes you believe they will love, do them a favor, pay cash and keep the receipt in case they indeed need to return them.
-Personalize. Just like mom doesn’t always want the spatula and the vacuum she needs as Christmas gifts, we also look forward to receiving both useful and fun items- like everyone.
Be assured, if you are shopping to make your loved one’s life easier, more comfortable, or more enjoyable, they will recognize your compassion above all. We should all be so lucky as to have a friend as considerate and caring as you. Happy Holidays!
Check out my other 2 gift guides for Chronic Pain as well as for Dysautonomia, POTS and CFS. I got a little “wrapped up” with Spoonie gift ideas this year! What are your favorite “chronic” gifts that you’ve either received or given?
A couple months back, an old friend posted a message on Facebook asking which 5 friends of his would participate in a Pay it Forward Initiative for 2014. “I WILL!!!” I said (probably adding a smiley face- ok, more like 3 smiley faces). I agreed to send some type of small gift or mail to surprise 5 different people during the remainder of the year (besides birthdays or holidays). This post is not to brag about doing something nice. So many other people participated in this effort throughout the year…it’s not about me. But I want to share my part and what I learned from the Pay it Forward Initiative to hopefully inspire others to do something similar.
A while back, Charity Elise, the artist of the first featured piece above sent me her most popular image after we conversed online. I had fallen in love with her art posters long ago and was excited to finally find her shop! In my mind, she sort of kicked off PI.F. for me by doing something so kind and generous. I imagine you have seen her work before on social media or Pinterest. This particular image and quote is extremely popular, especially in the chronic illness community. It’s not surprising people who are not feeling well are so drawn to such a vibrant image with an encouraging quote to match. Her beautiful Voltaire quote piece is hanging on my wall beside my bed and I am inspired by both her artwork and her kindness daily.
When I signed up for P.I.F. a few months later, my Voltaire print from Charity Elise called out to me (Send me! Send me!). When a fresh print arrived to my new acquaintance, she was being hospitalized after an emergency health scare. She said the artwork from a new friend helped to brighten up a dark time. When people have chronic illness, we are sick every day and might be in the hospital frequently. We don’t get flowers or cards that say “get well soon.” So getting something from a friend now and then that says, “I still care you are sick“ can mean the world.
These adorable spoon earrings went to my “Spoonie” friend who collects jewelry. Aren’t they soooooper cute?! Something else lovely happened with this purchase I just HAVE to share. Heidi, the creator of the Hammered Spoons shop was so inspired by the Pay it Forward Initiative, she refunded my payment and sent them herself! Amazing, right?! Heidi is a chronic illness survivor as well, and supports awareness causes through her hammered spoon sales. Like one giant hug of goodness going on!
My good friend and I were talking a while back about how her favorite face cream had been discontinued after using it for 30+ years. She hasn’t found anything else she isn’t sensitive to in the years since having to stop using it. I did a little digging and learned that her favorite product is actually still being sold; so, I was very excited to surprise her with a tube of her long-time face product! Reunited and it feels so good!
I read Still Me by Christopher Reeve about 10 years ago when I was first diagnosed. I remember listening to it on audio in my car with tears streaming down my face, but his amazing story empowered me to persevere. I still think about that book often and how much Reeve’s story has impacted me and so many others. A family member has recently been diagnosed with Arthritis, so I sent her this book. I pray she finds the same comfort and encouragement that I have found in his powerful words.
Lastly, I made something special for my Facebook friend who is going back to school. I covered a notebook with a magazine clippings collage. While I was doing this craft, the past month has been increasingly difficult for my friend. I wish I lived closer so I could give her a big hug, but this little creation will be my hug to her. I hope every day she is at school, she will keep it with her and know how proud I am that she is pursuing her degree despite all of the challenges in her life.
Pay it Forward is not like a chain letter. I’m not supposed to be GETTING 5 gifts in return. However, since signing up for P.I.F., I’ve been receiving sweet little things in the mail from different friends of mine. One was a beautiful, unexpected painting my friends created. It’s so bright and colorful- I love that it reminds me of our long-time friendship. Another friend sent wonderful handmade stationary she put so much effort into making.
I have received more in my spirit through the giving process than I can put into words here. The biggest surprise with P.I.F. was that each of the people I sent something to truly needed a pick-me-up and each felt the timing of the gift was perfect. Sending something out of the blue to a friend or acquaintance… just a post card or a little unexpected “I’m thinking of you” snail mail can interrupt someone’s day with kindness and light like you wouldn’t believe.
Hey you…Yes YOU!!! I would like to challenge YOU reading this to Pay it Forward to 5 people in 2015. I would love to hear how you sprinkled kindness over your world in the coming year. I hope you see blessings in abundance rain down on YOUR own life in 2015. Peace.