It’s near impossible to avoid news of Ebola these days. The terrible disease has ravaged thousands and continues to spread. Most heartbreaking are the deaths of healthcare workers—people who willingly put themselves on the front lines of the crisis in an effort to help others, only to succumb to it. (For a powerful article on Ebola, check out the New Yorker.)
Few of us have firsthand experience with Ebola, but most of us have felt the same sense of helplessness when a loved one is sick. Whether it’s an emergency surgery; chronic disease; or even an extended bout of the flu; it can be really hard to know what’s needed and how we can help support the person.
Gifts for a sick loved one can be tricky, especially since we may not understand their condition, their needs or what is and isn’t okay. Yet, we are desperate to make the person smile and alleviate their pain and suffering, if only for a brief while. I believe that a well-chosen gift has the power to say, “I see you. I love you. I’m glad you’re in my life.” And I believe someone who is sick needs to be reminded of that sentiment more than ever.
If your loved one is sick, by all means let them know they are in your thoughts! A text, a phone call or even a note can really brighten someone’s day. Here are some gift ideas that might come in handy:
- Flu-this common ailment can leave you feeling like you’ve just been run over by a truck. Aside from giving the person lots of TLC, gifts to help the person feel more comfortable are appreciated. Homemade chicken noodle soup can work wonders, as can a humidifier or even boxes of tissues. If you’re interested in understanding the flu forecast in your area, Kleenex can help.
- Illness requiring a hospital stay-no one likes being stuck in a hospital, so gifts to help your loved feel more at home can really make a difference. Whether it’s a soft blanket or a cozy pair of socks, gifts to make the person more physically comfortable can help. To help the person pass the time, gifts of magazines, books and movies can help to entertain. Traditional gifts like floral arrangements and gift baskets are also a nice idea, but be sure to understand the person’s the condition first. Remember, when the person is stuck in a hospital bed, even something as simple as stickies and pens to jot down things the doctor says can come in handy. You could even get the person a bottle of nail polish in a happy color or even arrange for a visit from a manicurist. After all, who doesn't like pretty nails?
- Children with serious illness-a co-worker whose son had a serious illness once told me, “Sick children are still children.” He shared that gifts that made his child feel “normal” were the most appreciated, including a Batman cape that his son wore to all his treatments (this was before the era of Make a Wish's Batboy). Gifts to entertain the child from books to puzzles to a deck of cards can really make a difference. As most kids are well-versed in technology, find out their device of choice and gift accordingly. For instance, the latest Pokemon game for a child with a DS or even an iTunes gift card so the child can download a desired game.
- Parents of sick children-These unsung heroes are forced into a crash course about their child’s illness and treatment options; required to be a cheerleader; and in their free moments, tend to whatever bodily fluid/wound/boo boo needs attention. When a friend’s son was headed into the hospital for an extended period of time, I gave her three gifts: one to make her smile (a humor book), one to keep her hands busy (an origami kit) and one to know that her friends were always there to support her (a lovely ring). Another friend shared that she was tremendously grateful for people who sent meals or even gift cards for gas because the financial burden was so overwhelming.
- Mental Health Issues-people with mental health issues may look “normal,” but often times nothing could be further from the truth. If you know someone with a mental health issue, take a moment to brighten their day with a small gift or even a card. One of my friends suffers from a variety of brain injuries and when I see something that might make her smile, I pop it in the mail. One of the recent gifts I sent her was the Buddha board; another time it was bendy figurines.
- Chemotherapy-Chemo can be a long, long road. Any gift, big or small, to help ease the discomfort would be tremendously thoughtful. From straws to lotions to restaurant gift cards, check out some great gift ideas at My Angry Cancer. This courageous cancer survivor shares insider information on what really makes a difference.
- Terminal Illness-if the person is dying, there are few material things they need. Beyond spending time together, sentimental gifts such as photos are a lovely gesture that can help the person appreciate the legacy they are leaving behind. Additionally, helping the person enjoy some of their favorite things—whether a collection of poems, some favorite music or even a small bouquet of their favorite flowers—right up until the end can be very soothing.
Being sick is no fun. A gift is a thoughtful way to let your loved one know they are in your thoughts and might even help them feel a little bit better. And for those whose lives may be touched by Ebola, directly or indirectly, may there be a cure tomorrow!