It is so hard moving your loved ones out of their home to assisted living, nursing homes, or memory care facilities. There is tons of work in the process and just as much guilt. You spend tons of time downsizing their space and getting rid of so much stuff, and yet, when you go to visit, you want to take a little something. The little gifts add up, so here are a few small gift ideas that you might find helpful. Before we dive in though, please keep in mind a few things.
First, it is truly the thought that counts.
Your friends and family in a long-term care facility will love anything you bring, but most of all, they will just love seeing you! Also, keep in mind their generation didn’t have a lot and they grew up for the most part with a scarcity mentality that has carried through much of their life. The gifts need not be over the top, simple and thoughtful will do!
One other thought to share:
Our souls may soften, but don’t change over time. If you have ever read the Five Love Languages, there are five ways that humans receive love and the order of appreciation is different for each person: quality time and communication, physical touch, gifts, acts of service, and words of affirmation. By the way, if you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it.
Here’s the Cliff Note’s version: the way you receive and give are not the same and each person is different, but your ability to meaningfully impact someone is exponentially increased if you are communicating in their “love language.” For example, I like to give gifts, but what you do for me means so much more than anything you can actually “give” me.
There is an assessment at the end of the book that helps you understand your own love language. I can read people fairly well and use this tool with employees, friends, and family. So, I’ll get off my soapbox in a hot minute, but the moral of the story is, that we are who we are. If your grandma would have rather had you wash her windows than give her flowers 20 years ago, then think about what you can do for her today than giving her a gift because I promise you, she is still the same woman.
Gifts that you can “do” for them:
Spend time. First and foremost is simply taking time to see them.
Take nail polish and paint her nails. Such a small gesture but ladies, we all know we feel better when we look better!
Sometimes taking the time to shop for a new rug or new shirt means so much.
Coffee and tea are wonderful sentiments that many people appreciate.
Can you show them some pictures and a video of their grandchildren or great-grandchildren?
Write a letter or send a card. Sometimes finding the time to visit is very difficult and this is a generation that didn’t grow up with email and instantaneous communication. They very much appreciate the sentiment of a good old-fashioned handwritten letter.
Music fills space, creates a welcoming and fun environment, and can resurrect old memories. Even if just for an hour while you’re there if you show up with some nice music and home-baked goods, you’ll be the highlight of their day!
Gifts you can eat:
Favorite food. Do they have a favorite food that may not readily be available or “the same” that you can bring?
Home-baked goods are always a great go-to. Can you replicate one of their favorite recipes?
Nuts sound so silly, but these are considered a delicacy by many and are not readily available in facilities with food allergy precautions. Cashews, almonds, and peanuts are always good choices. Or go all out with peanut m&m’s, my late grandfather’s personal favorite.
Nostalgic candy can be a fun treat. There are some great options out there, some are easier to find than others.
Gifts you can bring to enjoy:
Soap with a nice fragrance in either a bar or pump can be a meaningful reminder of you every day they wash their hands.
The fragrant lotion is much like a fragrant soap and is especially appreciated during the long winter months.
Earrings may not be for everyone, but many older ladies still love them at all ages! Have you been to a craft show lately you can talk about where you got them and other things you might have seen?
Socks sound so cliche, but seriously, most men and women love a new pair or two of soft socks to wrap their feet in cozy comfort.
Inexpensive decor gift ideas for assisted living:
A small artificial floral arrangement for their nightstand or bathroom that represents the current season and looks “fresh” can help brighten their day!
Anything to personalize and make it feel like home - because it is! Think back to when you used to go to their old home, what did it smell like? What was the first thing you saw? What do you remember? Can you recreate “that?”
Air freshener or diffuser. Assisted living centers sometimes have a strange smell; help their room smell good with your favorite scent and lift everyone’s spirit who enters!
A small bouquet of flowers. And, if you can bring these from your own garden, even better! Perhaps depending on the time of year, some lilacs or lilies. The scent of flowers is reminiscent of so many memories.
Pictures of the grandchildren in a frame are always welcome. Perhaps consider at Christmas gifting a wifi picture frame that your family can automatically update with current photos in real-time and enjoy just looking at their shelf or table.
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