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Finding the perfect present

Gabrielle DevenishPost Independent Staff

One of the greatest joys of the holiday season is getting the perfect gift for someone. To see the excitement unfold as a loved one tears open a brightly-wrapped package, and to watch the person’s eyes light up when the item inside exactly matches the recipient’s needs or wishes – it’s priceless. But some people are harder to shop for than others. Buying gifts for senior citizens can be especially challenging.What do you get a person who has lived through dozens of fads and trends, who has been through depressions and prosperous times, and who has watched their children become parents? Plus, some senior citizens have special needs. Many are on fixed incomes, some are struggling with disabilities and some have special dietary restrictions. Others may be homebound or in nursing homes. The standard tie, bottle of perfume or box of candy doesn’t seem appropriate in these cases.Well, for starters, nothing’s better than the gift of time.”One thing that is always appreciated is a visit (and) some time,” said Karalue Anderson, a caregiver at Crossroads at Rifle Assisted Living. “Or if (the senior is) in good enough health, to go visit family.”Anderson, who has worked at the assisted living facility for four years, says many senior citizens, regardless of whether they’re in nursing homes or not, don’t get out much. Going on outings can always be fun for older people. Some good ideas would be taking them to lunch or afternoon tea, taking the ladies to get their hair done or taking the men to a sports bar to watch a football game with the guys. Gifts that show the giver put in time and thought are the most appreciated, especially for older people, who are not materialistic. Leah Ingram, author of “You Shouldn’t Have: How to Give Gifts They’ll Never Forget,” writes than you can almost always come up with a winner when you think about what the recipient does in his or her free time. If that special person loves to read, but may have some loss of vision, large print books or books on tape can allow them to enjoy their favorite author comfortably. A subscription to a large print magazine, such as Reader’s Digest, a magnifying glass or a reading lamp are also helpful for older readers.Amanda Hackbarth, a CNA at Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale, pointed out that older people get cold easily. Anything that would help keep them warm would be a great gift, she said.”Blankets are always a good idea, or socks,” Hackbarth said. “The elderly are always cold.”Anderson also suggested gifts to keep seniors warm. She added that sweaters, sweatshirts and flannel shirts are good gifts, as well as slippers, slipper socks and bathrobes.When giving clothes, however, Anderson cautioned that you must keep the person’s habits in mind. She said that fancy clothes aren’t a good idea because many senior citizens don’t have access to dry cleaning, especially those in assisted living facilities. Plus, a beaded blouse or a silk vest might not be worn as much as a pretty velour sweat suit or a warm cardigan.Giving food items or baskets to the elderly can be tricky, as some do have special dietary needs. But as long as you find out what the person can and can’t have, goodies can also be successful gifts. Most people can have fruit, so nice fruit baskets are always good. Anderson mentioned that many older people love sweets, but if the person is diabetic, make sure to get sugar-free candy. Russell Stovers and other brands of fancy chocolates are now widely available in sugar-free varieties.For elderly individuals on fixed incomes and for those who are homebound, consider giving nonperishable food items. A special gift of jam, fancy tea, instant hot cereal, gourmet crackers and canned or dried fruit could be a luxury for them.Hackbarth said that seniors also like things that remind them of family and friends. Framed photographs or gifts made by hand, such as hand-painted mugs or homemade decorations, help a person feel the care of a loved one between visits. Sometimes even just a card is saved for this purpose.”A lot of times, just a Christmas card, for those who don’t have a lot of family or get many visits, can brighten someone’s day,” Hackbarth said.Gadgets and items that make life easier for seniors make good gifts. Talking watches or clocks are good for the vision-impaired. Many elderly people have trouble gripping a bar of soap, Anderson said, so unperfumed shower gel is a great idea. She also mentioned bags that attach to walkers and wheelchairs – “they make some really nice ones, fancy ones too,” she said.Still having trouble finding the perfect gift? Not to worry. Hackbarth says that caregivers at Heritage Park always make sure residents get appropriate gifts.”If they get something that’s not appropriate, we’ll switch it out for something else, so they still get a gift,” she said.And remember, the gift of time is one of the best gifts of all.”Company is just a needed thing … just a friend to have a meal with or sit and talk with,” Anderson said. “Everyone loves a visit.”


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