Each year, families get together and compose their holiday shopping lists. Some people have a knack for gifting thoughtful items without fail, while others are stumped year after year when it comes to finding something to give to a loved one who is notoriously difficult to buy for. While the holiday season shouldn’t revolve around material things, gifts are a generous tradition that bring many people joy and, at times, a bit of stress.

If you’re struggling with what to buy for a family caregiver or a senior, you’re not alone. These can be difficult individuals to shop for. While they may be different in many ways, caregivers and seniors are similar in that they tend to have limited time and patience to devote to learning novel activities and mastering the use of shiny new gadgets. The desire may very well be there, but busy schedules and limited abilities can make these endeavors difficult at best.

The key to buying any person a gift that they will use and enjoy is understanding what they want and need. Below, we’ll examine some common experiences and desires that caregivers and seniors have and a few gifts that can improve their daily lives.

Gift Ideas for Caregivers

Stress is a constant part of the job description for caregivers. During the holidays, that stress multiplies thanks to events, travel, decorating, cooking and holiday shopping that are added to a caregiver’s already enormous to-do list. This role is overwhelming, regardless of the time of year. Because of this, most caregivers can use, and would very much appreciate, all the support, recognition, respite and encouragement they can receive.

For a caregiver, time away from all these responsibilities or at least some assistance with tackling them is invaluable. The gift ideas below may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they can be easily tweaked and personalized. Just keep in mind that many gifts may require a caregiver to arrange some sort of secondary care for their loved one. For example, if the recipient can’t afford respite care so they can go see a movie, then a gift certificate to the movie theater is likely to go unused. Try to give a complete gift that doesn’t force a caregiver to spend more money or exert more effort in order to enjoy it.

Spa Day

Self-care tends to fall by the wayside for many caregivers, so a gift that is totally self-indulgent is likely to be a hit. Caregivers are often so busy meeting everyone else’s needs that they overlook their own. A day of pampering away from daily duties would be much appreciated. Massages, facials, hair services, manicures and pedicures make perfect gifts. Not only do these services help a caregiver recharge and unwind, but they also help them look and feel like themselves again.

Entertainment Tickets

Sometimes, a little time away to feel like a normal adult is all a caregiver really wants. This could consist of tickets to see a movie, a theater performance, a concert or a sporting event. A gift certificate to a favorite restaurant can serve the same purpose as well. The caregiver could plan to go alone, with a friend, with their spouse or as a family with their spouse and children. Regardless of the details, this time away from being on call and the ability to nurture other relationships is invaluable.

Respite Care

While most caregivers would love to take time off from their responsibilities, even a quick run to the grocery store requires arranging back-up care for their loved ones while they’re out. Finding and affording reliable respite care is usually stressful in and of itself, so many caregivers tend to just go without it. Filling this gap is a priceless gift. You can offer to stay with the elderly person so the caregiver can have time off to shop with a gift certificate, get a pedicure or enjoy those movie tickets with a friend. Even better, you can create a home-made coupon book with offers to provide transportation, run errands, buy groceries, etc.

If you’re not cut out to be a caregiver or you live far away, you can still give respite as a gift. Contributing funds for in-home care, adult day care or even a short-term stay in a senior living community are all viable options that can give a caregiver a welcome reprieve while ensuring their loved one is well taken care of.


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House Cleaning Service

With so many tasks to complete, household chores can easily get pushed to the back burner. After caring for a loved one all day, few people are eager to break out the vacuum cleaner or start a bunch of laundry. A gift certificate for a house cleaning service is a welcome indulgence. Not only will this lighten up a caregiver’s to-do list, but it will also make their home feel like a nurturing, safe space rather than yet another source of stress and responsibilities.

Book or Movie Subscriptions

For times when they can’t get away, a book club or movie subscription service gives the caregiver easy access to entertainment while still being with their loved one. This is an excellent idea for those who spend lots of time waiting at doctor’s appointments or sitting in the hospital. Book of the Month is a popular subscription for avid readers who are interested in new titles, while subscriptions like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and many others are convenient for TV and movie buffs. Subscriptions are even available for eBooks, audio books, and digital magazines and newspapers.

Gift Ideas for the Elderly

Seniors can be difficult to buy for because they may have limited abilities and are often set in their ways. Thoughtful gifts that can help an aging loved one reminisce are likely to be a big hit, especially for individuals with cognitive impairment.

Life on Record

This gift allows family members and friends to record memories, stories, songs and messages that the recipient can play back again and again. These recordings can be downloaded and played on a phone, tablet or computer, and there is also the option to purchase a portable speaker that stores and plays back the recorded messages. Family members and friends can call a toll-free number to record their greetings, submit prerecorded messages via email or upload their recordings directly to the Life on Record website. This is a great gift for families who are separated by distance.

Memory Kits

From memory games and crossword puzzles to computer software and activity books, there are countless products and pastimes available for seniors. These fun activities help them remain engaged and are an excellent way of exercising and protecting their memory.

Scrapbooks and Photo Albums

Everyone enjoys reminiscing about life’s happy moments, and, for the elderly, the past is often more revered than the present. A scrapbook or a photo album that depicts treasured memories is a one-of-a-kind gift. If crafting or DIY projects aren’t your forte, there are plenty of applications and websites that allow consumers to upload their own pictures, write in captions and choose layouts to create professional quality photo books. Stores like Costco, CVS and Walmart also offer these services at their photo centers.

Vintage Movies and Music

Nothing sparks nostalgia like old movies and music. Classic film titles like Singin’ In the Rain, Casablanca, Baby Face, Gone with the Wind and The Ten Commandments, and vintage music artists like Benny Goodman, Billy Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald are often favorites of older individuals. In fact, members of the Caregiver Forum consistently recommend giving recordings of the Lawrence Welk Show to seniors as gifts. Watching or listening to favorite shows and music from back in the day can trigger memories of people, places and events that are sure to make your loved one smile.

Senior Exercise Regimen

Even seniors with limited mobility and chronic conditions can benefit from moderate exercise. There are several upper body fitness, flexibility, range of motion, balance, core strengthening and deep breathing techniques that have been proven to improve senior health. If an aging loved one is interested in improving their physical and mental health through exercise, look for DVDs, books, memberships and classes that can help them get started. A new workout outfit, pair of walking shoes or set of resistance bands would be great accessories to add onto this gift. Just be realistic about your loved one’s abilities and stamina when shopping for items to enhance their exercise regimen.

Browse: Recommended exercise & fitness products for seniors »

Hearing and Vision Gifts

As eyesight deteriorates and hearing wanes with age, products that help seniors compensate for these losses can be increasingly helpful when it comes to performing daily tasks. Besides glasses and hearing aids, there are plenty of more affordable gifts that can help an aging loved one see and hear more clearly. Consider a magnifying glass, books with enlarged type, or telephones, remote controls and clocks with large digits for someone who struggles with low vision. For those who are hard of hearing, consider a personal sound amplifier that enables a senior to hear better during conversations and while watching TV.

Browse: Recommended vision & hearing products for seniors »

For more gift ideas and inspiration to help you complete your holiday shopping, check out this list of common caregiver picks for seniors.