If you plan to give gifts to a bedridden friend, it is essential that you get to know that person well. I have a brother-in-law who is constantly wondering what to do with inappropriate gifts that clutter his already too small bedroom; gifts that were chosen with no thought to what might interest him, or that are totally impossible for him, as a quadriplegic to use.
In many cases, it is better to ask the bed-ridden person up-front if he could use a particular item, or, if you spring it on him as a surprise, give it with the stipulation that he should pass it on anytime he finds someone else who can benefit from it.
Here are a few suggestions you might want to try.
1. If the gift is for Christmas, buy a tiny Christmas tree and decorate it with the recipient in mind. If he likes airplanes, hang tiny paper airplanes from the boughs; if he likes to eat, hang individual cookies and candies; if he has a large family, make tiny little frames to show off each member of his family as individual ornaments.
2. Ask your friend what videos he might like to see and box up a few as your next gift to him. Most invalids have TV’s and video players in their rooms these days. If your friend does not, that might be a good gift for you and another friend to join together to present to him.
3. Find out if there is a person your friend would especially like to see. Then contact that person and arrange a short visit. You may have to send them a bus ticket, or go to get them yourself, but do your best to see if you can make that visit happen.
4. Talk to your friend about trying something new. Maybe making jewelry would spark an interest, or tooling leather, or collecting stamps. If one of these hobbies sounds good to your friend, gather the items he will need to give his new hobby a try and bring them around the next time a gift-giving occasion arises. Actually, you could do it today. Nobody ever said that you had to wait for a special occasion to give a gift, did they?
5. Does your bedridden friend like to play board games? Introduce him to a new one the next time you drop by. If he still prefers Scrabble, (even though you hate it with a passion) give him the gift of your time and play it anyway.
6. Can your bedridden friend write letters? If he can, and wants to, get him a nice new address book and help him copy and update all his contacts from the old one. Buy some notepaper that fits his personality and a roll of stamps. If he can no longer write, offer your services as a secretary for a couple of hours now and then to help him feel like he is still a part of the bigger world out there.
7. Is your bedridden friend computer literate? You can open up his life to all kinds of new possibilities if he learns how to get online. Find him a Yahoo group dealing with some special interest of his and let him communicate with other members. It won’t matter a bit to them that he is bedridden-in fact, they don’t even need to know unless he chooses to tell them. This will do wonders to build his self-esteem and make him feel like a whole person again.
8. If you have known your bedridden friend for a long period of time, you probably know where his favorite hamburger, hot dog, hot fudge sundae, etc. are located. Give him a call some morning and ask how he would like a present for lunch – -a hot fudge sundae with cherries and nuts, just the way he likes it? Then buy two of them and hurry on over to his house before they melt. While you eat them, you can spend a little time reminiscing about how many times you ate this exact same sundae when you were in high school.
9. Most people who have caretakers, feel guilty about asking for anything more than the bare necessities. See if you can dig out some of the desires that your friend is suppressing because of guilt. Would he like to just lie there with his eyes closed and hear someone read Treasure Island or White Fang out loud to him? Offer to do it. You may not finish the first day, or the 2nd, or the 50th, but you will be giving him the gift of your time and be showing him that he is important to you. Friendship doesn’t end just because we can’t do exactly the same things we used to do. Real friendship lasts forever.
10. Finally, bring an amusing gift once in a while. Those are the ones he may want to pass on to someone else rather than to clutter up his room, but laughter is even more important to someone confined to a small room than to those who are free to move wherever they desire. Stop by a novelty store and pick up a gag joke, or have one of those fake newspapers printed off that says your friend was just elected president, or chosen to replace the Incredible Hulk, etc. Even a small book of really funny jokes might be a welcome change.
If one of the suggestions above doesn’t quite seem right for your friend, use your imagination and come up with something that WILL be a perfect fit. The important thing is to find something that, first of all, will capture the interest of someone who is bored about 95% of the time. The second thing is to find something that will help him feel like he is still a part of the outside world. And, finally, the last thing is to find something that will show him, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you care enough to really try to match him up with a gift that is more than just a gift. A gift that is uniquely him.