By Cathy Wagner RN, BSM

Home Services Liaison

Deaconess Home Services

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Shopping for the elders in our families can be a challenge.  It’s easy for some of our loved ones, then there are those who are not so easy.  You know who they are: grandma who has lived in the same house for 45 years and not purchased anything new since 1976; grandpa who only wants you to spend money on yourself; and your favorite aunt who keeps those pajamas you bought her “for good” in case she needs them when she goes to the hospital.  So what are some ideas for our family members this holiday season? 

For some, just spending time with them is the best gift of all. We get so busy “doing” for our loved ones that we forget we need to slow down and just talk with them.

While you’re talking with your grandma, compile a cookbook of her recipes (if you can figure out what a “pinch of this” and a “dab of that” equals!). This would be a nice gift for her and the whole family.

Where does she get her hair done? A gift card to her beautician with a gift basket of items from the beauty shop is one idea. If she sews, there are several new items on the market for arthritic hands and decreased vision, including self-threading needles and gloves with no fingers to help ease joint pain when sewing, knitting or crocheting. Quilt shops and sewing stores also carry a cutting resistance glove which can aid in using a rotary cutter, appropriately named the “Klutz Glove.”

The gentlemen in our families may be a little more challenging.  While talking with grandpa, write down his stories/memories and make a living history book.  Someday it will be a prized possession.

The Evansville Association for the Blind, located at 500 North 2nd Avenue, has several items that can be ordered to help family members with low vision. Another idea is to give a magazine subscription pertaining to a hobby or interest … this is a gift that gives all year long.

When selecting clothing, keep in mind to avoid small buttons, tight fitting clothes, and zippers that are hard to pull. Remember that pull-over-the-head type tops or jackets are more difficult to put on than zip-up or button-down styles.

I often hear of seniors complaining of back pain due to arthritis. How old is their mattress? A new mattress may not be a fancy gift, but sometimes necessity outweighs fancy.

Don’t be afraid to ask the store clerks for help. Check at medical supply stores for unique items; the staff there works with assistive devices every day. Ask specifically for items that pertain to your family members’ needs, such as arthritic hands or decreased vision.  Going to a specialty store may cost a little more, but if the gift is used instead of sitting in a drawer, it is money well spent.

Cathy Wagner is a member of the planning committee for the Mid-America Institute on Aging, co-sponsored by the University of Southern Indiana and SWIRCA & More. More information is at