Buying a present for somebody should be fun and easy, and it can be, but when you are buying for someone who is ill or disabled, it can get much more difficult. Especially if the person you are buying for is bed or house bound. Suddenly there are more restrictions, there are things they can and can't do and you might not even realise it.
Ill people are very good at glossing over what life is really like, pretending that they're as normal as possible. Trust me I know! I've had ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for twenty years, I was bed bound for six of those and I never really told people how bad things were at the time. Honestly it felt embarrassing to say that I was so ill I couldn't even unwrap my own presents. Or that I was too poorly to listen to music, read or watch television - I mean seriously who can't do that?! So I pretended I was fine and then got frustrated and upset when people bought me presents that I couldn't use.
I knew that they were being given to me because somebody cared and that meant a lot but at times it also reinforced how different my life was to everyone else's and that was horribly painful.
That's why it can be so difficult to buy for people who are ill or disabled but these are my top tips -
My Do's and Don'ts of Buying Presents for People who are ill...
So let's get down to the nitty gritty. These are my top list of don'ts. Avoid these and you'll avoid a lot of the pitfalls I experienced with presents and you'll be one step closer to buying a gift your loved one will... well simply love!
The Don'ts of Present Buying
1. Don't Buy Them Something They Have to Go To - Unless you know 100% they're okay going out, that they are not house or bed bound, do not get them something they have to go to. That can mean gift vouchers that you only use in store, experience days that are outside of their home.
2. Scented Products - Some smellies of bath products can seem like an easy option but check if the person has any sensitivities to smells or chemicals. It's not something that comes up in conversation often but a lot of conditions, especially ones that involve nausea or sickness mean that the person you are buying for can be highly sensitive to smell. What smells gorgeous to you can make them want to puke - not what you want from your present!
3. Edible Gifts - Make sure the person doesn't have any allergies or intolerances. Nothing worse than receiving a box of chocolates when you can't eat hazelnuts or a lovely cake when wheat makes you sick. Nobody wants their present to leave someone in the toilet or worse the hospital!
4. Things to Remind Them of Being Well - Photo gifts are really popular but when your life has been turned upside down, the last thing you want is a reminder of how you used to be. So photo canvases of past holidays, parties and adventures is a definite no-no! Positivity is fine, however being forced to remember what you've lost is not going to make you feel better any faster.
5. Anything With a Short Use By Date - A voucher that expires in a month, an outing that has to be taken on certain days, food that has to be eaten within a few weeks. Okay so all of those go against my top Four Don'ts - but what I'm saying is that illness does not run to a schedule, you can't predict how you're going to be on a certain day, so having a gift that has flexibility and a long (if not indefinite) time period you can enjoy it over, means that the person won't see it go to waste.
Don't get scared - I know that's a lot of Don'ts but now I'm going to tell you the Do's of present buying so you can dazzle them with the best gift ever...
The Do's of Present Buying
1. Do Ask What They Want - This seems obvious I know and it does take the surprise out of the present but the person you are buying for really is the expert in what they can and can't do, and what they do and don't want. You don't have to ruin the surprise completely, you can ask about it in a round about way, something like....
"I've got a friend who's ill and I wanted to buy them a present. What sort of thing do you think I should get?"
Or to get an idea of roughly what they like you can ask...
"What's the best present you've had recently? And what was the worst?" You might get some hilarious stories through this one.
2. Do Some Social Media Stalking. Okay not in the scary, harassment way but if your loved one has a Facebook page go and have a browse, check out what they've been liking and sharing. It should give you a good idea as to what they want. They may even have an Amazon Wish List which is even better because you know they want what's on it.
3. Gift Vouchers - These are the easiest, true they aren't original but at least the person you are buying for can get exactly what they want. I actually enjoyed the independence of buying what I wanted, it felt liberating when I relied on others so much for everything. It also means you avoid duplicating any DVDs, books etc that they might already have.
The only proviso is make sure they can be spent online (from their home) so there are no wasted gift cards.
And if you're buying for someone in another country, check the vouchers can be spent in their country, or buy directly from the website in their country. For example if you're in America and they're in England, go to the UK Amazon store to buy their voucher.
4. Give Them Something to Look At - if they're ill and have low energy, then having something they can enjoy without having to do anything can be a great idea - think beautiful picture (not photos of the past - see Don't #4), sun catcher, mobile, crystals, glow in the dark shapes - anything that brings a change of scenery to their room, because if they're spending a lot of time there, then they will be getting bored of the same four walls.
5. Give Them Something They Can Do - I'm all about adapting things so that you can do them from your sofa or bed, so that you don't miss out on life. Being ill doesn't mean you can't have fun. Just check out all the virtual experiences I do and how I share them with others... If you're at home, you don't just have to lie in bed being bored. There's lots you can do - think craft kits, all in one baking sets, jigsaws.
There's everything from Swimming with Dolphins, to going to a Hawaiian Luau or even having a Pirate Adventure, all without leaving home. Check out all the Live in Love in Laugh in experiences here....
The perfect gift is something that they can keep coming back to, enjoying over and over again.
Now you know where to start and with this guide you will find them the perfect gift that will bring a smile to their face and lighten their day. You get to share in their joy, knowing you were the one to make it happen.
Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition and author of The Choice. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn't do what she wanted. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she's deeply familiar with.