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What's the best gift for dying parent?

46 answers | Last updated: Jul 31, 2014
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Q
A fellow caregiver asked...
What's the best gift for my dying mother? My mother is quite ill and doesn't have long to live, but she's conscious and alert. Her birthday is coming up, and I have no idea what I should give her. She's on a very restricted diet, so she can't eat cake, and she doesn't have much of an appetite anyway. There's no point in giving her jewelry or clothing, and she doesn't have the strength to read, so books are out, and flowers seem too funereal. Help!
 

Answers
Caring.com User - David Solie
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David Solie is an author, educator, speaker, and thought leader in geriatric and intergenerational communication. His book How to Say It to Seniors: Closing...
98% helpful
answered...

If your mother is up to it, you should certainly celebrate her birthday, but that doesn't mean you need to shower her with gifts or goodies.

As you make See also:
It's about presence, not presents
clear, there are very few things your mother needs at this point in her life. There may be small items that will provide comfort and enjoyment: a special pillow, a bottle of moisturizing lotion, a book on tape or CD, or a pretty shawl or bed jacket.

But if there's nothing material that she needs, there are other ways to honor her birthday. Consider putting together an album of family photos that she can keep beside her bed, for example. Encourage your children and other relatives to write poetry and make cards and drawings for your mother, and to call if they live far away. Offer to read to your mother or take her for a drive if she's up to it.

By far the best gift you and your family can give your mother is the priceless gift of your time and your love. Let her know that you love her and are thinking of her on her birthday.
 

More Answers
77% helpful
Judee answered...

David Solie's answer is a good one. I have started building a very informal picture book with old and new photos and adding my own writing to tell my Dad the stories of our experiences, or things he's said or done, that have meant so much to me...or moments he's contributed to from which I learned meaningful life lessons. He has told me that he rereads the book and I am adding to it all the time. It doesn't have to be fancy, just heartfelt. I also encourage him to share his stories of growing up and meaningful experiences in his life. Go to www.storycorps.org (could be .com) and find the link that lets you choose from a list of questions to build a conversation you can have with your Mom about her life/your shared times. Your time, attention and caring are what matters to her - knowing she has contributed positively - and HOW she has contributed positvely - to your life will give her joy.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Your mother might enjoy a version of the gift my sister gave our mother one time: a special container (such as a beautiful ceramic bowl) filled with slips of paper. Each paper contained a loving message, like "Thank you for all those chocolate chip cookies when I was a kid" or "I love your creativity with music" or whatever fits. Your mother or her caregivers can read a slip or two whenever some comfort is needed.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Finally a question from someone that really cares about their parents instead of a question about how can, I take over my parents assets and their lives. All of the answers given are very good ones but I am sure she would just enjoy having the company of the ones that have meant so much to her life and, a gift that would make her life more comfortable would be in order. Hugs

 

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78% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

I had the same problem with my father recently. So I ordered a floral birthday cake arrangement from an online florist. It looks like a fancy birthday cake but it's made of flowers. HE LOVED IT! It was beautiful, gave him something to light his candle in, smelled lovely and it lasted for more than a week. I used 1800flowers.com , but I think proflowers.com has something similar too.

 

86% helpful
so tired answered...

93 Cards for 93 Years

In July '08 our mother, legally blind, very hard of hearing and confined to bed/wheelchair with many ailments, turned 93. We also were having a difficult time deciding on appropriate gifts. One thing mom does still enjoy is getting mail. My sisters and I started a project we called '93 Cards for 93 Years'. We wrote to all her friends, family, neighbors, church members, doctors and former co-workers and asked them to remember her with a card during her birthday month. The response was tremendous. There were so many kind and creative responses that ranged from handprints from the youngest great grandchildren to photos of her younger days sent by same age friends. It was extremely successful. When we didn't think mom would get 93 cards we asked our own friends to join in. 129 cards were received and enjoyed. We have never seen a gift bring such joy. We tape recorded her responses when she opened each card. Many brought back priceless memories that we now have recorded in her voice.

Hope this idea helps,

PS: We saved the cards and used the same ones this year when she turned 94 and she loved them just as much.

 

69% helpful
joyg answered...

When making photo albums think about small individual ones that are easy for her to hold. Also have people send "talking" cards where they record their own voice. Music ones are fun as well. My husband loves to hear peoples voices on the phone, for ease we put it on speaker phone. I loved many of the ideas above and will use them for Christmas gifts!

 

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Della answered...

My mother in law is in end-stage parkinson's. she doesn't need many physical items. What she wants is her family members to be present with her. have a gathering.

 

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Katie answered...

My friend runs a company that gives you an 800 number that people can call in and record messages, and then the gift recipient can listen whenever he/she wants. You can also download the messages onto a music box or other keepsake so that the person doesn't have to make a phone call to hear them. It's kind of a combination of the phone call answer and the music box answer (and the 94 cards answer, too!) www.VoiceQuilt.com

 

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JoeE71 answered...

I loved these answers! Anything that reminds her of her family is a great thing. Pictures and albums are good.
If she is able use a phone, you can get her a FotoDialer. It is like a combination photo album and speed dial that connects to her phone. It is full of 24 wallet sized photos you put in of family friends, places etc. When she wants to call someone, she finds their photograph and pushes a button next to it and FotoDialer calls them through her existing phone. http://www.PhotoDialing.com or http://www.FotoDialer.com Good luck!

 

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joyg answered...

Check out www.voicequilt.com. I am using that for my husband who is in the process of dying. Friends and realtives from all over the country can call in to a special phone number and leave him a memory message (just like leaving an answering machine message.) I listen to them everyday and very soon they will be on a special CD for him to hear. It has been great fun!

 

86% helpful
johnny answered...

Working as a hospice volunteer, I have found that the best gift (for her and for you) is to just be present with her. I watched as my friend spent the last days of her mom's life, holding hands, reaffirming their love, talking about family history and sometimes just sharing the silence. They found a wonderful intimacy that can had eluded them much of their lives.

 

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psansbury answered...

I gave my cousin a voicequilt CD in the spring. She was 53 and died 3 days later of breast cancer. I sent an email to relatives and friends and office co workers. Her husband played it for her twice. He said she recognized all the voices. It was a great gift. The company is wonderful. Very helpful and even helped me edit some of the responses..We also gave her father one for his 90th birthday and she recorded a message for him the week before she passed and now we have her voice and her singing Happy Birthday to him recorded forever..One of the best gifts I have ever given...

 

83% helpful

I made my Mom a scrapbook (12 x 12) fiiled with pictures from her past. She was heathier then, and looked at it often. Now its too heavy to even pick up. If I had it to do again, I'd make it a smaller album and be a lot more picky about the pictures. Maybe one or two on a page --- and less decorationg. I am glad I will have the larger one I made when the time comes --- so I don't regret doing it for her at all.

 

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Deborah Jean answered...

There are two things that I did in this situation. Had a family throw woven from www.wovenembrace.com You can use any picture. It is one way of wrapping family and love around someone.

The other thing I did was to purchase tapes of popular music that I knew had meaning and memories from better times. Used headsets and my dad closed his eyes and went down a wonderful memory lane trip with all his favorite Big Bands.

 

87% helpful
Terilynusa answered...

My father was recently diagnosed with Stage IV Liver Cancer. We took him into the ER thinking he had the flu...not the flu, but liver cancer. We immediately took him into our home and fixed up our guest bedroom for him. He had a birthday coming up and I could not think of anything to get him. He was bedridden now. He mentioned a few times that he was not comfortabtle in the Hospice provided bed. I did some research and found a website called Angel Beds. At www.angelbeds.com

We bought him a twin mattress topper made of the same foam as temperpedic (Sp?) and he got it on his birthday. I can't tell YOU HOW MANY TIMES he would smile and tell us how much more comfortable he was with the topper placed on top of the hospice twin bed. He loved the topper so much and once or twice he reached out to hold my hand and he said thank you to me for making him so comfortable bed and all. That was worth a million dollars to me. The topper was not too expensive and made my dad so much more relaxed. Think about that and go there if you can work it out for your loved one. My father died in my arms on 10/21, about three weeks ago. I never regretted buying the topper. Regards, Terilyn

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

AnnieFannie - that is why it is best to make the photo albums 4/6 size, each according to a theme. That way they can hold them.

 

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patsaison answered...

The best thing you can give is time and love, being there for them. Both my parents died in the hospital, and both had their last birthday in the hospital, my father at 84, my mother at 93. Celebrating birthdays had always been a big event in my family, not so much any gifts, but noting the event, and knowing there is care and love. It was sad event doing so at the hospital; bought cake that could not be eaten, and flowers that were not seen, and the birthday was not a celebration or joyful due to the sad state of affairs--but it was noted, and I think my parents knew.

 

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Twiggyblackcat answered...

I put together a memeory book for my parents anniversary along with the help of family and friends(sending in response cards of their favorite memory of them). It was put together for their 50th anniversary party and made much like a scrap book. I found as I was putting it together I would maybe put a picture of my mom and myself or my dad and my brother and then I would write something that I remember us doing when I was small. Like I remember sitting on the front porch and laying out coins and my dad teaching me how to count money. He would give me a penny or nickel when he would come home from work, I remember the sound of the change jiggling in his pocket and how pretty the shine on a new penny was. Or my mom and I cutting out paper dolls out of the sears catalog in the middle of the den. Or when my mom use to watch Dark Shadows in black and white while rocking my brother to sleep. Just stuff like that. I kept adding more and more and they really enjoyed the book. And it's kinda surprising put my dad seem to enjoy it more and goes back and reads the memories. May be something nice for you to do for them and try and include some pictures or in your discription smells, textures,sunlight or moonlite, etc. May help them to remember and visualize better. Good luck in whatever you decide to do.

 

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Northcoastlady answered...

My mother was dying of renal failure (kidney disease due to diabetes) and had been enduring the restricted diet while receiving hospice care in her home. When the nurse saw the end drawing near, she told me to just let my mother eat whatever she wanted. Being Italian, food was important in her life and we had many traditions and favorites. A really special treat was going to Red Lobster. Since she wasn't up to leaving the house, I decided to get her a lobster treat. My adult son was in town for a visit so I asked him to go get her lobster. To my surprise, instead of going to the restaurant he went to the grocery store and returned with 3 live lobsters, each in its own paper bag. My mother had the best time laughing away as I struggled with a live lobster climbing out of the sink and another escaping from its bag and scurrying across the table. Eventually I had the cooked lobster ready for her to eat. After days of merely picking at her food, she ate her lobster with gusto and then finished off the second one as well. She kept talking about how funny I looked fighting with those lobsters. The following night she passed in her sleep.

 

38% helpful
Tersiab answered...

I read this last week and it is so true of my beloved Dad's last Christmas with us just a short year ago. Please click on this link - It is an amazing article.

http://www.caring.com/blogs/the-cheerful-caregiver/its-about-presence-not-presents

 

53% helpful
Faith FairHope answered...

As a Reverend, Licensed Massage Therapist, Healing Touch Practitioner, and Nationally Certified Clinical Aromatherapist, I have found my clients and patients to deeply appreciate the gift of nurturing and soothing touch. I offer if needed or wanted to show the family members a how- to lesson on how they can carefully touch their loved one to provide the comfort and assurance it provides. A gentle foot massage or a sweet stroking of the face or hands. My specialized massage training is in Geriatrics and End of Life Care. I have been honored to soothe with touch and healing oils as patients are making their transition from here to there. The aromatic oils helps with the process of letting go and gives them emotional support. It is a holy and sacred time for everyone in the room. It seems each person is changed in the encounter. This is a PRICELESS gift... at any time ... for any age.
www.tender-touch-therapies.com

 

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roselee answered...

my brother did not want to pass inthe hospital so we arranged to bring him home to die. he really,really wanted to sit outside and smee the fresh air, hear the birds and sit with his friends like he used to do before he lost his health and strengh. so all the fellas placed him in a chair, sat him outside and treated him like he was just as healthy as everyone else. he needed to feel like a man again and not an invalid. so on his last day in his right mind they shared a ice c9old beer with him and it was the happiest he had been in a long time. so i agree that the most important thing is love and being there without pity and make the person feel as if they are not a pitiful burden.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

We gave our Mom and Dad several Masses (Catholic) and they were very pleased since they attended daily Mass.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

You and others can easily post a story of gratitude in written or video-taped form at www.thankingofyou.com. The site is, as they say, "to recognize, affirm and honor the people who've made a difference in our lives." You may detail for your mother (or anyone) when and how she's had a lasting, positive impact on your life, why the "little" things she did during her time with you mattered so much, and how you aim to honor her contributions to your life by allowing her contributions to live through you for the benefit of others. I received a story of gratitude (letter of thanks) at Thankingofyou.com and just discovering how I'd made a lasting difference in someone's life has had a huge impact on mine. I've since posted several of my own for others and their response was the same as mine. Everyone should read/hear these Thank Yous from those whose lives they've touched--especially those who are near the end of life and likely wondering if and how they've "made a difference." LeAnne

 

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CA-Claire answered...

Sometimes, just the gift of time is what a person appreciates most. Especially when they know they are frail and their time is rapidly coming to a close - many avoid people at this time, and unfortunately the ones being avoided know it.

Instead of a paper photo albums (which end up gathering dust), our parents have an electronic photo frame that goes through the 4,000+ photos that represent their lives and their families' lives! It automatically turns on at 9am and goes off at 10pm, giving about 10 seconds per photo. They love it!

 

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mapickle answered...

I'm a Hospice nurse. Order a cake for your Mom even if it's not on the approved diet list. Have a party even if it's just the 2 of you. If she is physically able to eat cake let her have a piece. It's it's too much to swallow maybe she can have a taste of frosting.

The best gift you can give her is your presence and her love.

 

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soulfulwriter answered...

Nothing that you give your dying parent in a material form can compare to the gift of your time, companionship, and unconditional love. Your parent will treasure such gift more than anything else. He or she cannot take the objects with him to the new life awaiting for him beyond. However, he can take the warmth of your love, the moments you shared together, the feeling of your hugs and kisses, your companionship, understanding, patience, and devotion. These things do wonders for our spirit even when we are not about to die! Imagine how much more significant they are for your dying parent. Give him or her what money cannot buy (including the materials you would buy to make something). The intangible is much more valuable.

 

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AtlantaHope answered...

Visitors from this page have touched me with their stories many, many times. I'm the Founder of VoiceQuilt and we wrote about one today.

http://www.voicequilt.com/blog/2012/08/the-perfect-cancer-care-package-remember-when/

Another Caring.com family touched us just a few weeks back, too. http://www.voicequilt.com/blog/2012/07/beccas-gift-ideas-for-patients/

We're always honored to help in any way that we can.

 

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joyg answered...

Here a new one Touched By Joy created recently. Have every family member and friend add to this statement: If not for you ..... Tell the person how you really feel about them. For example: If not for you and your creative mind, i would not be the person I am today. If not for you we would not have gone on that wonderful Alaska cruise where we had so much fun. Record these and/or use in the Voice Quilt program above.

 

33% helpful
16y female, Iceland answered...

There's a girl in my class who's mom just died, I definitely am not going to remind her of her loss like most people would. I think the best thing for her right now is just to work with time because after a while it won't hurt as much. So I decided to give her some dvd's, romantic comedy's mostly,so she can keep her mind busy, and also some chocolate, who doesn't like chocolate? :)

 

50% helpful
healthyinMI answered...

the best gift to give any parent at any stage of life is yourself! No gift can compare to a child who shows their parent(s) that they love them! When my kids were little and didn't have their own money (I didn't have much either) I made a list of small chores I needed done and let them pick which one they wanted to do. That meant more to me than something bought.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Each year, our family works our summer vacation around my mom's birthday - not everyone can make it to the destination but it means she is with at least some family each year. For her 90th, we asked all to make efforts to be there -for at least the Saturday when we planned a party. I also asked everyone to gather pictures of her over the years and email them to me, in advance. We had a huge dinner and then brought my mother to a room where we had a projector screen setup. We sat her 'center stage' and showed a powerpoint presentation of her life on the big screen. I had pulled it together in the weeks prior and she was thoroughly surprised. The evening ended with a birthday cake and fireworks in her honor. After vacation, I turned the powerpoint presentation into a book (via Staples). It was her 'brag book' back at the assisted living. So, my answer is like many others - surround her with family and love and let her reminisce about all the Good times. That's all they need/want.

 

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MaryAnnDodge answered...

can she eat icecream? 31 flavors offers icecream cakes and i think safeway has even started to sell a less expensive version. i personally like the candles on the cake more than the cake itself..lighted candles are an American ritual to celebrate our birth. Gifts are also part of the birthday ritual; soft blanket to cuddle up with or lie on top of her bed; soft sock slippers, i bought my mom a very soft body pillow...a stuffed birthday bear...lots of hugs and kisses and singing happy birthday.

 

Broke hearted answered...

I wished that I could tell you the story of my mother's death was predicated and processed for preparation of her dying, but I can't do that. My loving 74 year old mother died on Nov.9, 2012 of pneumonia in the hospital, "Just out of the blue". She was my everything!! I have a lot of unanswered questions of how she gotten sick with pneumonia and my sister doesn't know or didn't see that our mother was death terminally ill with pneumonia??!! "I need to ask some questions, and I want answers!!!!!!!! Broke Hearted

 

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MaryAnnDodge answered...

my mom is not dying quite yet but her birthday is feb 10...and right, what would they want? Our time...i'm thinking of a fleece blanket to cover us when we take a nap...it will barely get dirty and my smell will be on it...when my dad died i loved smelling his clothes. My mom has AD so doesn't know what alot of things are: music (a favorite group from her era); blanket...ice cream of a shake? Smoothie?. Last year got mom a cream puff and I put a candle in it....she loves whipped cream. Everyone provided great ideas. Wishing your mom a very happy birthday.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I think a great gift for your mother would be an experience gift. If she's physically able to get around, take her someplace she's always wanted to go, or just go somewhere where you can have fun and make it a mother-daughter bonding day. And you could videotape it too, that way you guys would always remember what an amazing day you had together.

 

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oldblackdog answered...

I felt compelled to respond to broke hearted -tho' I don't know how old that post was - about her mother dying of pneumonia. It's a shock to lose someone suddenly - it happened with my father, who I thought was recovering. This is just so that you don't go crazy trying to understand the pneumonia part.

Pneumonia is a very common cause of death of many people,but especially older people, and especially if they have other conditions. From an article in the NY Times "If pneumonia develops in patients already hospitalized for other conditions, death rates range from 50 - 70%, and are higher in women than in men." It also says that among all patients hospitalized FOR treatment of pneumonia, the death rate is from 10 to 25%. It is much higher among seniors. We tend to think that because we sometimes hear of people with "walking pneumonia" that antibiotics can easily cure it, and that it doesn't pose a huge risk - but it does. After surgery, there's a particular risk of acquiring pneumonia from accidentally breathing liquids into the lungs.

It doesn't ease the pain of loss. But it might ease you mind about whether your mother was properly treated.

 

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calhawk answered...

One of the best gifts I've found for anyone who is in need of love, a hug, or to know someone cares is a blanket. www.warmembrace.com has some really inspirational ideas for blankets! I suggest checking it out, I know it's made everyone I've given it to smile!

 

SherSafran answered...

My husband and I have made it our mission to provide families with a precious gift - particularly for those loved ones facing life's transition. We film their life story - usually filming the honoree sharing his or her life experiences and special memories. Often other family members take part in the story-telling as well. Then we edit the film and include the family's photographs and home movies to highlight the stories being shared and we select a music soundtrack that gives it the film an intimate touch. Having one's memories preserved for generations to come has been surprisingly healing - emotionally and spiritually - for so many people. You will find videographers in your area who can provide this wonderful gift for you and your mother. Or feel free to visit our site at SatoriSeven dot com. Our hearts are with your mom and your family. ~ Sher

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

When my dad was dying I bought one of those blankets you can make online with a collage of pictures on it. I uploaded my favorite pics and arranged them just so... He then had a blanket to warm him up with our pictures and my mom still had something to cuddle with after he passed.

 

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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I came across a great website looking for a gift for a terminally ill friend. I was able to get a blanket with a personalized message. A handwritten card -- and a picture of the gift wrapped blanket with the order confirmation - what great service! The website is www.warmembrace.com

 

CA-Claire answered...

I have also purchased from warmembrace.com. They are reasonably priced, good quality items and come in beautiful simple packaging. This is a very nice gift that does endure. Even if the person has no family, the blanket would help others by donating it to charity.

 

Susan P answered...

My sister recently died from breast cancer. I know it can be hard to think of a gift to give someone who is dying that really communicates the depth of your feelings for them. Like the previous entrants, I too, was relieved to have found Warm Embrace. I ordered a custom embroidered blanket with her name and the words "Love and prayer surround you." I love that she was able to wrap up in that blanket during her last months and be physically reminded of my love for her. The company is wonderful to deal with. Go to www.warmembrace.com

 

 
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