What's the best gift for dying parent?

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!

Expert Answer

David Solie is an author, educator, speaker, and thought leader in geriatric and intergenerational communication. His book How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap With Our Elders is a landmark text that has been read and reread by legions of baby boomers searching for a better approach to working with their parents and other older adults.

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 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.