Useful Holiday Gifts for Loved Ones with Health Challenges

Portrait of mother and daughter at Christmas

Holiday shopping—at the pharmacy? Loyola University Medical Center experts offer tips for practical, inexpensive gifts for loved ones who are recovering from an injury or living with a chronic illness.

For the 133 million Americans who are living with chronic conditions today, the best holiday gift is something that will make navigating a daily routine easier. "Sweaters, pajamas, candy and perfume are all very nice, traditional and thoughtful gifts, but if you want to really show them you are concerned about their well-being, check out your local pharmacy for gifts they'll use every day," said Debbie Jansky, assistant nurse manager of home health services at Loyola's Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

Jansky and her team of 35 registered nurses, therapists, social workers and home health aides make about 1,600 home visits each month to those who need skilled nursing or physical therapy in their home. "It's very sad to see patients receive gifts of expensive perfume or cardigans that they will never enjoy because they can't open the bottle or unbutton the buttons," Jansky said.

Jansky regularly recommends several items that can be purchased at your local pharmacy. "These are used and appreciated every day," she reports.

Here are Jansky's top picks for holiday gifts, with suggested prices:

  • Medication organizers ($1.50 - $10). Help Mom or Dad keep track of all their pills. Available in daily or weekly sizes and in different shapes, these tools will give the whole family peace of mind that the right pill is being taken at the right time.
  • Pill cutter ($3). Many pills and tablets need to be halved or quartered. These handy devices offer precise cutting with minimal effort.
  • Pill punch ($8). "Many medications come in a multipunch card that those with arthritis have trouble manipulating," said Clark Chrisman, pharmacist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. "The pill punch easily pushes the individual pill through the sealed packaging."
  • ID bracelet ($7 and up). A simple piece of jewelry alerts medics to important medical information such as allergies to penicillin, congestive heart failure or diabetes.
  • Item grabber ($28). These sturdy, clawlike hand tools can be used to retrieve a box of crackers from the top shelf or fish out a slipper that was kicked too far under the couch.
  • Adjustable cane ($27). These canes compress to a 5-inch-long stick, much like a collapsible umbrella. Small enough to place in a purse or coat pocket, they can be quickly assembled to provide support.
  • Medication coolers (around $45). Keep insulin or other medications cool and organized for easy use.
  • Rollator ($160). A luxurious walker with high-quality wheels and brakes, with a basket for shopping and a handy bench to stop and rest.
  • Accessible bathroom aids ($27-$100). Handheld water sprayers, toilet seat benches and bathtub safety rails may look insignificant in their box, but install them in the bathroom, and you have created a safe haven that will be appreciated.

Speak with the pharmacist with questions about specific items. He or she may have other great ideas, as well.

Source: Loyola University Health System (Loyola). Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, it is a nationally recognized leader in providing specialty and primary health-care services.