Gift ideas for chronically ill people

Three red gift boxes. Text: Gift Ideas

The holidays are around the corner, and soon, we all will be ordering presents for our healthy or chronically ill friends and family. I don’t know how you feel about this, but I always have a hard time finding the right gift. Luckily, there are a lot of great gift guides online, and I, personally, prefer to make very personal gifts, like writing a poem or creating a photo book for my close friends with short quotes that fit the images. However, I often feel my friends struggle to figure out what to buy me since such a big part of my life has to do with not being healthy. The following list has suggestions for gifts for your chronically ill friend based on my personal preference, but I’ll attach some other lists too since, just like with EDS, we are all different when it comes to tastes too.

(These are only suggestions and not an advertisement for either service; I don’t get anything for mentioning the following, and I am not linking to any product specifically).

Spoonie gift ideas based on my own experience:

  1. Gift cards or certificates: Honestly, one of the easiest gifts for me are gift cards for my favorite stores, for example, a gift card for Amazon, since that’s where I have a never-ending list of medical supplies and other things that I order whenever I have a bit money saved. So if you don’t know what your friend really needs, gift cards for popular stores usually are a safe bet. While not the most creative idea, I feel like many chronically ill people have such specific needs or wishes that it is the easiest to simply let them buy whatever they need themselves. Personally, I do love gift cards for everything that makes my life easier. So besides Amazon, there are tons of other options. For example, a gift card for a cleaning service that helps clean my apartment every now and then. Another really helpful service, especially during COVID, is a food delivery service. And especially when I lived in the US, what I always needed was transportation, such as UBER. Other gift certificates I always love are the ones for health-based or wellness treatments, for example, my favorite wellness swimming pool that has a floating tank – I absolutely love floating – or certificates for my favorite restaurant, my favorite museum – all the things that I and many other chronically ill people have to neglect because of health costs. If you know your friend well, you’ll figure out a more personal gift certificate; and if you just met, you can always go for a more general one, which I am sure will still be much appreciated.
  2. Health-based and other subscriptions: Gosh, as a journalist, I had to sign up for so many subscription-based services over the last years. Grammarly, Canva, Vimeo, Websites, Podcast platforms and many more. It’s not too much money for each, but together, they are quite expensive. But my work is my passion and all I love, so these are important for me. Maybe your friend has a specific job that requires such subscriptions as well, and you could take over one of them, or maybe your friend needs a new software for her or his artwork which they wouldn’t be able to afford but always wanted to have. And there are other more general subscriptions as well, like Amazon Prime, Netflix or Spotify that just help to relax and get our minds off of our health issues. Subscriptions for services are often a luxury for us and something we cannot afford but would love to be able to have because it would make our life or work a bit easier. Other options are health-based subscriptions, for example, I recently tried a trial version of the Calm app for mediation, which was amazing, but nothing I could continue, and there are so many other options for Pilates, Yoga and many many more, for instance, if you scroll up a bit, Jeannie Di Bon’s new physical therapy app for people with EDS.
  3. Journals or other creativity boosters: Depending on the personal interest of the person, journals or books with writing prompts are often a good option. Not only do journals help to cope with mental stress, they also distract and redirect our focus away from pain to writing, which can be helpful, but there are many other options too, for instance, drawing, coloring books, mosaic, knitting.
  4. Games: I do like diving into a different world and what I found to be really helpful are escape room games which I can do at home; solving a mystery from my couch. I also love quizzes and everything I learn something from. Well, and then there are Cards against Humanity, but they aren’t for everyone, I must say. I also used to do puzzles and then create frames out of mosaic, which was very calming for my mind.
  5. Items that add comfort: I can never have enough pillows, blankets, thick socks for winter, heating pads, and everything that makes me feel cozier on those couch days. One pillow I have found particularly helpful for sleeping is a u-shaped pregnancy pillow because it supports all of my joints in any body position.
  6. Helpful household items: One of the last gifts I received was a vacuum robot, and I must say, this is the most helpful tool I got in a very long time. The pain from vacuuming my apartment was no joke. Other items that might be helpful are slow cookers or a Thermomix, every tool that slices veggies into different forms without my involvement. However, honestly, I am the world’s worst cook, so what’s likely more useful to me is a food delivery service with healthy pre-cooked meals.
  7. Assistive devices or tools: Depending on how well you know your chronically ill friend, there might be assistive devices you can help them buy like compression stockings, ring splints, orthosis, walking canes, walkers, can openers, seat cushions, orthopedic chairs and much more. However, keep in mind that for some of those devices, you need to know the exact size, which might be tricky. Also, assistive devices are a very personal choice and often won’t be possible without the involvement of the person that needs the assistance. Nevertheless, you could help your friend get the device she or he wants.
  8. Exercise equipment: Many people with EDS exercise on a regular basis and might need things like resistance bands, gymnastic balls, a comfortable exercise mat, balance boards, maybe some light weights. You probably need to do some investigating before you know what your friend needs. Maybe ask them to share their Amazon wish list with you because – if they are anything like me – they will have tons of exercise equipment on their list.
  9. Handmade gifts: My personal preference are gifts that make me cry. I am not saying you should write me a book – it would be greatly appreciated though, and yes, I have written books for people I cared about – but I love a framed photo of a happy day I spent with friends or, if we have known each other for long, a book that tells our story. And with new friends, I always love a personal card with some nice words. Honestly, those personal gifts that touch the heart mean more to me than the newest Tesla at my front door. It’s about the thought, not the money.
  10. Donate your time: Right after a handmade, personalized gift comes donating time. It means so much if a friend takes the time to offer me a ride to an appointment because they know I can’t drive at the moment, or if they invite me for mulled wine at a Christmas market or help me clean my apartment because they know I have a rough pain day. There are many ways to know that a friend cares, but nothing screams more ‘I care for you’ than a friend sitting in the waiting room with me and distracting me from the worries of a medical appointment.
  11. I do like nice things! I can’t stress enough about the fact that I don’t want my friends to forget that in the end, even though a large part of my life centers around my chronic illnesses, I am just a regular human being. So while I am forced to spend a lot of my income on medical costs and health-related things, I do like a lot of other stuff as well. It’s not really by choice that many chronically ill people have to invest so much money in their health. I am sure many of us would prefer spending our money on vacations or a pony – ok, maybe that’s a relic of my childhood dreams. So even though I don’t go on girls’ trips too often or I don’t buy myself a lot of make-up or flowers or decorations for my home, it does not mean that I don’t like those items. So invite me to a nice day at the lake or a walk at the beach, or buy me an orchid for my home or something else healthy people enjoy. I probably enjoy that too!

I hope this list was somewhat helpful for you, but if not, there are many other spoonie gift guides. Here are some examples:

Other great spoonie gift guides:

The Health Session

Counting My Spoons

Christina Wiebe

Chronically Awesome

Pain News Network

Happy Holidays!


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