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Anniversary Gifts for Homebound Parents

Mar01

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Dear Great and Powerful Amalah,

This question doesn’t have anything to do with beauty routines or sweet-smelling babies or even crabby in-laws, but I do hope you and your readers can help me. From your blog I see that your father has struggled with health issues this past year (I so hope he is doing well now!). This year has also been a trial for my family, particularly my mother, who has seen my father through a very serious illness that has left him with limited mobility, requiring the use of a walker. Their 25th wedding anniversary is coming up in a few months, and I really want to do something special for them, but I have not a single good idea! I thought of sending them away on a long weekend, but I don’t think my father would feel comfortable traveling in his new state of disability. They also say they don’t want a party, though they will be renewing their vows after a church service (probably to my father’s embarrassment, as he is a great introvert). I want to do something truly meaningful, to show how much I love and appreciate them. Plus, after this awful year, they truly deserve something wonderful. My budget could be up to $750. Please help me in my gift-giving desperation!

Signed,
A Grateful Daughter

Okay! A few ideas, and now that I’ve thought of them, I really need to get going on for my own parents, who are really in the exact same place as yours. (Why haven’t I? I don’t know! I have shamed myself! An Advice Smackdown first!) My dad is…well, some days are better than others. (Days without another freaking bout of pneumonia are the best!) Here are some thoughts on how to make an anniversary one of those better days…or give them a series of better days.

1) A photo book with photo restoration service. Your parents probably have a lot of old photos, no? Albums full of yellowing baby photos and faded family vacation pics? Sneak in, steal them. Get them restored and color-corrected and preserved digitally. This can be by an actual photo restoration service, though many professional photographers also offer it, or just someone you know who is a whiz at Photoshop. THEN, create a new photo book for them. Sort through the photos and find your favorite childhood memories, or ones of them while they were dating, or some other story. I made photo books for family this Christmas at Shutterfly (disclosure: I was given one free one as part of an ad campaign, then paid for the additional books) and they were a HUGE hit. My parents are adamant that they do not want or need any additional “stuff,” so photo books are a nice small thing that feels big. (Another photo-centric idea: a web-enabled digital photo frame. If your parents have wifi the frame can connect to an online photo album and fetch new photos you [and other family members] have uploaded, so your parents can always see the latest pictures of grandkids and such.)

2) Maid service. Your mom is likely exhausted from taking care of your dad. Your dad is likely frustrated that he can no longer do things like run the vacuum and very aware that your mom is the only one who can clean the toilets. Depending on where they live, that $750 could get them several months’ worth of biweekly visits. (This is also a good one to go into with siblings or other family members looking to make day-to-day life easier for them.)

3) Every delivery service you can think of. So this might not pack the kind of meaningful emotional whallop you were aiming for, but it’s another one with almost daily impact. Whenever I talk to my mom I’m always struck by how a simple trip to the pharmacy takes insane amounts of planning for her, since it’s too hard for my dad to come along but leaving him alone in the house isn’t ideal either (what if he fell? what if his heart acts up? what if what if what if?) Sign them up (and teach them how to use) a DVD service like Netflix and a book swap site like Paperback Swap. Set up recurring deliveries for stuff like pet food, basic groceries, etc. Coffee, wine, cheese of the month clubs…whatever they like. Get it delivered right to their door so the stress of running errands is minimized as much as possible.

4) An in-home dinner with a private chef. Going out to eat is REALLY hard for someone with limited mobility. (My dad still has to cart an oxygen tank everywhere too, in addition to a cane or walker.) But if that was ever one of their favorite things to do — or at least their go-to plan for celebrating special occasions — they probably miss it. Find a private chef that specializes in their favorite cuisine (or one they had on vacation, if they ever traveled abroad), or call their favorite restaurant and see if they’d be willing to help you out. Places that offer cooking classes are another good place to start, since many of them are taught by private chefs who do this sort of thing all the time. This way they can have an amazing anniversary dinner without the hassle of cooking OR having to really be reminded of your dad’s limitations. In addition to the dinner, have flowers delivered and a mix CD of their favorite songs to play during the meal.

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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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15 Responses to “Anniversary Gifts for Homebound Parents”

  1. Heidi Mar 01 at 11:04 am Reply Reply

    I don’t have time to look for the exact product, but for my parents, we ordered an album from Exposures that had pages with room for a half-page of text along with a 4X6 photo. We sent pages out to family members, old friends, etc., and included a letter announcing the anniversary and asking them to attach a family picture or some other picture that would be meaningful to my parents. We also asked them to write something in the blank space and sign their names. Of course, all the kids filled out pages too. We presented my parents with this on their 50th anniversary, and it was a BIG hit. It’s a great record of their lives together. Lots of legwork on our parts, but totally worth it.

  2. Katy R Mar 01 at 11:20 am Reply Reply

    I love the personal chef idea, but knowing that my mom usually stresses over having the house perfect for visitors, I would help to clean the house the morning of too :)

  3. Lar Mar 01 at 11:27 am Reply Reply

    For my parents’ 35th, I contacted as many of their friends and relatives as I could find–their college alumni office was helpful, as was their church–and asked them to send me a card or note for an anniversary scrapbook. Most people responded with lovely notes and some even sent pictures, and it’s now one of my parents’ most-treasured possessions.

  4. Bliz Mar 01 at 11:38 am Reply Reply

    My family got a digital photo frame for my grandmother a year and a half ago, and loaded it with a bunch of photos, which were copied in a folder on my parents’ computer. This year I loaded a new memory card with the old photos AND a bunch of newer ones, and I swear, EVERY TIME I talk to my grandmother she tells me how much she enjoys just sitting and watching the automatic slideshow. It was so easy for me to do, and it brings her SO MUCH pleasure! A great recommendation, Amy.

  5. Kristen Mar 01 at 12:34 pm Reply Reply

    My dad has health issues and while he is mobile, he doesn’t like to be in public and my mother loves to go out. She takes care of him and its pretty isolating. If you have $750 to spend, I’d do a few things – I like the photo book idea or better yet a slideshow/montage on a DVD. I’d also send your mom out with her girlfriends for dinner or a day at the spa – perhaps you could come and spend the day with your Dad? Everyone wins!
    Or, contact their favorite restaurant about setting up a private space – somewhere close so it isn’t too hard to get there but something private if he is self conscious about anyone looking on.

  6. KittyMarie Mar 01 at 12:56 pm Reply Reply

    Amalah! That was my question, and I am ecstatic you answered! Your suggestions are truly excellent, as are yours, fellow commenters! We live in the very rural Midwest, so there aren’t a lot of delivery or cleaning services available, but the other ideas are exactly what I am looking for. Thank you SO VERY MUCH for the inspiration! This will really be a special year for my parents (and my thoughts are with your parents in their strikingly similar situation!). You rock my face off.

  7. kakaty Mar 01 at 12:58 pm Reply Reply

    My first thought before reading through all of Amy’s suggestions was a personal chef! If you wanted to do it up big time, maybe go for an entire day of services. For instance – have a maid service come a do a “deep clean” of the house; most companies offer this as a one-time service and it can include all kinds of stuff like cleaning out the fridge, doing the windows and vacuuming the mattresses. Then see if a salon can send someone to the house for some pampering – lots of places will do cuts for both men and women in the house for you and maybe add in some pampering treatments – hand massage, manicure, etc. Check with local nursing homes and retirement apartments for references. Have flowers delivered and make a mix of popular love songs from the year they got married. If you wont be there, ask a family friend to come over and set the table with their wedding china so everything is ready for the arrival of the chef.
    And even if you don’t do the whole day of services and just do the chef, I would do the maid service AND the personal chef, because I know my mom would work herself to death making sure the house was spotless.
    Also, I’ve had tremendous success with http://www.scancafe.com in restoring old photographs and scanning my parent’s slides to digital files. They do a fantastic job (and I don’t get anything for saying that…I was just impressed with their services).

  8. Darcey Mar 01 at 5:00 pm Reply Reply

    A mere week before my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, they both had to have major surgery that preempted our plans to take them for a nice dinner out. Instead, the family gathered with a couple close friends (there was maybe 15 people there, and 12 of them were immediate family), we all pitched in to clean the house, decorated with a few anniversary items (a banner, napkins, etc – my grandma loved that stuff) and put together a DVD that featured pictures of them growing up and all of the children and grandchildren. We then opened a bottle of liquor that was given to them on their wedding night and had been sealed in a glass cabinet for all those 50 years and passed it around for good luck.
    To this day, still a favorite memory of mine with my family. And I can’t remember my grandparents smiling so much.

  9. Nancy Mar 01 at 9:03 pm Reply Reply

    check out personalchef.com to find a personal chef in your area… (from a former aspiring personal chef who ended up becoming a mom instead!)
    great ideas, Amalah!

  10. Megan Mar 02 at 8:18 am Reply Reply

    A variation on the web frame for the parents who love their TV – AppleTV. Last Christmas we sent my parents an AppleTV, got a dedicated Flickr account, and hooked it all up to their wall-mounted flatscreen.
    I live abroad in Germany and my brother is out of state. This way we can upload new pictures remotely and when my parents turn on the TV they have a huge, ever-evolving picture frame. We’ve now synced it with extended family in the US and in-laws in Europe.
    Works great, plus now Mom is all into Youtube and iTunes.

  11. Michele Mar 02 at 6:20 pm Reply Reply

    if you have a lot of extended family & friends strewn about the country check out http://www.voicequilt.com VoiceQuilt It is a very personal and unique gift for such a milestone event! It takes a little coordination but maybe you could seek out people who were at their wedding (maybe their wedding party best man/maid of honor & other family that was at the wedding to record a message for them. The resulting collage of voices is similar to the toasts given by party guests after a long and joyful meal. TOp it off with their favorite special drink to toast with!

  12. Jon Mar 02 at 9:09 pm Reply Reply

    I really liked the photo album idea. My parents got my brother and I a book this past Christmas chronicling our adventures growing up and I love it!

  13. Jasmine Mar 02 at 11:26 pm Reply Reply

    Maybe it’s because I’m Asian, but something that my parents/grandparents would really enjoy is a family tree.

  14. Rachel Mar 05 at 8:15 pm Reply Reply

    I’m not in a similar situation at all, but I love the question and all the comments! They’re giving me ideas for my parents’ wedding anniversary next month (holy crap, April is next month?).
    Heidi – that book sounds like an amazing treasure!! I love it!!

  15. The gold digger Mar 06 at 10:56 am Reply Reply

    For a lot of these services (home help, shopping, cooking), check with your county’s council on aging or their version. If they do not offer something themselves, they might be able to recommend a service. I have been trying to get my outlaws to use Meals on Wheels but they don’t want to pay (i.e., they think it should be free for them) even though they have enough money for a lot (I mean A LOT) of booze every week, plus a cleaning lady and a gardener.
    My library (in Milwaukee – don’t know if this this is common in rural areas) offers a home delivery service (staffed by volunteers) for homebound people.
    I used to pay for my grandmother’s hair appointments – just sent the $$ directly to the salon. I also would get gift certs to the grocery store and for the phone company. This is probably not what you want for a big anniversary present, but it’s the sort of thing older people can use on other gift-giving occasions.
    As far as the in-home chef and the in-home stylist – another place to try for these people might be your local tech school. I go to the one here for my pedicures ($12!) and I am dying to try the restaurant that the students (the cooking students, not the beauty school kids) run.

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