What do you give someone living with ALS to show you care? There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ gift that works for everyone, but there are special ways to say “I am thinking of you.” The holiday season can be a perfect time to do just that. We recognize that it’s not always easy to know how to help, so we recently canvassed our regional managers and our online community for their gift ideas. They came back to us with practical suggestions, many of them suitable for someone regardless of where they are in the progression of their disease. Here’s what they had to say.

The gift of time was the number one response from across the board. Gail Renshaw, whose husband, Cliff, passed away from ALS in August, stressed the importance of sharing time together. “The most important thing for Cliff was to spend time with family and friends. Since his diagnosis two years ago, we planned and enjoyed many themed dinner parties to make things fun. ‘Spaghetti Western Night’ was his favourite. Everyone had to come dressed as a cowboy. We watched spaghetti western movies, ate spaghetti, cowboy beans, ribs and corn bread. We made some wonderful memories that we can cherish forever.”

Precious time together can take many forms. It can be a private moment between the two of you or a larger gathering among friends or family. Going out for dinner, or to a sports event or music concert can be a way to maintain connection and enjoy your time together in a different way. When planning a social outing, make sure to consider accessibility if the person you are with uses a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair. A gift of time can also be as simple as reading a newspaper or book aloud if someone you know with ALS is no longer able to turn the pages. Simply offering your company can provide comfort and support to a friend or loved one who is too tired to communicate, but would welcome a caring presence by their side. For the full-time caregiver, offering to spend an hour or so with the person with ALS can also provide some much-needed respite.

Another way to create cherished memories is to help videotape special messages or write letters for loved ones. If someone in your life has ALS and has expressed interest in documenting their feelings, hopes and desires, you could offer to help them by setting up a camera or typing out a message they dictate.

Many respondents also suggested preparing and freezing meals for the family as a way to reduce the load on caregivers. Heather Cockerline, whose dad had ALS, talks about what a relief it was for her parents to have help with cooking meals. “While he was sick, his care was the priority which made meal preparation daunting on some days. What Mom and Dad enjoyed was a steady supply of homemade soups and healthy meals. All they had to do was warm them up.”

The burden of completing daily chores can become overwhelming for a caregiver who is focused on attending to the needs of a loved one with ALS. Relieving some of the stress by offering your services is a wonderful way to help. Some of the most popular suggestions offered by our respondents included snow-shoveling, grass-cutting, babysitting, picking kids up from school, dog-walking, doing laundry, filling out forms, sending emails, and shopping. Housekeeping services were also high on the list, whether it was paid help on a regular basis or an offer from a friend to come and clean the house themselves.

Stephanie Marshall-White suggested offering gift cards for physiotherapy, massage, manicures or pedicures. “My mom recently passed away from ALS and throughout her diagnosis she really liked physiotherapy or massage. I think it would be a great gift to be able to donate an hour of massage or whatever it might be. It really made her feel so much better.”

Carol Skinner, ALS Canada Ambassador and someone who is living with ALS, describes the boredom she experienced as she lost mobility. She also struggles with the physical tiredness that accompanies the progression of the disease. She suggests offering to pay for streaming services such as Netflix, Spotify, or Apple Music to help pass the time. She also suggested smart devices such as smart thermostats, wireless lighting, and wireless speakers and home sound systems that enable a person to control the temperature, lights, and music in the house from their phone without having to get up.

Finally, respondents suggested a weekly flower delivery service as a cheerful gift to brighten the house. When you are housebound, a fresh bouquet of flowers every week can be a welcome sight to behold.

Posted in: Support & Services