What do you give a terminally ill cancer patient, a family member who is dying, or someone who is coping with end of life issues? I gathered an assortment of gifts and ideas that are comforting, inspiring, and practical. These gifts make life brighter and easier for a terminally ill patient, help you as the gift giver cope with the idea of dying from cancer, and include heartfelt messages of love and support.
A Reversible Sherpa/RoyalMink Heated Throw Blanket is an example of a gift that is both practical and comforting. Perhaps it’s even one of the best gifts for people at the end of life; it’s a tangible embrace. Death is cold — both literally and metaphorically. A heated throw blanket offers warmth that is both low and consistent, and can easily be adjusted by the flick of a finger. There’s even a pre-heat feature so the blanket has time to warm up before someone climbs into bed.
A gift won’t save or even prolong your loved one’s life, but it will make the last days or weeks less painful. A terminally ill cancer patient isn’t concerned about gathering more stuff. The best gift you can give someone who is dying is hope, faith, love, acceptance and freedom.
Thus, spending time together is a good gift for at terminal cancer patient — and it’s even better if you can deal with your own discomfort and fear of death. Many of my ideas (starting with the first gift on this list!) are for both the patient and the gift giver. It’s important to give them a physical symbol of your love and support…but it may be more important to be emotionally present if the person needs to talk or has end of life issues to deal with.
These gift ideas for a dying person range from practical and useful to encouraging and heartfelt. The gift you give depends on your loved one’s personality, beliefs, lifestyle, level of awareness, and illness. My prayer is that you find a gift or idea in this list that comforts and even cheers someone — even a terminally ill cancer patient — in the final stages of life.
Comforting Gifts for Someone Who is Dying
Remember that the best gift for anyone at any stage of life is your presence and attention. You may feel uncomfortable, scared, anxious, depressed and angry at the thought of someone you love dying or, worse, struggling with the “gifts” terminal cancer brings, but it’s important to work through your emotions.
Don’t complicate or burden your loved one by bringing your own fears and anxieties about death into her life. Instead, learn what she may be feeling like. Be curious about death and end of life issues, not afraid.
The gift of understanding
In Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying, hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley reveal how people who are dying communicate their needs, reveal their feelings, and even choreograph their own final moments. This book will change how you think about dying — especially the surprising gifts that end of life perspective can bring.
This book is filled with practical advice on how to respond to the requests of a person at the end of her life, as well as how to support her as she prepares emotionally and spiritually for death. Whether it’s a natural death due to old age or a tragic death because of terminal cancer diagnosis, Final Gifts shows how you can help dying people live fully to the very end.
A shopping excursion for “gifts for the terminally ill” (an odd gift for a patient)
According to some books on death and dying, the best gift for someone at the end of life is to put aside your emotions and just be there for her. I encourage you to take it a step further: be curious about what it’s like to deal with end of life issues! Follow your patient’s lead when it comes to discussing terminal cancer, treatments, suffering, and dying. Does she want to talk about what it feels like to know she’s dying, or does she want to avoid the whole idea?
You might even tell her that you want to give a gift to help her through the final stages of life, but you don’t know what. Ask for help.
Here’s a strange gift idea for someone who loves to shop and is dying: go shopping together. This would only be a good gift if both you and she have the same twisted, dark sense of humor (and if she’s mobile, of course). You could actually have a lot of fun with this idea! Go shopping with the mindset that this is the last time you’ll ever buy a gift. This your final gift shopping trip because you’re both dying (we all are…just some are closer to death than others). Where would you go, what would you buy, how long would you spend shopping, and (most importantly) what gift does she want now that she’s dying of cancer or a terminal illness?
Loved ones to look at
On a more serious note, I shared the Nixplay Original 15 inch WiFi Cloud Digital Photo Frame on my article for older parents and grandparents (30 Delightful Gifts for Elderly Parents Who Have Everything). This digital photo frame is awesome because you can send pictures direct to the frame from your iPhone or Android phone, which means you can share what you and other loved ones are doing, quickly and easily. The frame receives photos directly from email, iPhones, Android and phones. It can also access photos from Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, and Picasa
It’s a thoughtful gift for someone at the end of life because it allows her to stay close to her family and friends. Feeling more closely connected to loved ones will help her through dark nights.
Faith and hope to hold on to – literally
I discovered the Clinging Cross purely by accident, when I was searching Amazon for gift ideas for terminally ill cancer patients. This Clinging Cross is made of soft, smooth wood. It’s designed to be held on to, to be clung to in times of fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and pain. A gift like this is probably most suitable for Christians — but it’s important to remember that everyone who is facing death or dealing with end of life issues is wondering about God. Heaven. Hell.
Even faithful Christians who have a strong relationship with Jesus sometimes feel scared at the end of their lives. Death is scary because we know nothing about it! Allow your loved one – whether she’s a young terminally ill cancer patient or an elderly grandparent at the end of her life – to talk about fears and other strong emotions. Try not to let your own grief, fear, or anxiety overcome you. It’s natural to feel intense and conflicting feelings in the face of death, for both you and the person who is dying. Find quiet, private moments to express your emotions. The best gift you could give is to allow someone who is dying to say what he or she needs to say — and to feel what needs to be felt.
The gift of memories
A big, beautiful, easily handled family or friendship scrapbook album – and filling it together – can be a beautiful gift for someone who is dying of cancer or another terminal illness. What legacy does she want to leave behind? This is her chance to fill the book with her most important thoughts, photos, momentos, keepsakes.
If your friend or loved one enjoys arts and crafts, you might consider creating a scrapbook together. On my pet loss sympathy gifts article, a reader said working on a scrapbook was one of the most healing things she did while her dog was dying of cancer. A dog’s death isn’t the same as someone who is dying from cancer or another terminal illness, but the thought is the same: doing something together can offer a gentle transition from this life to the next.
Talking about memories and life experiences could be a lovely gift for a terminal cancer patient. Sit together, talk about the things she most wanted to experience in life, and see if you can find a way to give that gift. Be creative; for instance, instead of visiting an ashram in India, you might invite a yogi over for a home yoga lesson.
Bestselling gift idea for someone dying: a soft pillow massager
The Zyllion Shiatsu Pillow Massager With Heat is a practical end of life gift that brings comfort and warmth. People who are dying can be uncomfortable and sometimes in pain.
At the end of life, a patient may feel aches and pains she never felt before. This deep-kneading shiatsu massager has nodes to help relax and relieve muscle tightness. The heating function soothes aching muscles, and the ergonomic design is perfect to use on lower- and upper-back, neck, abdomen, calf, and thigh areas. The adjustable strap secures the cushion to a favorite chair, and the massager is equipped with an Overheat Protection Device and programmed with 20-minute Auto Shut-Off to ensure safety.
Personalized teddy bear for comfort and warmth
A Personalized Talking Teddy Bear is a sentimental and sweet gift for both young and old people. It may seem childish, but many patients dying of cancer or another terminal illness find themselves living in their childhood. Why not meet them there?
Dying can be a lonely journey; a talking teddy bear with your voice and personal messages of comfort and love may be exactly what your loved one needs. The fur on this bear is super soft, and the eye and nose buttons are embroidered (not hard plastic). You can personalize your loved one’s name, or the names of her family members on the t-shirt. This is a comforting item to have and hold when they’re alone, or when they just need a hug. You can record an uplifting message or even a Scripture verse to help her get through the dark nights.
Pet therapy – kitten or puppy love
If your loved one loves animals, maybe you could bring a puppy dog or kitten for a brief visit. A real human baby can be a source of comfort and cheer for people who are dying…but there really is something about furry little creatures that warm the heart and soul. Even people who don’t really like dogs or cats find themselves smiling while watching a puppy or kitten play. If your loved one is dying in a hospice or care facility, ask the staff if pet therapy is already part of their routine. Will they let you bring your own dog or cat?
Soft, warming candles to warm the room
The Flameless Candles with Bright White Warm LED Lights are a soothing way to warm any room. These flameless candles are a wonderful gift for someone at the end of life; they include a remote control as well as dimmable and timer options.
If you think candles with real flames are better gifts, make sure you purchase ones that don’t have a scent. A dying person’s sense of smell may be more acute, and she may find scented candles overwhelming. Natural soy candles are your best bet. You might pair a candle gift set with a warm, comforting fleece blanket. Bring a book to her bedside, and spend an hour or two reading out loud. Your presence will bring comfort and peace.
Comforting fleece blanket
This Super Soft Warm Micro Plush Blanket with Sleeves is a mink fleece sherpa cozy wrap (also known as a warm wearable throw rug). A lot of names for a soft blanket you can wear and put your head and arms through.
This fleece blanket with sleeves leaves your arms and hands free to read, eat and drink, or hold a kitten or puppy during pet therapy sessions. The blanket is a soft and comforting gift for the end of life, and will keep your loved one warm and happy. Some dying people feel cold all the time and can never have too many blankets.
A cremation urn for after she passes
An urn for your loved one’s ashes may seem like the worst gift idea for someone who is dying of cancer or another terminal illness, but you may be surprised by her response. I myself would love to know where my ashes will be stored! If you and she have talked about cremation or burial, funeral or “celebration of life”, memorial service or her ashes sprinkled in the ocean… you might want to talk about cremation urns or caskets.
Many artisans and artists make beautiful, creative cremation urns. If your loved one is open to talking about death, think about discussing end-of-life arrangements with her. You might even talk about decorating the coffin together. I recently wrote about different types of cremation urns for a loved one’s ashes. Just allow yourself to consider various ideas about memorial urns for your loved one.
A Willow Tree figurine
The Willow Tree “Soar” Figurine pictured is one of my favorite works of art. It’s a picture of a girl holding a dove, getting read to let it go. Artist Susan Lordi hand carves the original of each willow tree figurine from her art studio in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Willow Tree figurines is an intimate line of figurative wood symbols that speak in quiet ways to heal, comfort, protect and inspire. They arrive in a gift box, ready for gift giving with an enclosure card. This “Soar” figurine is a gentle reminder of letting go, of acceptance and surrender.
Time, tea, and talking
How much time have you spent talking with your loved one? This is an important and valuable gift to give someone at the end of life. When my aunt was dying, my sister refused to visit her. “I want to remember her how she was when we were young,” she said. “I don’t want to see her now that she’s dying.” I felt this way too! It’s terrible and painful to see someone waste away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), but I would’ve felt worse if I hadn’t visited my aunt before she died. As painful as it is, spending time with someone at the end of her life is the best gift you could give.
A journey through the photo albums
Looking through photo albums can be a comforting way to connect with someone who is dying. This gift is bittersweet, and it does take courage and strength to talk about the past and prepare for the future. But the simple act of sitting down with your loved one and talking about the photos in the album or on the screen can be a healthy and beautiful gift for someone who is dying of cancer. And for you, too.
Sit down with her, and tell each other what you remember about the photos taken. Reminisce. Talk about what you loved best about your memories, and what you wish happened differently.
A book about life after death
Some people want to talk about their own death, while others prefer to avoid it. If your loved one is able to read and open to reading about the end, then a book about dying might be a good gift.
The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom might be inspirational and comforting. Remember, though, that the most thoughtful gift for someone who is dying of cancer or another terminal illness is one that meets her where she’s at. Don’t push her, or over-protect her.
Live music to cheer and comfort
Almost everyone enjoys listening to music, right? A wonderful, thoughtful gift idea for someone who is dying might be music from the beginning of her life, or the happiest time of her life. Or, maybe she’d prefer music that doesn’t remind her of the past…maybe she’d like to listen to music from the 20s. Can you hire a jazz trio or an a capella group to play and/or sing for a few hours?
A lighthearted movie or internet video
Death is serious business, but it doesn’t have to be morbid or depressing. You’re grieving, your family is grieving, and your loved one is grieving the end of her life. It’s very sad, and life is too short. But, just because life is short doesn’t mean we have to spend it being grim. Try to find ways to lighten the mood and laugh. My plan is to write more articles with ideas on how to bring lightness and laughter to the end of life, because I believe that’s one of the best gifts you can give someone dying.
An interesting way to record her memoirs – or session with a life history writing service
Letters to My Grandchild: Write Now. Read Later. Treasure Forever is a creative gift idea for someone who is dying. It’s different than a traditional book about writing your memoirs, and less intimidating than hiring a professional life history writer. At the end of life, most people don’t want to sit down and talk about everything with a stranger.
Many people don’t realize how much history is lost when someone dies, and they regret not writing down their family’s life history. This “Oprah’s Pick” gift consists of 12 prompted letters. They offer an immediate way for grandparents to give the gift of a lifetime to a grandchild of any age. When favorite memories and words of wisdom are sealed with the included stickers and postdated for future opening, this paper “time capsule” becomes a priceless heirloom for generations to cherish.
If your loved one has recently had surgery, you may find Post Surgery Gift Ideas to Help With Recovery and Healing helpful.
The story of her life – a digital voice recorder
A Digital Voice Recorder is a perfect gift for someone who wants to tell the story of her life before it ends. If your loved one is talkative and has lots of last words to share, simply encourage her to start talking. She can speak into a digital voice recorder, and share You might also help them write their memoirs with a book about how to write your life story. This gift for someone who is dying is positive, because it focuses on life after she’s gone.
At the beginning of this list of gift ideas for someone who is dying, I mentioned a bucket list. If you don’t know if your loved one has one, ask about it. She may feel sad that she didn’t do everything on her bucket list, but she will be grateful that you’re willing to talk about it.
A Comforting Nightlight
I recently discovered the Nightlight Booklight — a book-shaped lamp that you don’t plug in — and I had to include it in this list of gifts for elderly people. When you open the book, it turns on; when you close the book, it turns off. The LED lamp’s usage is flexible and creative; it can be used as nightlight, droplight, desk lamp, unique decoration, outdoor light, etc. This is a great gift for older parents and grandparents.
If you haven’t found the right gift, read Thoughtful Sympathy Gifts for the Loss of a Mother. You might find a comforting gift idea in there, especially if you know someone who is losing a mom.