No flowers, please
August 16, 2014 5:36 PM   Subscribe

What should I send to my friend in palliative care?

I recently learned that an old friend's wife has had a recurrence of breast cancer and the prognosis is not good. She is in palliative care. She's on morphine but is generally lucid.

We'd like to send some kind of gift or care package to this couple, but aren't sure what to send. She's not eating much or enjoying food. I don't want to send flowers because I expect they're receiving a lot of them--and some folks find them too funereal. They live in a different state from us, and are currently staying at her parents' house, also far away, so we can't offer to run errands or bring dinner over.

Any suggestions?
posted by pompelmo to Human Relations (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Long newsy letters? Someone can read them to her if she can't read.
posted by fshgrl at 5:47 PM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Scented body lotion or powder. Music or audiobooks on CD (because a CD player is easier to operate than an iPod when you're a little fuzzy from the morphine). Something cozy like a robe or a soft pillow.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:47 PM on August 16, 2014

Yeah, my bestie also is dealing with a likely-terminal diagnosis, and during her various hospitalizations one problem has been that too many flowers/balloons/gifts/etc really clutter up a tiny hospital room. There's nowhere to put them and it becomes oppressive.

I suggest a heartfelt letter, a photograph, a poem -- something small that can go into an album or an envelope if one of the caregivers is doing that. Or, perhaps the gift of an album, with a letter from you, that the patient can then use to store other letters she receives.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:47 PM on August 16, 2014

Music, photographs, cards with some news. Go visit, if possible.
posted by theora55 at 5:52 PM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Something wonderfully soft or smooth. Slippers, a lap throw, one of those pillows you can heat or cool with a lovely cover, a beautiful scarf to look pretty and also feel good around the neck. So many things are just uncomfortable about palliative care.
posted by Mizu at 5:52 PM on August 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

Stickers, which have the added benefit of being something she can give to people she interacts with.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:53 PM on August 16, 2014

If she has an android smartphone, then Google Cardboard may make for a nice virtual reality distraction.
posted by Sophont at 5:56 PM on August 16, 2014

A prayer shawl or lap blanket. A book of jokes.
posted by myselfasme at 5:59 PM on August 16, 2014

If your primary relationship is with your friend, you might send a small gift for wife along with a nice fruit basket for your friend and the wife's parents - it is hard to eat well under stress and having fresh fruit in the house ready to eat can make it easier. Obviously you would want a note explaining the fruit is everyone in the family since they are all in your thoughts at this time.
posted by metahawk at 6:00 PM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

A heartfelt letter with a gift card to the coffee shop nearest the care facility for the family would be welcomed.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:25 PM on August 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Send a little meaningful thing to her, and if you want you can tuck it into a family/visitor gift of food as a token of appreciation for the people around her. A sample box of Kind bars or mini snacks (maybe like the kind of stuff you get in a Naturebox - yupster chow that's not quite so sugar-shellacked) would be nice.

If she's in a facility, you can do something perishable like a fruit box - it usually gets passed around and then set in the common kitchen area for the other families to share.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:33 PM on August 16, 2014

Nthing the "something soft and cozy ideas" If she's not feeling well she may be experiencing different levels of comfort with heat/cold throughout the day. One of those warm, cozy throws you can get at Target would be great. Also get her a nice eye mask so she can sleep when the room is bright.
posted by Sal and Richard at 9:22 PM on August 16, 2014

Make the effort to visit.
It's very inconvenient, but nothing matters at this stage more than people and love.
Take someone with you that is spending chronic time with them, so you can get cues on when to leave.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:50 PM on August 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Photos of shared memories, weird/amusing press clippings? Little things to do/give a moments relief. Harvey Pekars 'Our Cancer Year' soothing for some, not for others.
posted by tanktop at 3:19 AM on August 17, 2014

A lovely soft small throw rug. She can put it over her legs or around her shoulders if cold. Go for a nice quality one if you can afford it.

Your best gift would be to go and visit if you could manage. I don't know your relationship to his wife, but your friend would probably appreciate it. You don't have to stay long. His wife would probably be made happy to know that someone is there for her husband. My fathers main concern when he was dying was that my mother would be taken care of and that she wouldn't have to handle things alone.
posted by wwax at 9:27 AM on August 17, 2014

Pajamas! Fuzzy socks. If you can afford it, an iPad so she can facetime with important far flung people. Something small and pretty to hold (a little statue, or a smooth precious stone). (All, sadly, from experience.)
posted by stoneweaver at 3:42 PM on August 18, 2014

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