Appropriate gifts to include in a care package for a homebound friend?
August 30, 2007 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Please help me distract, amuse, and pamper my sick friend.

A friend of mine recently began chemotherapy, and will be housebound for six months. At the end of this first month, his wife has reported that he's upbeat, occasionally tired with a short attention span, and bored out of his skull. She has put out a request for funny books to keep him distracted. I would like to put together a care package for them both.

I've decided to send him a copy of "Good Omens" (for the funny) and a copy of "On Food and Cooking" (since he's a foodie). A mutual friend has already hooked him up with the entire Bill Bryson collection. I would like to include other amusing, but not crass, distractions - but am having a hard time coming up with anything. He's a very dapper, smart man, with a good sense of humor, and a positive outlook on his illness. He's a foodie, and a business librarian. He is also the first person close to me that has ever had cancer - Yes, I've been lucky, but this is new ground for me. Ideally, they'd be items I can pick up while running errands this weekend, but am not adverse to ordering something online and sending a second box in a few months. Hit me with your amusing, smart, toys and distractions that won't tire him out or can be put down and picked back up.

Bonus points if you can recommend something small to include for his wife as well - she's still working full time and his caregiver. I was thinking a teacup with good tea and chocolates, but am open to other fabulous alternatives.

Thank you in advance for your advice. I look forward to your suggestions.
posted by librarianamy to Shopping (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I hear Roy Blount Jr. is a funny food writer. And if he hasn't read it yet, Calvin Trillin's "Tummy Trilogy" is also great.

(Although if he's doing chemo, he might be nauseated, so you should check in to see whether reading about food is delightful or distasteful.)
posted by ottereroticist at 10:12 AM on August 30, 2007

For his wife: how about a certificate for an evening off, while you take a shift with your friend? A certificate for a massage or pedicure is optional.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:15 AM on August 30, 2007

I added the chemotherapy tag to this post and you might want to look up other chemo advice, not all focused on gifts and whatever but full of good advice on kind and caring ways to interact with someone going through chemo. For foodies chemo can be really dispiriting because it can ruin your appetite and make food taste terrible, so tread lightly with food until you're sure how he's taking it.
posted by jessamyn at 10:18 AM on August 30, 2007

How about some Tim Cahill? Travel writer, very funny. His collections of essays contain pieces that are relatively short - so if you get distracted or have to go take a nap, it's easy to find your place again - and LOL funny. IMO, anyway.

For his wife: get her a certificate for a good professional massage (and also tea and chocolate). Caregiving is exhausting and leaves little time for the giver to release tension or have a little downtime, so even an hour-long massage can be a blessing.
posted by rtha at 10:18 AM on August 30, 2007

Thank you jessamyn for adding the tag - I've gone through the cancer/chemo tags already - I'm still enough of a noob here that I'm trying to toe the line and didn't want a duplicate post. I appreciate it, and the broader suggestion.

As for the food, he's the cook in the family and from what I've been told, he's still up to doing the cooking and joining everyone for meals. My normal default care-package includes tons of home baked goods, which is one of the reasons I'm sort of at a loss here. I don't want to send peanut butter cookies stuffed with snickers bars, if they're just going to make him feel worse.
posted by librarianamy at 10:25 AM on August 30, 2007

If he hasn't already read Jeffrey Steingarten, "The Man Who Ate Everything," and "It Must Have Been Something I Ate" would be fun. Each chapter is about Steingarten's pursuit of a different food, and he has a great, dry sense of humour. Because each chapter is different, maybe it would be good for someone who tires easily, but it looking for amusement value. They're great food books.

"Pot on the Fire" is also a stellar food book, although not so funny.
posted by digitalis at 10:31 AM on August 30, 2007

My favorite food books: "Heat" by Bill Buford, "Kitchen Confidential" by Tony Bourdain, "The Soul of a Chef" by Michael Ruhlman
posted by david1230 at 11:08 AM on August 30, 2007

"The Rabbi's Cat" by Joann Sfarr is a good graphic novel that may meet your criteria.
posted by amphioxus at 11:08 AM on August 30, 2007

Audiotape books may be welcome.
posted by Idcoytco at 11:10 AM on August 30, 2007

Oh, and I just finished The Botany of Desire and enjoyed it a lot.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:25 AM on August 30, 2007

Would he want to grow things? A pot of culinary herbs in the window might be cheering, smell good, and growing things is subtly inspirational.
posted by Riverine at 11:39 AM on August 30, 2007

Hey! I just started my own six-month chemo-driven lock-down, so I'll be keeping an eye on this thread and related tags!

As for food, in addition to the appetite loss/difficulty chewing/nausea/etc, your friend might be pretty restricted (PDF) as to things that are allowed.

As for my own reading list, I am just wrapping up The Great Bridge by David McCollough; next up are Heat, and Better. But those are just my personal interests.

I gotta say though, it's sometimes awfully hard to concentrate enough to read anything. Which just adds to the boredom.
posted by Dr. Sam at 11:57 AM on August 30, 2007

A subscription service like Netflix (for movies) or BooksFree (for books) might be a nice way to keep a flow of new media.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:52 PM on August 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Netflix is a fantastic idea as is getting a proffessional massage for the wife. I think maybe you should buy him one of those "grow tomato's in the comfort of your own home" kits.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 1:02 PM on August 30, 2007

Personal bias here, but can he / would he be interested in knitting? Not only does it have proven health benefits (test subjects' blood pressure goes WAY down during knitting), but it's a sit-still kind of distraction that has a very pleasing ending -- something useful to wear or otherwise enjoy. And if his wife's interested, too, it's something they could do together.

I find that knitting is a good "centering" mechanism once you've got the basic moves down, and those don't take very long to learn.
posted by at 1:10 PM on August 30, 2007

I second bitter-girl's suggestion about knitting. There are a lot of good "how to knit" books out there--the ones with clear photos/illustrations are best, I think, but if a real live person can go to your friend and spend a while getting him set up, that's even better.

I could go on and on about it, but I think knitting is wonderfully relaxing. The textures of the yarn and needles, the excitement over seeing your finished material grow, the beauty of the colours...ahh.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:03 PM on August 30, 2007

i would also go with movies and/or tv shows on dvd--if he is tired and/or nauseated, he may not be up for reading. also, a couple of friends who went through chemo experienced some nerve damage/clumsiness, so turning pages might get annoying.

this might be strange, but since he may spend a good deal of time puking, how about a nice little mp3 player for the bathroom? load it up with relaxing music and let him leave it by the pot.

also, probably the best thing you can do is just to call him once a week and keep him up-to-date on your life. don't be afraid that your problems might seem small in comparison--illness is very isolating, and once the novelty of having cancer has passed, he's probably going to want to hear all about how you flubbed that presentation or got a flat on the freeway at rush hour.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:24 PM on August 30, 2007

Knitters - I am a knitter, and agree from the outset. However, his wife is an amazing knitter, and his live-in MIL is a master knitter with patterns published in Interweave Knits. So anything I could send on that topic, well, would be second to the expertise already in his home. (Though, a yarn gift certificate for his wife might be a good idea...) Thanks!
posted by librarianamy at 6:24 PM on August 30, 2007

no one seems to be suggesting any toys, so i thought i'd recommend Rush Hour. the boyfriend got it for me when i was recovering from surgery, and my family still plays it all the time.
posted by kidsleepy at 11:51 AM on September 4, 2007

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