Gifts For Assisted Living, Nursing Home and Home Caregivers
Families with loved ones receiving care from professional caregivers often ask about appropriate gifts for holidays or when their loved one is successfully discharged from care. There is often the temptation to slip a few dollars or a "little something" into the pocket of a caregiver who went above and beyond in caring for our elderly patient.
Giving in to this temptation can result in unhappy consequences for the gift recipient. Many low-paid caregivers will be tempted to gratefully keep your gift. However, this could ultimately risk their jobs, as most facilities and homecare agencies have strict rules prohibiting their employees from accepting gifts.
Employees are first and foremost prohibited from accepting gifts because the practice is not fair to many other senior residents. A patient or resident who can afford to give gifts to care staff may receive more attention and better treatment than a patient who can't afford to give gifts. So in order to avoid even the hint of any conflict, agencies and facilities prohibit any gifts that are not offered to the entire staff.
When you would like to particularly recognize one or two individual caregivers, the best gift you can give is a letter to the administrator, with a copy to the employee. These kinds of "comment cards" can ultimately lead to raises and promotions for employees who have evidence of their excellent work in their personnel files. They will sometimes also earn "points" for the employee that can lead to special awards and privileges and public recognition in front of their peers.
Many facilities and agencies maintain a holiday fund to which families can contribute. There is no obligation to contribute, and no suggested amount. Caregivers do not know who did, and who did not, contribute. The money collected is distributed to all the employees. Check with the administrator or manager about any such fund.
Gifts of food for the entire staff are almost always permitted and appreciated. Chocolates, cookies, popcorn tins and other nibbles are always popular. Keep in mind that there are usually at least three shifts in a large facility. If you are bringing edible treats, make sure to bring a marked container for each shift. Otherwise, the chocolates you left at 11 a.m. are likely to be gone before the afternoon shift arrives, and the night shift will never even know about your goodies.
At holiday time there is always an abundance of sweets gifted to care staff. Gifts of fresh fruit, nuts, bagels and other non-sugary treats will be a nice change, and will certainly be appreciated by any caregiver who is trying to weight watch.
Other gifts that can be enjoyed by everyone are large dispensers of unscented luxury hand creams for hands that are often washed to the point of crumbling, or perhaps a selection of gourmet coffees and teas for the break room.
Remember that there are often employees who made major contributions to the comfort and safety of your loved one who you might rarely see. The housekeeping, dietary, laundry and maintenance staff are often "invisible," yet they can make or break the living experience of your loved one. Keep them in mind if you are writing comment cards. Also keep in mind that the heirarchy of the facility may be such that these employees don't gather for breaks in the same place the nursing and therapy staff relax. Do a little snooping before you put together any treats you might be planning in order to be sure these often-forgotten employees are included.
If your senior really wants to have something to offer favorite caregivers, provide a candy box or jar in the room so he or she can personally offer a little treat and a "thank you." The management should have no problem with something so small.
If you employ a private caregiver, you won't face any official restrictions on giving your caregiver a gift. Many people recommend a week's wages for a caregiver who has been with you for a year. If your budget doesn't stretch that far, it certainly is not necessary to be that generous. A smaller amount of cash or a gift card to a favorite supermarket are also good forms of recognition. Avoid gift cards to department stores and other places where your caregiver might rarely shop.
If you can, avoid allowing your senior to give a gift directly to the caregiver without you being present. This sets a precedent that you might want to avoid.