[See updated 2021 post here]
To simplify your gift list this holiday season, we asked our staff clinicians what kinds of things they’d recommend giving to someone who is recovering from a stroke or brain injury. To that end, we’ve assembled a list of 12 gift ideas that may help improve the quality of life for your loved one (or even their caregivers!) during recovery,
Our suggestions range from tools and gadgets that can help make life more comfortable, to remarkable books written by individuals recovering from brain injury to services that can assist with daily living activities. (Note: aside from Constant Therapy, we do not derive any benefit from purchases of the products mentioned here.)
Are there any gifts you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments section below.
- Weighted blanket
Weighted blankets are heavy blankets filled with weighted material that provide firm but gentle pressure. They’ve been found to have a calming effect that eases stress and aids sleep – something that can be a great comfort to those recovering from stroke or brain injury. You can find weighted blankets in many colors and styles, reasonably priced, at Amazon and other online stores, as well as department stores such as Target or Walmart.
- Eye mask
When survivors of head injury experience extra movement around them or bright lights, it can be too much information for the brain to process and organize, and sensory overload can occur and result in increased anxiety. Sometimes, the best thing to do is take a break away from the light with a comfortable eye mask. You can find reasonably-priced eye masks in drugstores and pharmacies, as well as online stores like Amazon. (And we recommend skipping the scented masks – sometimes the simplest gifts are the best.)
- Noise-blocking headphones
Like too much light, too much noise can also be distracting and cause sensory overload for survivors of brain injury. Therefore, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones can be a comfort in situations that are prone to over-stimulation – either for listening to soothing music or just being quiet. You can find noise-canceling headphones at stores that carry electronics, like Staples, Walmart or Best Buy, or at online stores like newegg.com.
- Sticky-notes in various colors
Sticky notes are a great tool for organization, remembering things, and even positive affirmations (we all need that!). They can help keep you focused and on task – and you can color-code things, which is easy to do since they come in a variety of colors and sizes. You can find sticky notes almost everywhere.
- Scan marker
However, if handwriting or typing is difficult, this little gadget can help take notes and store important information that you want to remember. Just slide it across any printed text and it will scan notes instantly to your computer, smartphone or tablet. The original scan marker can be found here (but you can also find similar products on Amazon).
- Adaptive eating utensils
Sometimes after a brain injury or a stroke, it can be hard to hold or balance food on regular utensils. There are clever adaptive utensils available to aid the process and help you feel more independent during mealtimes – some help stabilize your hands, others have a broader grip, and still others have curved handles to help with fine motor coordination. If you type “adaptive eating utensils” into the Amazon search bar, you’ll find lots of brands to choose from. You can also ask your clinician for recommendations on where to purchase.
- Books about living with stroke or brain injury
Two of our current favorites are A Stitch in Time by Lauren Marks and Relentless: How a Massive Stroke Changed My Life for the Better by Ted Baxter. Both books are written by survivors who tell their remarkable stories in an approachable and inspiring way. (And it’s always validating to know that others are going through similar challenges as you.)
- The MusicGlove
This innovative device, from FlintRehab, helps survivors of stroke and brain injury continue practicing fine motor skill therapy at home. The MusicGlove is a wearable computing device outfitted with tiny sensors that track the user’s hand movements. Patients use it to play a Guitar Hero-style game that involves pinching and gripping notes on the screen of a tablet. Users say it keeps them motivated to keep up therapy.
- Constant Therapy
Want to keep improving speech and cognitive skills even after therapy ends? Constant Therapy is an award-winning cognitive, language, and speech therapy mobile app that delivers customized, science-based tasks that help improve skills and rebuild confidence during stroke and brain injury recovery. It’s available for iPad, iPhone, Chromebooks, and Android tablets on the Google and Apple app stores.
- Uber / Lyft gift card or pre-paid local bus pass
Some survivors aren’t able to drive and must rely on friends and family to get to appointments or to do errands. The “gift of transportation” is a wonderful way to promote a feeling of independence. It can also provide a little break for a caregiver. You can find these cards on the rack with other gift cards at most general merchandise stores.
- Subscription to regular meal service or food delivery gift cards
In the same vein as a transportation gift card, giving the gift of meal delivery is a lovely way to help make lives easier (and again, provide a break for caregivers!) There are ready-made weekly meal subscription services like Blue Apron or HelloFresh, or you can give a Grubhub or DoorDash gift card so that the recipient can order meals from their favorite local restaurant whenever they want. (For a double-duty gift, if you give an Uber gift card, the recipient can also use it to order take-out through UberEats!)
- A donation in the recipient’s name
Whether it is an organization that promotes awareness of stroke or brain injury, like SameYou, the American Stroke Association, or the Brain Injury Association of America, or any other relevant organization, making a donation in the name of your friend or loved one is always a meaningful, lasting and sure-to-be-appreciated gift.