Simple activities that you may take for granted are appreciated by an elderly, homebound friend or relative. Gifts of service, such as a ride to the grocery store or lunch at a cafe, are as appropriate as more traditional gifts, especially if the recipient has few options for basic away-from-home activities on his own. Even changing an old light bulb, mopping the floor and mowing a lawn are appreciated by those unable to do these things easily on their own.
Being homebound means simple offsite activities such as a visit to a local library are typically not an option, or at least, they're infrequent. Offer an elderly friend or relative stuck at home subscriptions to magazines suited to her interests, such as gardening or writing. If she is tech-savvy, an e-book reader or a tablet allows her to read virtually anything she wants to without having to go to a bookstore or library to find the book. Plus, she will have the ability to make the font a size large enough that she can see it. A gift card or subscription to a book-download service is another option, or set her up with an account for a local library's e-book collection. Offer to take her to a library every week or two, or pick up and return books on her behalf. Some libraries offer homebound delivery service once or twice a month; call her local library and make arrangements if this service is offered in her area.
If he's stuck at home, eating a balanced diet may be difficult, since he may not have a means to visit a grocery store frequently. Offer to take him grocery shopping, if he is physically able, or to purchase items for him every week or two. A catered, home-cooked meal service is another option; some catering companies specialize in prepared meals at least five nights a week and deliver the food, ready to eat, to subscribers' homes. Some of these services tailor meals to meet dietary needs as well; find out about his dietary concerns before offering any food-based gift to ensure he is able to enjoy it safely. If you like to cook, prepare meals such as pans of lasagna, cut into individual servings and frozen so he only needs to reheat the food. Taking your friend or loved one out for a meal every week or two is a gift he will treasure if he enjoys leaving his home. He may even welcome a visit to a park with you as an alternative to sitting inside every day.
Household Cleaning and Care
If her vision and strength aren't what they used to be, offer to perform basic cleaning chores, such as washing or vacuuming the floor, cleaning the windows and wiping down appliances. If she is able to handle such tasks on her own, offer her a lightweight broom-style or hand-held vacuum cleaner -- each weighs far less than a traditional upright vacuum, so she is able to reach places that may have been difficult to vacuum otherwise, such as carpeted steps. A robotic vacuum does basic vacuuming for her -- set it up and show her how to use it and empty it. Perform minor household repairs and maintenance if you have the know-how, such as tightening loose screws in chair legs or replacing light bulbs in ceiling fixtures. Offer a gift basket of vacuum cleaner bags, trash bags and cleaning supplies if you've noticed her supply is low.
Treats and Trinkets
Tasty treats are another gift your friend or loved one may enjoy, especially if she is unable to get them easily on her own. If she raves about a favorite type of tea she hasn't had in years, prepare a small gift basket with several packages of the tea. Offer a coffee grinder and an assortment of organic coffee beans if she enjoys coffee, or bake her a pan of her favorite chocolate chip cookies. A gift of earrings or bracelets is appreciated if she enjoys dressing up for her outings away from home. Provide household items that may make tasks easier, such as an electric can opener, a pod-style coffeemaker, complete with an assortment of coffee pods.
- Liz Gregg/Digital Vision/Getty Images