Top Tips for buying gifts for Spoonies

If you don’t have a chronic illness or disability and are looking for a gift for someone who does please talk to them first. It’s one thing ending up with gifts you don’t like or won’t use but, as a chronically ill or disabled person, it can be really upsetting to receive gifts you can’t use/do because it often reminds us of the things we can’t do/are missing out on because of our illness/disability. There may be factors you wouldn’t even consider which mean something you think is a great gift could be hazardous to our health. Whether it’s due to allergies, intolerance, sensory processing or aspects of our conditions which might make things difficult. For example I am intolerant to lots of different foods which most of my loved ones know about but I’m also intolerant to certain fragrances and can’t take baths so something like bath salts which help a lot of people who live with chronic pain would be useless to me. My tip to keep things a surprise is to ask general questions around a type of gift (What are your favourite self care activities? or What’s your favourite brand for xyz) or ask about a particular allergen/ irritant (Can you tolerate wool? – you could be thinking of anything from a scarf to a blanket)

I did a survey of my instagram followers and found out what fellow spoonies thought were the best and worst gifts to give to someone with a chronic illness or a disability! The 5 worst gifts according to my followers were:

  1. Bath/Skincare Products – from allergies to sensitive skin to sensory issues to bathing difficulties these are a big no no for most people with chronic illness unless the person has specified something. There are few brands I’m okay with and I have to stick to one for my hair and face and a different one for body products.
  1. Scented Products – whether it’s candles, perfumes or bath products scents are a really risky game for those with chronic illness especially conditions such a migraine or MCAS. I can manage some fragrance and love candles but really struggle with certain fragrances and can’t use many fragranced products on my skin. Many people can’t tolerate fragrance at all and it could be hidden in things from hand gels & hand creams to hair products so unless you have specific instructions stay away. 
  1. Food & Drink – intolerances and allergies are becoming increasingly common among the wider population but are even more common for those with chronic illnesses. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve specified my allergies on my christmas list and still ended up with things I can’t have which end up as an extra gift for my boyfriend. People have also tried to skirt around my requests by getting me free from versions which are often full of rubbish and not very nice and can be a real waste so personally, I’d rather you just didn’t bother. There are some very good free from brands out there but again ask if there is a preference if you really have to get food. Some people cannot eat at all so it is best to avoid food products all together unless specified. Alcohol is often a popular and easy gift but it’s one so many people have various issues with so again best to avoid unless you know. 
  1. Physical Activities – Wanting to give someone an experience as opposed to a gift is a lovely idea but needs to be thought about carefully. There are lots of different access issues which may need to be considered. It’s also really difficult for many people with chronic illnesses to commit to a specific event as they just don’t know how they will feel on the day. I know for me surprises can cause major anxiety and mean I don’t enjoy the gift even if it has been properly arranged. For many people who struggle to get out at all gift vouchers for places that don’t offer home delivery are also really inaccessible so definitely discuss this fully with the recipient before organising. 
  1. Exercise Equipment and Alternative Health Treatments – again unless this has been specified it’s usually best to avoid. It can make the recipient feel they aren’t trying hard enough with their health when in reality they are doing everything they can.

The five top gifts were:

  1. Heat Pads 
  2. Blankets, Fluffy socks, PJ, Comfy Clothes – general comfort items
  3. Pillows 
  4. Mobility Aids Large & Small
  5. Gift vouchers for accessible things such as food delivery or online stores

Again still check as I know loads of people who adore blankets and fluffy socks but some who want to avoid them like the plague. Do check out my Chronic Illness Gift guide for some more ideas of specific gifts but the golden rule is if you aren’t sure, just ask and respect the answer.