This annual Multiple Sclerosis Holiday Gift Guide is a HIT every year. I’ve updated it this year with new products that either I’ve come across or have been suggested by others in the FUMS community. I hope you find this helpful – and, if you have suggestions for great gifts, please share them in the comments section below this post so everyone can benefit.
I can’t believe it’s that time already – time to make that list and check it twice . . . To help alleviate some of the guesswork – and to help those who are receiving the gifts get what they can really use and enjoy – I asked the FUMS community to send in their best and most useful products that help in everyday living. As always, they came through with an overwhelming response. If you are an MS warrior – forward this list to your friends and family. Make it easy for them. Or – print it out and leave it “laying around” – maybe highlight a product or 2!! People will appreciate the help.
If, instead, you are a gift-giver, start with this: know thy audience. Some MS’ers would not look at the “MS specific” gifts as gifts – but rather as reminders of their disease. Gauge the attitude of the intended recipient and give accordingly.
I’ve tried to provide helpful suggestions and “hyperlink” to several products. Hyperlinks are those words that appear in orange that you can actually click on and you’ll be brought directly to the page where you can purchase or learn more about that product. Some of these hyperlinked items are affiliate links for me where, if you make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. There is no additional cost to you and please know – I would never recommend or suggest something that I didn’t believe in or use myself.
1. Cooling Gear – if you’re not aware of it, a great majority of MS patients cannot tolerate the heat – and in fact, find themselves thrown into a flare or a full-blown exacerbation when unable to cool down. As such, several companies have come up with helpful products designed to lower the temperature for those who need it. Here are some of the best: Cooling Vests – for an all-over quick cooling effect, choose one of these cooling vests. It is almost instantaneous cooling and last for hours. Read the descriptions carefully: some can be worn underneath clothing more easily than others. Neck Wraps – this is my personal favorite item from this category. There are several different styles to choose from. I like those that can be either frozen or heated. I have spasticity in my upper back and neck so the heat helps me at times. When it’s 90+ degrees with equal humidity in the hot southern Virginia summers, a cold neck wrap brings my temperature down fast and keeps it down. It’s imperative for me if I’m going to be able to function in the heat. The kind that have lavender in them are my favorites. You get aromatherapy as well!! BONUS!! I LOVE this one: Aroma Wrap Heated or Cooled Herbal Neck Wrap On The Go Series (Lavender). Our FUMS community member Grace Kopp has the opposite problem: she’s always cold. She suggests getting a heated blanket and being in control of your own thermostat!
2. Help Around the House – there are numerous national home cleaning companies that are happy to work with you on gift certificates or long- or short-term contracts. Molly Maid, Merry Maids and Maid Brigade , just to name a few. Want to keep it local? Go to Craigslist or just Google “Maid Service” for your local area. **Don’t forget the low-cost opportunity to provide cleaning services yourself. Just design a “gift certificate” yourself with however many service dates you’d like to provide. Don’t forget the outside of the house as well. It’s often not possible for MS’ers to get out and mow the lawn, rake the leaves or put up holiday decorations. A friend offering to provide those services would be a wonderful gift (see “gift certificate” template provided previously). Don’t have the time to do it yourself? Again, check Craigslist, Google or Angie’s List for local lawn services or handyman services. What a relief it would be to look out my window and have all of these blasted leaves gone!!
3. Gift Cards – massages (especially reflexology), yoga classes, facials, mani/pedis, iTunes, movie theater, restaurants, and VISA or Mastercard gift cards – so people can choose their own gifts.
4. Home Entertainment – NetFlix, Hulu, Amazon Prime (One Year Membership), warm socks, sweatshirts, blankets, fluffy pillows, audiobooks (see Audible), puzzles, books – anything that you’ve enjoyed or that your intended recipient is interested in. Here are links to suggested MS specific books. Some of my very favorites are: Adaptive Yoga Moves Any Body by the AMAZING Mindy Eisenberg (I kind of adore her), New Altitude by my new and incredibly inspiring MS-friend Wendy Booker; Multiple Sclerosis For Dummies, Recovering from Multiple Sclerosis,The Multiple Sclerosis Diet Book, Facing the Cognitive Challenges of Multiple Sclerosis, Minding My Mitochondria 2nd Edition: How I overcame secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) and got out of my wheelchair, and Awkward Bitch:My Life with MS – submitted by fellow FUMSer Karen Rotert who said “this [book] gives people without MS a real look at what we go through and makes MS’ers feel normal with their feelings.”
And don’t forget an e-reader, like a Kindle. Sometimes those big books can be rather heavy. If an MS’ers hands are numb, tingling, painful, or just tired, a book can be a difficult thing to hold. An e-reader may be just the ticket. Downloads are very easy (if there is wifi available) thus offering the recipient a never-ending opportunity for personalized entertainment. The gift that keeps on giving!
5. Productivity/Adaptive Technology – Let technology take some of the burdens and help with reminders, questions and keeping track of things:
- MS Journal — this app, created for MS patients and caregivers, helps keep track of the day-to-day issues that MS’ers need to keep track of – namely – injections, reactions, medication reminders, a place for comments (think: weird symptoms, sleep issues, how tired you are of having MS, etc.) – all of which can be put into a report form and downloaded for your doctor. It’s FREE and available for iPhone and iPad.
- MSAA – Multiple Sclerosis Self-Care Manager – this app, backed by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) won a lot of points with FUMS readers. It keeps everything in one place: medications, side effects, lab results, allergies and other conditions. It’s FREE and available for the iPhone and iPad.
- MedImage Cases – this one is pretty cool. It allows you to look at 26 biweekly MRI case presentations, giving you a front-row view of a neurologist’s grand-rounds! It really helps to make sense of disease progression and therapeutic response. Even more impressive: this app offers audio commentary from MRI experts. Really helpful if your MS has jacked up your eyesight! It’s FREE and available for iPhone and iPad.
- Any calendar app. I use iCalendar that links my desktop and my iPhone. I put EVERYTHING on that calendar. And I use alarms. When to take my meds, when to call my nurse, when my next appointment is scheduled, when to write my blog posts!! It keeps me straight on everything. Cog Fog be damned. I don’t forget if my alarm is reminding me of everything. It helps reduce the stress – and that’s good for everything – especially MS.
Additionally, Voice Recognition Software has proven very helpful for a lot of us. I use “Siri” on my iPhone ALOT! If an MS’er’s hands are bothering them or they’re unable to lift their arms, voice recognition software can mean the difference between staying productive – or not. Imagine dictating an email or a text or a presentation or a report and watching it be typed out right in front of your eyes! And – if there’s a need to work from a recliner, a sofa or a bed – the Laptop Laidback can be the most practical gift of all. This baby’s incline can change with the user’s, always keeping the arms at the optimal, ergonomically-correct distance for computer usage. I LOVE mine not only for being uber-productive but for being uber-lazy!! I like to set my iPad up on it and watch “The Crown” in bed!! Our friend and fellow FUMS’er Kit Minden gave a great suggestion: A reading/book/document stand that can hold all of those things so you don’t have to! It’s called the Actto Portable Reading Stand/Book stand Document Holder (180 angle adjustable). Thanks again, Kit! Isn’t this community great?
6. Meals – a certificate for a meal once a month for a year – or sign up for a service in which people can rotate and bring in a meal. I really like Meal Train for this purpose. It’s clear and everyone can choose dates and times that work for them. This can be something you do for your friend, a group of neighbors can get together to sponsor and share the cooking, or you could find a caterer in the area to schedule meal deliveries. If your gift-getter (!) is a pizza-lover, schedule to have pizza delivered once a month with a local pizzeria. How about subscribing (for yourself and/or a loved one) to BLUE APRON – a wonderful meal delivery service that will bring all the ingredients along with simple recipes right to your door. Nutritious and yummy!
7. Mobility – Wheelchairs, and scooters, and canes, oh my!! This probably isn’t something that most people could buy someone as a “gift.” However, if you’re helping someone in their search for mobility assistive devices, here’s a great place to start: Mobility. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider for help in navigating insurance requirements, etc., to be sure to get the most bang for your buck!!
8. Jewelry – while this can be a very personal taste-dependent gift, it can also be an opportunity to expand the horizons of someone’s personal tastes!! Aside from local jewelry stores, don’t forget to check out Etsy. This is a wonderful site that offers handmade and unique gifts of all kinds – including jewelry. If it’s MS-inspired jewelry that you’re looking for, here are some suggestions: MS Jewelry.
9. Warrior Wear – MS Gets on My Nerves T-Shirt – Peace Frogs is a full line of clothing, designed to help promote positive and optimistic thinking throughout the world. Their clothing places a premium on comfort, quality, and style, but it also allows you to spread a little bit of a positive feeling every time you wear it. They worked with FUMSnow.com to come up with a GREAT tee shirt that incorporates that FUMS attitude and spreads a little sunshine in the MS world. It’s comfortable, looks great and promotes MS awareness. Go ahead – get ‘cha one! The folks at Race to Erase MS have a whole shop with great products sold specifically to raise money for researching a cure. You get a great product and contribute to the cure. Win-win!
10. Miscellaneous Gift Ideas – here are a few more ideas that were submitted by fellow FUMS’ers: Shower Grab Bar, toilet grab bars, Sombra cooling and pain relieving cream, extra large rearview mirror, aromatherapy, a small refrigerator (to have handy near a recliner), night lights (to make the home a safer place), flameless candles (ambiance without the worry), pill minders, a shower seat, foot bath,body pillow and a charging station. Want something to remind them of you throughout the year? How about an “of-the-month club” gift? Flower-of-the-month, beer-of-the-month, tea-0f-the-month – and my personal favorite: wine-of-the-month!! FUMS community member Tori Davies-Wompey suggested a weighted blanket. While she hasn’t used it herself, she’s heard good things about it. It relieves stress and anxiety and can really help with insomnia. And now – announcing the newest resource to receive a resounding thumbs up from the FUMS testing committee (me): SQUATTY POTTY!!! If you’re a fan of the television show “Shark Tank” you’ll recognize this wonderful invention. It’s a stool that fits around your toilet that will elevate your feet and put you into the “squatting” position that has been found to alleviate a lot of the problems that MS’ers have with bowel and bladder issues. And it’s fun to say! And along those lines – I’ll add my new ebook: “Bowel and Bladder Issues in Multiple Sclerosis by Two Pee Brains With Potty Mouths Talking Shit About MS” It’s got a lot of good, solid, medical information from a world-renowned pelvic floor dysfunction physical therapist and me – the smart ass. So – you’ll get good information – and a giggle or two as well. It’s a two-fer!
Perhaps the best gift you could give someone with MS is something that is one-size-fits-all, comes only in the color orange and is guaranteed to be well-received, and never returned or exchanged: it’s a donation in their honor. There are any number of charities that service this community – The National MS Society, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, and my personal choice – the Center Without Walls at the Race to Erase MS. This really is the gift that keeps on giving – to the one whose name or memory you’ve honored – and to the entire MS community.
**Equally important – some things FUMS community members suggested NOT giving as gifts:
Season tickets to anything – or date specific tickets – this can be a lot of pressure for someone who can’t be sure they’re able to do anything from one minute to the next. And by the way, pressure and stress are VERY bad for anyone – most especially someone with Multiple Sclerosis. The physical manifestations of stress are often flares.
Inspirational or religious gifts – what I find inspirational may be very different from what you find inspirational. And religious gifts – well, unless you’re very well acquainted this can go very wrong, very fast!
No surprises and no surprise parties – see the earlier mention about what stress can do to MS’ers.
Finally – I’d like to give you a gift as well – a link to a song I wrote and sang – “Wash Your Mouth Out With Hope” written for those of us in the MS community – but could certainly be for anyone dealing with any sort of difficulty. Include a copy of the link with your gift and brighten the spirit of those you share it with.
Please add anything else that you think would be a good addition to this list in the comments section of this post. I hope you find value in this gift guide and it proves to be very helpful to you and yours. Happy holidays and remember – sometimes it helps the stress, just to say F-U-M-S!!