Dear Carol: My mother lives in a nursing home that’s provided good care during the almost-year she’s lived there. I’d like to give the staff who care for her the most a holiday gift from Mom. She isn’t wealthy so she needs to preserve her money to pay for her care and my husband and I don’t have money to spare. Even so, we want these hardworking people to know that they are appreciated.

I was already worried about this situation before the pre-COVID lockdown because of the number of people involved in Mom’s care. Now, since the lockdown, I’m even more befuddled. We don’t want to get them a cheap token, but we want to do something for at least those who do the most for Mom. Any suggestions? — GB.

Dear GB: Several members of my family lived their last years in a nearby nursing home where we grew to know the staff well, so I’ve experienced this. Like so much of caregiving, we need to be creative enough to find a workable if imperfect solution.

At first, we wrote small checks to everyone who did much of anything for our parents, and we also gave the floor a plant or flowers plus some treats. Our family was private pay, so over time, money was tight. As funds dwindled, we settled on small gift certificates from a local grocery store that has branches located around our metro area. Our rationale was that everyone eats and if they prefer a treat, they can use the gift certificate in that way. We continued to buy a holiday plant for the floor. Would we have liked to do more? Of course. But like you, we had to do what was possible. Something along this line could work for you.


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Another option is to quietly give a larger amount to those who have the most contact with your mom. The hard part about this is that your mom has many people in charge of her needs, and you may not even know them all. If you go this route, start with those with whom you know your mom interacts the most and gradually widen the group if she can afford it.

If even small checks or gift certificates add up to more than she can spare, don’t worry about it. While most of us enjoy gifts, the staff who care for your mom understand that few people in facilities have a lot of money, so if you need to keep this to a minimum, a festively wrapped package of goodies for those who do the most would show your family’s appreciation.

A lovely plant for your mom’s floor and/or a plate of holiday treats is also an option. Accompany this with a card expressing thanks to the entire staff for all they do.

I’d like to stress, though, that what you can do, most of all, is treat these caregivers, including the hardworking, hands-on CNAs and support staff, with dignity and grace year-round.

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at She can be reached through the contact form on her website.