Give gift of your service to help out older parents

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DEAR ABBY: For those who are looking for gift suggestions for older parents, may I offer what my kids do for us? They live far away and usually visit us in the spring and fall.

Before they leave, my daughter scrubs my bathroom shower and the rest of the room, cleans my refrigerator, oven, kitchen cabinets, my carpets — things that are difficult for me to do. While she’s inside doing that, my son-in-law is outside trimming trees and bushes, doing general yard cleanup in the spring and raking leaves and disposing of them in the fall.

In addition, during the months BEFORE their visit, my daughter is setting aside and freezing small portions of entrees so we will have future dinners from her meals. She also freezes an assortment of different soups in zip-lock bags, laid flat so they will fit well in my freezer. While they’re here, they cook all the meals and do the cleanup. What a wonderful gift!

Even if some families don’t cook, they could make up small meals with deli purchases and freeze them for their parents. Nothing could be appreciated more. Instead of buying a useless gift because “We didn’t know what to get you — you said you didn’t want anything,” these are gifts that keep on giving! — TRULY BLESSED IN MONTANA

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DEAR TRULY BLESSED: I agree. And you are fortunate to have such caring family members. Please allow me to offer some additional gift suggestions for seniors:

Many individuals on fixed incomes would appreciate a gift basket of goodies such as small cans of tuna, salmon or soup. Include with them crackers, assorted flavors of instant coffee, herbal teas, soup mixes and cookies.

Gift certificates also make welcome gifts: for groceries, haircuts, manicures, dry cleaning, restaurant meals, theater tickets and department stores. And don’t forget prepaid calling cards.

Create homemade coupons that can be redeemed for chores such as window washing, painting, replacing air conditioning filters and light bulbs, moving heavy furniture for spring and fall cleaning, and transportation for shopping, doctor’s visits, etc.

Because not all seniors drive, bus passes and coupons for senior transportation or taxis can also give the recipient the gift of freedom.

Sweat pants, athletic socks and walking shoes may motivate the sedentary to become more active — which improves circulation and cognition for people of every age.

Stationery, stamps and some felt-tipped pens make handy gifts that can be used throughout the year. And so do large-print address books with the information already transferred from the recipients’ records.

And please, don’t forget that the holiday season can be a depressing time for people who are alone. I am often asked for gift ideas for the person “who already has everything.” My answer: The greatest gift a person can give is the gift of yourSELF. If you know someone who could use an outing, offer the most meaningful gift of all — an invitation to share a meal with you or your family.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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