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Gifts for Someone Who Is Dying: Showing Love and Comfort in Every Moment

Author Jeri K. Augustus  / Category Photo Engraved Jewelry. Last Updated: February 27, 2024

Reviewed by John Conor. Reading time 25 mins.

Death isn’t something we like to acknowledge, much less discuss, with any openness. That can make it difficult to know how to process the impended death of someone you love. When you find out a loved one only has a few days or even months left to live, it’s common to feel overwhelming helplessness and grief. Knowing you cannot change the situation or “fix” the outcome of it is a sobering realization.

Dealing with the impending death of a loved one can be overwhelming. At Jewelry Keepsakes, we understand the importance of finding the perfect remembrance for your loved one. We have served over 80,000 families in nearly two decades and have maintained an excellent standing with the Better Business Bureau.

Our mission is to ensure your satisfaction with every product you choose, and we strive to provide exceptional customer service and top-quality products driven by our own real-life experiences with loss.

"My dad passed on June 4th of this year, and the entire process was terrible enough, but Jewelry Keepsakes made it a little easier, and I couldn't be happier with the end result. I'll always have a piece of my father with me in the necklace I bought from Keepsakes. He necklace is incredibly gorgeous, and my father would have adored it as well." Mandy A.

Why Bring A Gift For A Dying Loved One?

According to the National Institute on Aging, terminally ill patients need care in four main areas: physical comfort, mental and emotional needs, spiritual needs and practical tasks1. That type of care often requires a team effort and although this type of support is typically from medical professionals, there are ways in which the family can help.

There are small things you can do to make their lives easier and filled with comfort, including giving them gifts to show your love, appreciation, and desire to be there for them during this time.

25 Gift Ideas For A Dying Loved One

When it comes to giving a gift, what should you consider? As we’ve mentioned, finding an appropriate gift can be difficult. It's even more difficult to figure out what a person may need or want. Here is a list of 25 gift suggestions that you can consider for a loved one who is terminally ill.

1. DIGITAL PHOTO FRAME

One of the most trying things that face a terminally ill person is the feeling of loneliness. Even when you can’t be with them, bring them a gift that makes sure they can keep their friends and family members close – like a digital photo frame.

These are highly customizable, allowing you to load your favorite photos and images of your loved one, their friends and family, and even other photos you know they love. Personalized gifts like this are sure to be a hit for anyone.

Families with many members or those who live far apart should consider this exceptional option. It offers the opportunity to see a highlight reel of family members, memories, and milestone moments caught on film. This also offers an ideal opportunity for storytelling and reminiscing with family and friends who visit - I like to call them 'remember when' moments.

2. COZY BLANKETS

Many people that are dying spend much of their time resting and conserving their energy. Many people with serious illnesses may also be cold frequently or experience chills.

They might appreciate a giant fuzzy blanket to keep them warm and comfortable when they need a little extra comfort. Something colorful, decorative, and warm is perfect for the task.

There is something psychological about being wrapped in a blanket too. Being wrapped in a blanket can help us feel very secure2 - remember when you were a child and the feeling of security you got from a baby blanket, etc. And with the variety of sizes, styles, designs, etc., you can fine-tune what you're looking for and pick something special and unique.

3. DIGITAL VOICE RECORDER

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for something is giving them a safe way to voice their thoughts and feelings. A digital voice recorder gives someone that opportunity even when no one is around.

They can record their thoughts and feelings and retell memories and stories. When the mood strikes, this gives them a way to express themselves, even alone.

My father had a heart attack a few days before Christmas. Luckily, CPR was administered, and this life-saving measure gave him an additional nine days with his family. Shortly after he passed, I went through my phone and found several voice messages he had left for me throughout the past couple of years. What a gift it was to come across them! Hearing his voice, hearing him tell me he loved me - I was so grateful. I uploaded them to iCloud and now have them stored there whenever I need to hear his voice.

4. TAKE THEM TO A CONCERT

I know this seems a little out of the ordinary however you may find it surprising how many people in general have that one band, that one artist that is on their bucket list. Not only does this fulfill a bucket list item for them but it also presents an opportunity to make a memory and make them smile.

All venues make accommodations for those with disabilities and are handicapped accessible, so if your loved one struggles to get around, this can make the experience easier for you and them. Don't be afraid to reach out to the venue ahead of time regarding your needs so that you have a plan once you get there.

My mom recently told my brother and I that one of her bucket list items was to see Christ Stapleton in concert.  I connected with my brother; he, his wife, and I are taking my mom to see him this summer. So, I will make the memory with my mom and share the experience with my brother.

5. A VISIT FROM A PET

There’s nothing quite like the love of an animal to elevate your mood. When someone is very ill and in long-term care, they may miss the companionship of a beloved family pet. Even those who were not pet owners many enjoy petting or cuddling a fuzzy friend. 

Pet therapy for hospice care has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure and even help with depression3. While you will want to check with the facility in question, you should consider bringing the family pet in for a visit with your loved one, even if only for a short time.

And if your loved one doesn't have a pet, check with the hospital or local animal shelter. Often times there are pet comfort animals that can be brought in for a visit, and it truly is a wonderful gift to share with an animal lover that is dying

There are few things more powerful than a photograph of someone you love. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. One gift option combines a favored photograph with a small keepsake like a pendant or bracelet.

Photo-engraving specifically can immortalize a favorite family portrait into a much smaller, portable keepsake that won’t fade or tear over time. It’s a fantastic way to create a small memorial that you can take with you anywhere. Even better, photo-engraved keepsakes come in multiple shapes and sizes, giving you even more options to choose from. 

Photo engraved jewelry can perfectly replicate a loved ones image onto a small metal keepsake, and the resulting image is available in black and white grayscale or full color. Consider a piece like this engraved circle gold-plated pendant if you want something timeless and ornate. It combines a beautiful 14k gold plated finish with a raised edge of clear crystals to give your special photo a distinguished touch.

Quick Fact

We can remove backgrounds, merge photos, crop and enhance any photo to your specifications. An additional photo, fingerprint or personalized text can be added to the back of most of our photo engraved jewelry.

8. LET THEM PAINT A MASTERPIECE

If you're loved one loves to paint and they are up for the excursion, why not take them to a Brush Crazy or a similar shop where they can pick out something to paint - or choose something to paint together! This not only creates a special memory for the two of you but you may also end up with it hanging on your wall one day and have that visual memory of the time you spent together.

This is also a perfect opportunity to get other family members involved. Do a class together, vote on whose is the best, etc.  You could even go so far as auctioning off your loved one's painting to a family member or close friend on the first anniversary of a loss, and the highest bidder donates that money to your loved one's favorite charity.

My dad has a lot of beer steins and other bar memorbilia that he has collected over the course of 60 years.  The steins and memorabilia are still on display in the basement of my mom's home and, to all of us kids, serve as such a vibrant memory of my dad. It is not the same as a painting; however, it is a part of him that we look back on from our childhood and share in those memories.

8. CHECK OFF A BUCKET LIST ITEM

Most of us, especially as we age, have a list of things we'd like to do before it's time to go. Call it a bucket list, a must-do, a wishlist, etc. It may have one thing on there, and it may have hundreds.

Why not go over your loved one's bucket list with them and choose something that they can do - or better yet, a couple of things. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money, it doesn't have to be super extravagant and maybe you might have to pare it down or change the bucket list item somewhat due to the health of your loved one. Again, it's a memory making opportunity for both you and your loved one and will provide a precious moment in time that you can look back on.

9. WATCH THEIR FAVORITE MOVIE

You don’t necessarily need to spend your quality time talking, especially when someone is terminally ill. They may not even be able to spend much time in conversation, depending on their diagnosis and condition.

For some people, film and television bring comfort, especially old favorites. Watching a beloved film is an experience you can share. What about finding a boxed set of their favorite television series or film franchise? That provides hours of entertainment that they can watch, repeat, and share in the experience with others.

I can tell you right now, mine would be The Notebook10!  It doesn't matter how often I watch it; it always makes me cry and believe in true love and how the strength of family and the love of two people is truly something special. I don't know if my husband would feel the same, nor would it be HIS favorite movie.

10. BRING THEM SOMETHING TO DO

For someone in hospice care or other long-term living, there are long periods with little to do and no escape from possible boredom and loneliness. A good gift for someone at this time could be something to occupy their time.

There are many options including:

  • Traditional Puzzles
  • Sudoku & Crossword Puzzles
  • Adult Coloring Books

Something to occupy a person’s mind and hands can make a huge difference in their mood and their outlook on a situation. Also, don't forget about card games, dice games, a little old fashioned poker or chess! Being intellectually engaged is very important for brain health as we age and some studies has shown that this has a positive impact on quality of life and well-being on older adults4.

As we get older, we tend to collect things. Some people maybe it's dolls or figurines. I know a woman that collects Nutcrackers. Maybe it's seaglass or shells.  One of the most popular, like my dad, may collect cars - or a car - that they love and cherish. My dad had A LOT of them - probably close to 15!

Why not shine up those four wheels, fill it with gas, and take them for a ride! It doesn't have to be cross country - it can be a couple miles down their favorie country road! Make a day out of it! Stop and grab a coffee for the ride and then visit memories from their life. The house they grew up in, the high school or elementary school they attended.

Stop at that diner they love and grab a milkshake and a burger. Could you stop by and see an old friend of theirs? Flip a quarter at every turn and let fate take you where you're meant to go! The options are endless, and what a fun way to take a day trip down memory lane in a vehicle they love!

12. MAKE THEM A PLAYLIST

Never underestimate the power of music. It brings us together. It evokes emotional responses. It can be a powerful force in our lives.

Sharing music is a powerful thing, too. If you don’t feel confident in your writing abilities – or even if you do – you might find that you are better able to express yourself through music. Creating a playlist is sometimes harder than you might think! It can be a time-consuming process that takes emotional labor.

You may want to focus on putting together a playlist of the person’s favorite songs and artists to cheer them up. Create a list of songs that bring back memories for the two of you or your family: songs that remind you of your lives and the person.

I have the reverse of that story that happened in our family. After our dad passed, we slowly began going through his things in his wood shop. One of the things we came across was an iPod. The iPod had my dad's favorite playlist from the last time we were all together at Seeley Lake. We have promised that the next time we are all together, we will hook it up and listen to the music he left behind.

13. A BOX OF PHOTOS

Most of us have them - boxes upon boxes of photos that may date back five years or several decades. And the photos may just be too overwhelming to try to organize and catalog into photo albums.

However, this would be a great time to sit with your loved one and just start pulling photos from the box! Give them a chance to reminisce and tell the story from that moment in time. It's an opportunity to learn things about them and their life that you may not have known well.

Not only are you guaranteed to see some smiles but looking at pictures from the past can help provoke memories or instances that may have been forgotten as we age. This can, in turn, help enhance their memory5.

14. A JAR OF MEMORIES

If you want a homemade gift, this craft project might be just the thing. Using a standard mason jar, you can cut colorful paper strips into shapes (like hearts or simple rectangles) and write down memories or fun times you shared with your loved one.

You can include quotes from favorite movies or books as well. These can be anything intended to cheer someone up or offer comfort. When they are feeling down, they can pull one of these pieces of paper from the jar and read the message written on it.

And get the whole family involved! Every member of the family can add some notes and memories. This gets the younger generation to participate and opens the door for storytelling about their family's history.

15. A PERSONALIZED JOURNAL

If someone isn’t comfortable talking, they might find solace in writing down their thoughts and feelings. Writing can be incredibly cathartic for many people, especially if they cannot find the words to say things out loud. They may enjoy a personalized journal for this purpose.

And you can also include some journal prompts for them! What was your favorite childhood memory? What were your parents like? What is your most favorite color and why? Journaling is not just for writing either! Draw, sketch, doodle - journaling helps to relax the mind and body6 and there are no rules as to what you have to write.

16. READ TO THEM

From childhood to our elder years, most people enjoy being read to at some point in their lives. The beauty of the words, getting caught up in the story, learning and discovering new places and people as we turn the pages binds one generation to the next.

Why not ask your loved one what their favorite book is and read to them. Whether it is bad eyesight, the inability to hold up a book or just the effort that it takes to read, sharing that with a dying loved one can bring them so much comfort and joy.

Casey, the owner of Jewelry Keepsakes, was very close to his Granny. His mom checked on her every morning and Casey checked on Granny every night. When she had to move to the hospital in her final days, both Casey and his mom spent countless hours at the hospital with her. One day, Casey came in with a book to read to his Granny. It was a book all about his children and her grandchildren. He brought his youngest son in with him and they had the opportunity to spend that time together. Not only was it a gift for his grandmother, I know that it was a moment that Casey has cherished forever.

17. WRITE DOWN YOUR FAMILY STORY

Everyone wants to be remembered. For many people facing death, there is a lingering fear of being forgotten. Memories keep people alive, especially when those memories are passed down through generations of families. One thing you can do for a loved one at the end of their life is to offer to tell their story. Everyone has stories to tell, whether they realize it or not. 

Your loved one may not feel as if they have any important stories to tell but we all know that’s not the truth. Everyone’s story matters and what better way to spend time together and enjoy one another’s company than by sharing important memories with your loved one.

 We did something similar when we knew our dad was dying. For Christmas that year, our family and my brother's family sat down and wrote him a letter. On Christmas Eve, my brother presented our dad with a binder with all ten letters: a letter from each of his children, a letter from a daughter-in-law and a son-in-law, and six individual letters from his six grandchildren.

Sitting next to our mom on Christmas morning, he read each letter one at a time, tears streaming down his face. When he finished, he looked at my mom and said, "Never in my life have I felt so loved." I sit here crying now, just remembering. Those were the last words he spoke, and he went on to pass away 48 hours later. And, as a family, we were grateful those were the last words he read.

18. HAVE AN END OF LIFE PARTY

This may sound a little unconventional; however, hear me out. Some people that know they are dying have what is called an end of life party or a living funeral party7.  It allows the dying person to celebrate with loved ones, sharing memories and laughter. They get to say what they want and hear the love and words from those they cherish.

I had a very good friend who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was 51 years old and had a grand mal seizure at home, and after testing, it confirmed that he had an inoperable glioblastoma. We were devastated, as was Mark and his family.

As the year progressed, he survived his one year mark and did absolutely everything on his bucket list that he possibly could. He went into the new year with the hope of making it to July 4 of 2022 and the doctor's were very optimistic.

He went in for an appointment in the beginning of February and the doctors told him there was nothing more they could do. He went home and called all his friends and family and had a party. He didn't want to be sad. We went and made some memories, laughed, cried some too. Mark died 9 days later and I am beyond grateful that I had that time, and those memories with my best male friend.

19. WRITE THEM A LETTER

However much you might wish it to be otherwise, you can’t physically be with someone all the time. What if you live too far away from your terminally ill loved one to visit as frequently as you would like? Or you may work a job that needs to give you more time off to spend the time you want. If you can't be with the person physically, providing a token of your presence can be the next best thing.

You don’t need to be a professional writer to convey your love and affection to someone. You just need to express yourself from the heart. Physical letters are meaningful, tangible ways to connect to other human beings, especially when someone might be feeling lonely and hurt.

As I shared above, we did this with my dad. And I'm forever grateful that we did. I currently have all the letters in my possession; I will decide what to do with them at some point. We could turn them into a leather-bound book we can look over as a family and reminisce about my dad.

20. LET THEM PLAY YOU A TUNE

Does your dying loved one play the piano? Play an instrument? Do they love to sing? Well, why not be the best audience for one of their last performances!

Sharing music is such a gift and asking your loved one to play for you is an honor. Let their soul come alive and really listen to the sounds and the melodies. What a wonderful way to share in something so personal with them and to create a memory that you can share together and look back on when they pass.

Another idea, if they are comfortable, might be to video record it. How wonderful would it be to have the visual and audible memory to look back and see and listen to!

21. ARRANGE A DATE WITH A LONG LOST FRIEND

There is nothing like reconnecting old friends, and where the logistics of this could prove somewhat of a challenge, it could be a wonderful and treasured gift to give them! If the friend is relatively local, you could arrange to put them up in a hotel and surprise your loved one with a dinner out with their friend.

Or take your loved one on a road trip to see them! A little bit of thoughtful planning could make for a wonderful outing that brings them (and their friend) a tremendous amount of joy and comfort! Nostalgia can help remind a dying loved one of who they were and help to put their present self into some perspective8.

22. ENJOY THE OUTDOORS

Sometimes, a little exercise or just enjoying the outside world can make a difference in someone's day. If your loved one can still do so, arrange an afternoon outdoors.

This doesn’t need to be a strenuous hike (unless that is something they choose to do) but it can be something as simple as a stroll around a park or even taking a few hours to share a meal on an outdoor patio. You can even go for a long scenic drive together.

Spending a day enjoying the sun – and one another’s company – just might be the perfect present for someone who misses outdoor activities.

My grandmother used to love to feed the ducks at our local park. As she got older, those duck outings became a little less frequent as she was no longer driving. One of my most favorite activities to do with her would be to bundle her up and take her to the park with a loaf of bread. It was something so small yet it brought her so much pleasure and joy.

23. BRING THEM SNACKS

Anyone who spends any length of time in a hospital is likely tired of the bland food served within them. Any change to the cuisine is likely to be welcome and appreciated, no matter how small. You may be able to bring your loved one a small treat – something as small as a candy bar or favorite beverage – when you come to visit them.

Additionally, if you live further away, you can order them a gift basket filled with their favorite snacks and perhaps a few other things to keep them company when you can’t be around. 

As a note, you may want to check with someone (a medical provider, close relative, spouse, etc) to see if they have any dietary restrictions before you select a food or drink item. They may not be able to enjoy them and you’ll want to plan accordingly.

This again reminds me so much of my dad. I was home the beginning of December the month that he died and he had an appointment for his cancer treatment. On our drive up there, we stopped at a convenience store and said I want one of those big blue Slurpees. Now NEVER in my lifetime had I seen my dad drink a Slurpee. I hopped out of the truck, marched in and got him the biggest Slurpee they had!

24. TAKE A TRIP

This gift idea is best suited for someone who is still able-bodied enough for any sort of long-term physical activity. Many people have a “bucket list” of things they would like to accomplish, including places they want to go. If you have the means and the available time, you might consider taking the person on a short trip depending on their health.

This doesn't just have to be a bucket list item - it could really be virtually anything. It could be taking a train across the United States, it can be visiting a childhood favorite spot, it could be any number of destinations that holds special meaning. Maybe it's traveling to go see a distant relative. Truly the options are endless.

It is very important to note that when you are traveling with someone that has a terminal illness, be certain that wherever you are going that their medical needs will be able to be taken care of should something arise9. Check with their doctor as well as where you're traveling to make sure their needs can be met.

25. YOUR TIME

This is the best gift you can give a person who is suffering. It is often what a dying person wants more than anything else. This can be a lonely, isolating time for someone. Offering companionship, a shoulder to lean against, and an ear to listen can make all the difference in your loved one’s life. 

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t gift them anything else, especially if you see something on this list that inspires you. However, a gift doesn’t need to be a physical object to matter. Sharing quality time with your loved ones before they pass can be the most important thing you can do.

Tell them you love them, that you will be there for them, and listen to what they have to say. Do not leave anything unsaid, especially when you may come to regret it.

Living far from family can be tough. Staying connected is the best gift you can give. Just hearing from loved ones can brighten the day. A call, text, or video chat means the world. When my dads died and my grandmother died, I wasn't able to physically be there. So I found ways to 'be' a part of whatever I could. I would call my grandmother almost every night and catch up abour our days. She would tell me to wait while she got her wine so we could chat. I was able to talk to both of my dads before they passed and leading up to the loss, called and reached out as much as possible. I wish that there had been more physical close contact however I had to make due with the situation I had at hand.

Conclusion

One of the best things you can do for someone you love that is dying is to give them something that shows how much you care. Gifting can be especially important when you have a loved one experiencing a terminal illness or has entered end-of-life care.

Finding an appropriate gift can be difficult. Choosing something meaningful and practical for the person can take some time and reflection. Take your time and think about what makes the most sense for you and your loved one

  1. "Providing Care and Comfort At The End of Life" National Institute on Aging, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/end-life/providing-care-and-comfort-end-life
  2. "What's the science behind feeling secure under blankets?" Nuzzie, 11 Sep 23, https://nuzzie.com/blogs/cozy-corner/whats-the-science-behind-feeling-secure-under-blankets
  3. "Hospice Pet Therapy" Interim Healthcare, https://www.interimhealthcare.com/services/hospice/hospice-pet-therapy/
  4. "Cognitive Health And Older Adults" National Institute on Aging, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/brain-health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults
  5. "The effects of photographs and event plausibility in creating false beliefs" Science Direct, David Gerkens, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001691810001824
  6. "Journaling for emotional wellness" University of Rochester Medical Center,  https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1
  7. "A Party To Die For" Life Before Death, https://lifebeforedeath.com/the-last-word/departure-party/
  8. "The Benefits Of Reaching Out To Old Friends, According To Research" The Swaddle, Saumya Kalia, 16 Jul 22, https://www.theswaddle.com/the-benefits-of-reaching-out-to-old-friends-according-to-research
  9. "Travel Tips For People With Cancer and Other Terminal Illnesses" Crown Hospice, 30 Jun 21, https://crownhospice.com/blog/travel-tips-for-people-with-cancer-and-other-terminal-illnesses/
  10. "The Notebook" https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0332280/

Jeri K. Augustus

Meet Jeri K. Augustus, an experienced customer service professional from Great Falls, Montana, with a heart full of compassion for helping others. Jeri has spent more than four decades in the industry and has gained a wealth of personal experience with loss and grief. She has dedicated herself to assisting families in finding meaningful ways to honor their loved ones who have passed on and celebrate those who are still with us.

Jeri's contribution to the cremation jewelry industry is remarkable. She played a key role in developing new lines of modern pendants, cremation rings, and bracelets. She launched a line of photo-engraved jewelry that now includes several hundred styles for families to choose from. She is actively involved in leadership and customer care at Jewelry Keepsakes Inc., where she helps people every day with their inquiries and concerns regarding these products.

Despite her many years in the industry, Jeri remains passionately committed to helping those who are grieving and supporting families as they find personal ways to cherish their loved ones. She still resides in Montana and enjoys spending her free time with her dogs, children, and grandchildren. If you're looking for someone who can guide you with compassion and expertise in selecting a beautiful keepsake to remember your loved ones, Jeri is the perfect person to help.