Every item on this list of gifts for quadriplegics, paraplegics, and other people in wheelchairs will encourage them not to lose heart. These gifts are based on the most common health conditions and problems that paraplegics and quadriplegics face – from depression to chronic pain – and will help them stay healthy and comfortable.
One of the biggest problems for people with disabilities is depression. Not surprisingly, people in wheelchairs report higher rates of stress and depression than people without disabilities. You can’t talk someone out of depression, but you can help their bodies create serotonin with a HappyLight Energy Lamp (pictured).
A HappyLight Energy Lamp 5000 emulates natural daylight to improve mood and overall sense of well-being. Light is nature’s stimulant, and the Natural Spectrum Light emitted by this energy lamp lifts spirits, sharpens concentration and improves energy levels. If a person in a wheelchair is dealing with depression, this might be the perfect gift. Not all quadriplegics or paraplegics get enough time outside – which is another reason this lamp might be ideal.
I was inspired to create a list of meaningful gift ideas for people in wheelchairs by the book Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. It’s actually the first gift for quadriplegics on this list – and it’s for you, not a person in a wheelchair.
If you’re looking for gift ideas for someone who is in a wheelchair temporarily, read 10 Gift Ideas for Back Surgery Recovery. Those gifts will help a person in a wheelchair adjust to life in the chair.
Before jumping into the list of gifts for quadriplegics, paraplegics, and other people who are in wheelchairs, take a moment to read the Parable of the Wheelchair.
The Parable of the Wheelchair
Max was a 25 year old firefighter who had only been with the fire hall for three months when he fell off a ladder. It was a routine fire drill; he lost his footing and fell 20 feet. He broke his back – it was a C4-5 spinal injury – and within seconds went from perfectly able-bodied to being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He became a quadriplegic faster than you can snap your fingers.
Max’s girlfriend, Janice, was almost as shocked and devastated as he was. She didn’t know how to help him as he underwent different medications, spinal surgeries, physiotherapy, and an assortment of medical procedures. She was so uncomfortable with him, and never knew what to say or how to act when she visited him.
She wanted to show her love by bringing him gifts – even though she wasn’t sure what the most meaningful gifts for a 25 year old quadriplegic would be. Janice brought him books, but couldn’t bring herself to read them aloud to Max. What if he didn’t like the book? She brought him DVDs, but couldn’t sit through a whole movie without crying. She brought him food, but couldn’t bring herself to feed him or watch his caregiver spoon food into his mouth. She brought him tickets to concerts, but she couldn’t go with him because she didn’t know how to load his wheelchair into his new van.
Janice would give Max her gift, and leave quickly because she felt uncomfortable with him. She didn’t know what to say, where to look, or how to act with him.
Max always politely accepted Janice’s gifts, but she could tell they weren’t meaningful to him. She finally asked him what gift she could bring him – what does a healthy young man who is also a quadriplegic want?
“Your company,” said Max. “I just want to spend time with you.”
10 Gift Ideas for People in Wheelchairs
Ok, so that may be the corniest, sappiest parable ever written! But it’s important to remember that your time and presence may not be the most meaningful gift for a person in a wheelchair. In fact, if he is newly paralyzed then your presence may be the last thing he wants! Becoming quadriplegic or paraplegic is crushing, and it takes time to adjust to such a dramatic life change.
The Parable of the Wheelchair is illustrates the importance of learning what a person in a wheelchair wants and needs. The better you know him, the more meaningful your gift will be. That’s why these gift ideas are interspersed with health information about quadriplegics and paraplegics. Also, I think the most meaningful gift for someone in a wheelchair is something that gives them hope and inspires them not to lose heart.
So, we’ll start with a gift that helps you get to know a person in a wheelchair a bit better.
Insight into what it’s like to be a quadriplegic in a wheelchair – the most meaningful gift
In Me Before You, Jojo Moyes introduces us to Will Traynor and Louisa Clark. Will is a quadriplegic; Louisa is his inexperienced, sweet, and colorful paid companion and caregiver. She doesn’t know anything about being a quadriplegic’s companion – she’s never met anyone in a wheelchair – and this book gives us a personal and intense glimpse into the world of a paralyzed man. This is one of the most meaningful gifts you can give someone in a wheelchair: the willingness to learn what it’s like to be in their shoes (as it were). I encourage you to read this book, learn about what it’s like to live as a quadriplegic, and talk to a person in a wheelchair about his life.
A gift that helps with shoulder or neck pain
The Renue Heat Therapy Neck and Shoulder Wrap will help relieve the shoulder pain that many manual wheelchair users experience. It’s designed to fit the neck and shoulder area, with slightly weighted edges and a magnetic clasp to provide a comfortable and secure fit. The heat is similar to a dry sauna – or it can be moistened for a deep steam room-type relief. The luxurious fabric is ultra soft and machine washable.
Pain is one of the most common health problems faced by people in wheelchairs. If you can find a gift that helps them cope with pain, they would appreciate it. The type of chronic pain a person in a wheelchair experiences might not be alleviated by a heat therapy shoulder wrap. If you can talk to your friend’s caregiver, you might get a better idea of what type of pain he experiences and how to help relieve it.
Other therapies that relieve shoulder and neck pain are ice packs, heating pads, and massages. I would pair this practical gift for quadriplegics or paraplegics with something bright and lively, such as inspirational wall art or a bouquet of flowers.
Inspirational wall art for a person in a wheelchair’s home or hospital room
Vinyl Wall Art Inspirational Quotes and Sayings – Home Decor Decal Sticker, such as something that says “Nothing is impossible… the word itself says “I’m possible” might be a good gift for someone in a wheelchair. It depends on what his goals and hopes are, and if he’s working towards something. If he’s depressed, he might not like inspirational wall art. But if he’s determined to move forward, then the most meaningful gift you can give is hope, support, and faith.
If a person in a wheelchair is an artist, read 12 Gifts for Artists – Inspired by Picasso.
Wheelchair pouches or bags
The Quilted Wheel Pouch for Wheelchair has two pouches: a large outer one for reading materials, clothing items, etc, as well as a secure inner pouch for valuable items. It easily attaches to most wheelchairs. This is a good gift for both paraplegics and quadriplegics, but may be more valuable for people who can use their arms.
Quadriplegics, paraplegics, and people who are temporarily confined to wheelchairs experience bowel or bladder problems, fatigue, injury, depression, anxiety, obesity, chronic pain, pressure sores or ulcers, and lack of exercise. All of these health conditions make it difficult or impossible to get a good night’s rest. If you know or suspect that a person in a wheelchair isn’t getting enough sleep, read 10 Gifts for Insomniacs and People Who Can’t Sleep.
Escape – a meaningful gift for people in wheelchairs
I worked for a paraplegic woman who had polio, and her favorite thing to do was go to the movies. That’s why I’m adding a Regal Entertainment Gift Card to this list of gifts for quadriplegics and paraplegics. Include a card that tells your friend that you’d like to go to a movie with him, and perhaps out for dinner or dessert after. Don’t give him the gift of a movie alone (not much of a meaningful gift).
Adventure – an intense gift for quadriplegics and paraplegics
In Me Before You, Louisa researched adventures for quadriplegics when she was planning a vacation for Will. On a forum for quads she asked what quadriplegics do for fun, and the list was extensive. Bungee jumping, swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, skydiving, swimming with dolphins, scuba diving, and trips to specialist centers for people in wheelchairs.
Not everyone wants to go bungee jumping or swimming with dolphins, so it’s important to know a person in a wheelchair before giving this type of gift. Remember that quadriplegics and paraplegics are vulnerable to different types of infections and health problems because their immune system is compromised. An intense adventure might the death of them. Literally.
Cushions for wheelchairs
The Equagel – The General – Gel Seat or Wheelchair Cushion is medical grade cushion that won’t lose it’s soft, supportive shape or support. Can you imagine sitting on your bum all day long? I can’t. This is both a practical and a meaningful gift for people in wheelchairs, especially if they can’t afford to buy it themselves. This is a fantastic cushion for people with wheelchair sores or or chair sores. People who sit a lot are vulnerable to skin ulcers created by lack of circulation in pressure point areas – and this isn’t something they’d necessarily tell you about! A gel cushion will help relieve the pressure and make their day more comfortable.
Voice recognition software
Dragon NaturallySpeaking – Home Edition isn’t just a meaningful and practical gift for quadriplegics and paraplegics, it’s actually great for anyone who doesn’t like the physical act of typing. This voice recognition software is a fast, accurate way to “type” anywhere you would put text: computers, tablets, phones, etc. Dragon gets even more accurate as it learns the words and phrases that are used the most, and can spell even difficult words and proper names correctly. It offers the ability to create, format and edit documents by voice, which gives people the freedom to think out loud and break through communication barriers.
Freedom to talk about discomfort, pain, and death
Death, pain, and discomfort are difficult subjects to talk about. If a person in a wheelchair is really sick, he may not have anyone to share his feelings with. He may be thinking about assisted death but not know who to talk to. Can you give one of the most meaningful gifts of all? Allow your friend to talk about how he feels about his life, and don’t judge, condemn, or try to change his mind. I’m not saying that all quadriplegics or paraplegics want to talk about dying. I’m encouraging you to think about being the person he can talk to, if he needs to work things out.
I welcome your thoughts on these gifts for quadriplegics, paraplegics, and other people in wheelchairs. If you have any meaningful gift ideas, please share them with us.
If your friend is in hospice or reaching the final stages of life, read 12 Gift Ideas for Someone Who is Dying.
My prayer is that you find the right gift for a person in a wheelchair. May you be a light and encouragement in his life, and may you bring hope and joy. If you have any fears, anxieties, or insecurities about visiting your friend, I pray you feel the peace, comfort, and serenity that God’s presence brings. May you offer your heart to your friend, may you be transparent and authentic, and may you offer your unique perspective and personality. Amen.
PS If you can improve on my Parable of the Wheelchair, please tell me in the comments section! It’s not the best parable I’ve ever written, but I needed something to illustrate these gift ideas for quadriplegics, paraplegics, and people in wheelchairs. xo