Monthly Archive for May, 2007

Brief Pause in GearAbility Posts

We’ve been experiencing some computer problems here at GearAbility, and won’t be posting for the next day or two until computer upgrades are completed. Apologies to all — we’ll be back online as soon as feasible.

Non-Trivial Pursuits – Dad at Work and Play

Image of a Calendar BoardMy dad has a job at the nursing home now. He’s the party responsible for changing the calendar sign on the wing he lives on. Against all odds, he’s enjoying this task thoroughly, and making jokes about how “there’s no more free ride”. It’s been impossible to get him to help out in any other way, but he’s very pleased with this role.

I suspect he likes the routine, and is also happy that it doesn’t interfere with another favorite habit — spending the morning reading the Wall Street Journal. Now that his legs are increasingly bothersome, the trip to the placard is short enough that he can still manage it on his own — and “on his own” is a status he much prefers.

Finding ways to keep my dad mentally stimulated has been difficult. (I wrote about this previously in Therapeutic Recreation for Those Who Will Not Play.) A little while ago, I happened to mention Trivial Pursuit to the husband of a new resident when he had stopped by to say hello to my dad. He remembered the game, and said something positive about it; in the face of what looked a little like peer pressure, Dad did not immediately refuse to consider playing.

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A Party Even a Curmudgeon Couldn’t Resist

Image of a Tray of CanapesMy dad’s “senior living community” held an open house about a month ago. It’s one of several ‘big’ events they hold each year. This particular event showcased a newly remodeled recreation room in the assisted living area, which is at the extreme opposite of the nursing home wing my dad lives in.

Dad is notoriously balky about wanting to do much of anything, so I used an old trick. I showed up an hour before my usual visiting time and checked out the festivities. My nefarious plan, of course, was to pop down to Dad’s room and let him know all he’d missed — at which point I figured he’d want to see for himself.

Image of a Tomato and Basil CanapeThe staff made it so easy. There was a handout in the main lobby that looked like a sleek version of a pirate’s treasure map. Colorful triangles dotted the page; each one indicated some point where food, music, or entertainment could be found.

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A Personal, Unusual Nursing Home Visit

Image of a Photosmart Printer CaseThis cute little case holds an HP Photosmart printer like the one my dad’s niece brought when she came for an unexpected visit a while ago. Amy brought along a whole passel of relatives, too, and everyone took turn taking. She set the compact printer up in Dad’s room, powered it up, and printed off snapshots while everyone visited.

Dad was enchanted with the gadget, and the whole process. The visit had all of the charm from back in the days when Polaroids were new, when people snapped pictures and stood around oooohing and aaaahing as the camera spit out the magically developing photo. But in this case, the hardware was sleeker and the picture quality terrific.

Dad’s family went home with pictures of him, but, best of all, they left behind several dozen photos which now grace his walls — reminders of a fun and novel visit. Everyone likes getting presents: This portable printer turned out to be the gift that kept on giving — all through the visit and long afterward.

Make A Medical Record Book, Part 2 – How to Use It

In a previous post, I described the components of the medical notebooks I use for my dad and family. The notebook comes along on every medical appointment, and this is how I use it.

Before each appointment, I fill out a form I made on my computer and printed up in advance. It’s my Medical Appointment Record form, which goes in Section 2. I’ve typed in cues on the page (date, doctor’s name, current symptoms, any questions or concerns). Before we go, I fill in the blanks. This ensures that we have a clear idea of what we want to know and that we’re organized and able to use the appointment time effectively.

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A Simple Cell Phone

Image of a Jitterbug PhoneAfter one of my dad’s early back surgeries, part of his rehabilitation program was to walk in the neighborhood. Because he was prone to falling, and under doctor’s orders not to get up on his own if he took a tumble, we got him a cell phone to take on his meanderings. He carried it around for a while after I left the west coast, and then turned it back in. He just didn’t get the concept, and thought the phone was a pain to use. The keys were too small and unreadable; the icons impossible to interpret; it did so many distracting things that he could hardly figure out how to dial 911.

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Clever But Impractical Shirts for Easy Dressing

Image of a Quick Change ShirtWhen I saw this shirt from Quick Change Clothing at the Abilities Expo, I got pretty excited. It’s difficult to find adaptive clothing that is also stylish and attractive, and this blouse is something I’d gladly wear just because I like its lines. (Though this photo doesn’t do it justice.) The gimmick here, explained the designer, is that the front of the shirt zips completely off, allowing it to be replaced in a jiffy without any contortions on the part of the wearer. Zippers on all four sides mean that no part of the body need ever be exposed, so modesty is preserved, too.

As my dad’s body has begun to stiffen and his spatial sense declines, eating has become a bit untidy. Getting dressed is more difficult, too. I love the idea of a shirt front that zips off easily and can be replaced as soon as a meal is over. “It’s a matter of dignity,” said the designer. So it is — and comfort and hygiene, too, for that matter.

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Electronic Book for One-Handed Page Turning

Image of a Sony Electronic ReaderThe Sony Reader is an electronic ‘book’ that eliminates the need for two-handed page turning. According to a recent review at Cool Tools, it’s got a screen that’s visible even in sunlight. If the screen is as easy to read as Sony and the review claim, it could be a convenient solution for one-handed reading, either out-and-about, on an across-the-bed table, or just around the house.

At 7 by 4 inches, it’s about the size of a small paperback, and fairly light at only 9 ounces. It recharges in about 4 hours, and each charge is good for about 7,500 page “turns” — according to the review, the approximate equivalent of about 7 book’s worth of page-turning.

‘Books’ can be purchased at the Sony Connect store. For you those of you who speak the lingo, the Reader uses BBeB as well as PDF, TXT and RTF formats.

Quite pricey at $350 (USD), but maybe just the tool for the right avid reader who has difficulty turning pages and holding conventional books.

Read the whole, information-packed review on Cool Tools.

Available on the Sony website, and at Best Buy.

Update: Maybe the Reader’s available at a brick-and-mortar Best Buy somewhere, but not in the Mid-Atlantic states right now; none in stores, and none in “the warehouse”. I stopped by yesterday (5/18/07) hoping to see one, and an employee checked BB’s internal inventory system, with that rather dismal result.

Gripping Mesh for Mealtime and More

Image of a Roll of Grippy Shelf LinerThe physical therapy department at my dad’s nursing home added a grippy mesh to the seat of his wheelchair recently to keep him from slipping forward. I’m sure it came from a medical supply house, and I’ll bet it cost a fortune. I’ve got a secret, though — there’s a cheap, readily-available household product that might have worked just as well.

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Another Book of Homemade Adaptations

Image of the book Adapt My WorldAdapt My World is a book born of love and creativity. The author’s daughter had medical problems from birth; the disabilities she has had to grapple with inspired the “homemade adaptations” her mother writes about.

I wish I could say that I loved the book. In spirit, it’s much like what GearAbility is about — fixes, adaptations and work-arounds for everyday life. As a book, though, it’s quite a disappointment.

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