At Home Everyday Gear Good Stuff Nursing Home

Solid, Easy-to-Use Cordless Phone

My dad’s old cordless phone was a mixed blessing. The ‘cordless’ part was great because it was easy to use anywhere in the room, but, like most of the cordless units available, the phone and its charger base were lightweight — the charger cord weighed so much more than the base that the phone was often pulled onto the floor.

At Home Everyday Gear Nursing Home

Long-Handled Tools for Hair Care

A few generations ago, brushing hair was a crucial, and pleasurable, every day routine for many women. These days, few people have time for lengthy sessions in front of the dressing table, but even modern hair needs a good brushing and some attention now and then. Easy enough, unless you have a shoulder injury or arms that don’t like being raised above shoulder height, in which case there’s nothing easy about it; getting to the top of your head to shampoo, to brush, or to comb can seem like climbing Mount Everest (but with bad hair!).

At Home Clothing Everyday Gear Good Stuff Travel

Walking on Ice

We’ve been having an unusually mild winter this year on the east coast, and our current storm is only the second major one of the season. There’s been very little snow shovelling this year, and very little weather-related inconvenience. Under normal conditions, though, here in the mid-Atlantic area, we often spend most of the season dealing with ice, rather than snow, and a fair amount of ice-related bother.

At Home Everyday Gear Gifts Nursing Home

Golden Retriever — Reacher/Grabber with a Different Grip

After years of faithful service, my dad’s old reaching tool finally bit the dust when the grabbing blades somehow got twisted sideways, probably in an encounter between a power chair and the wall.

Golden Retriever ReacherA couple of weeks ago, I picked this one up as a replacement. The central rod is gold-colored metal — yes, it’s a “Golden Retriever.” On the face of it, this was a natural for Dad — just the phrase ‘Golden Retriever’ pleases him immensely. On a more practical note, though, Dad prefers this grabber’s handle to the pistol-style of the old one. The Golden Retriever handle is kind of U-shaped — you put your hand into the U, with your thumb around a bar across the top. You pull a lower bar with your fingers to close the grabber. Very little pressure is required.

The flat grip, as opposed to the pistol-style grip, seems to give my dad a greater sense of control. (Although I’m not sure he’d feel the same way if he were reaching for cans on an overhead shelf — I think most people might prefer the pistol grip in that case.) The packaging says that you can pick up a dime with it. I haven’t tried that, but it does pick up a nickel from industrial carpeting, which I thought was a pretty neat trick.

Whether it can stand up to less-than-delicate use by dad remains to be seen, but I’m betting it will. The construction is solid, and the gripper arms look carefully designed, with sturdy fittings. Because it’s flat (the grabbers aren’t at right angles to the handle, as they are in the pistol-grip style), it’s easier to store, too, and, as a result, might be less likely to be squashed by an errant wheelchair.

Golden Retriever at (I kid you not!)

Dad also has a different Golden Retriever companion at his nursing home — read about her here

Everyday Gear

What to Take to the Hospital

My dad is in the hospital again for the second time in three weeks. It’s not clear what’s going on, so this go-round he will probably undergo more extensive tests in an attempt to pinpoint something that may be treatable.

These last couple of trips to the emergency room have reminded me of the time I spent on the west coast with my dad — lots and lots of it in the ER. Back then, I always had my ER bag packed, and this morning I put a new one together. These visits may be the harbinger of more to come, and having my kit at hand makes life a lot easier.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure recently, a modern ER is, generally, a lot less about ’emergency’ than it is about ‘waiting.’ (Your mileage may vary; trauma centers and lotsa-guns-big-city-ERs excepted, naturally.) We wait for triage, we wait for tests, we wait for results, wait for consultation, wait for admission or discharge . . .

Dad spent just under 30 hours in the ER this go-round before the powers-that-be were finally able to move him to an actual room in the hospital. I spent a whole lot of that time with him, because the ER is just not a good place to be alone.

Here’s what I pack for the ER and for long hospital visits:

  • Several copies of Dad’s medical history, which I keep current in a file on my laptop. I get date-stupid fast when there’s a crisis; this helps, and goes a long way toward keeping errors from creeping into the record. For those with nails stuck into body parts, make sure you know when the last tentanus shot was. Hand copies out freely.
  • A cell phone. You can’t use it in the hospital, but you can use it right outside the door.
  • A charger for the phone. There’s never any charge left on my phone when there’s an emergency. It’s a law or something. Fortunately, one thing ERs are equipped with is a lot of outlets.
  • Moleskine Cahier NotebooksA notebook with blank pages, to write everything in. I like the large (five inches by eight) Moleskine Cahier Notebooks; they’re thin and flexible and have a pocket in the back where I can stash the papers the ER or admissions clerk make me sign.
  • 2 pens. One will run out of ink, or you’ll lose it. Guaranteed.
  • A book. I used to bring old Travis McGee novels, which are consumable much the same way popcorn is, but right now I’m carrying The Best American Short Stories 2006, which is alternately irritating and enjoyable, hence, just about right for the hospital.
  • A bottle of water, essential for clear thinking; easier to bring than to find.
  • A couple of protein bars. Opportunities to eat can be few and far between — you can always duck into the hall and chow down a bar, even if the poor patient still can’t eat.
  • Snow Peak ChopsticksChopsticks. I always carry these with me, even on ordinary days — they’re sleek, beautiful, and unscrew to fit into a small case. You can eat almost anything with chopsticks.
  • Light My Fire SporkA spork. For yogurt, which may be available at the hospital, and is hard to eat with chopsticks. I like the Light My Fire one a lot because it has full-sized fork and spoon ends on a short handle. The fork has a serrated edge that isn’t hard on the tongue. It’s from a Swedish company, but REI carries it.
  • Chapstick. My personal quirk: I can endure almost any physical agony except chapped lips.
  • A small bottle of antibacterial gel. Personally, I hate this stuff, but why share bugs? Why get them?
  • Antibacterial wipes. For cleaning undefined stuff off bars on the bed, a tray table, etc. It happens.
  • Tush wipes. Oh yeah, I’m serious. Carry a slew of these and you’ll never be at the mercy of an empty toilet paper holder again. Great when you encounter said holder; fabulous when you haven’t showered for 24 hours.
  • Cash. $10 for me here on the east coast (parking is free), $30 at Stanford University Hospital, where it notably isn’t.
  • Change. At least $2.50. At our suburban hospital, food (I use the term loosely) may only be available from a vending machine, which will require exact change. Which you won’t have, unless you’ve planned ahead.
  • Tissues, the kind that start with K, which we cannot name. Where there may be no toilet paper, there may be none of these, as well. Best be prepared.
  • OnigiriSupplementary food, as practical. The first night my dad and I were in the ER, my husband was at home making onigiri for me; the next day I ate them in a little side room while dad was having tests done. There is no more perfect portable food, and none more delicious . . . but you could do PB & J if you’d rather.
At Home Everyday Gear

Ergonomic, Adjustable Tableware

Good Grips TablewareOXO makes a whole line of ergonomic kitchen supplies for anybody’s kitchen. People with arthritis, who have had strokes, or who have difficulty gripping standard tableware might especially like their ‘Good Grips’ eating utensils. The business ends are stainless steel; the handles are cushioned and ribbed to make them grippy. There’s a guard on the knife to prevent slipping, and minimal force is needed to cut. The shafts are adjustable to that each utensil can be individualy angled.

Aids for Arthritis sells a five piece set (fork, knife, soup spoon, two teaspoons). Click on ‘kitchen’ to find them — there’s no search function on the website.

You may be able to buy individual pieces elsewhere if you prefer — or if you want extras.

Also see: Silverware for Hands With Grasp Impairments — Dining With Dignty


Wheelchair 101 — Wijit Update

In two previous articles, I’ve discussed the Wijit, a lever device for moving a manual wheelchair, and written about my experience with the company. At the end of the second article I anticipated seeing the Wijit in action, in a manual wheelchair used by my dad. Things didn’t turn out that way.

At Home Everyday Gear Nursing Home

Flexible, Bendable Titanium Eye Glasses

A couple of months ago, my dad took a worse-than-usual tumble and reconfigured — maybe ‘destroyed’ is a better word — his glasses. Repair was not an option, so we went looking for new ones.

Games/Recreation Wheelchairs

All-Terrain Wheelchair Drives Like a Tank

TankChairStandard wheelchairs, manual or powered, are a marvel of uninspired design. With the exception of technical sports chairs, the great body of modern wheelchairs seems purpose-built for times long past. Functionally speaking, they roll. Great. For whatever reason, Big Medical Supply has shown minimal interest in making any substantial improvements either in basic design or function over, say, the last four decades.

At Home Everyday Gear

Get the Toolbox, Open That Bottle

Robo Grip PliersMy husband just came upstairs with a reluctant bottle of vanilla in his hand, and one of our favorite tools — Craftsman Robo Grip pliers. We take our vanilla seriously, and these pliers are sensitive enough to rotate a sticky cap without risking one drop of that precious fluid. I don’t think there’s a better tool for the job.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the success of these pliers is due to the dual fulcra — they adjust two ways, ever-so-subtly, as you embrace the cap. (Or whatever — if you want to use them in a tool shop, that’s OK, too.)

Even better, it takes very little strength to make these babies work. If you keep a pair in the kitchen you won’t have to trek out to the garage when the vanilla bottle won’t open.

Available in various sizes at Sears, too, but if you hate shopping there as much as I do, try eBay.