I was shocked when, for the first time, a medical professional used “dementia” as a clinical diagnosis when discussing my dad. I’d seen all the signs, but, even so, “dementia” meant raving to me, and I thought I knew the difference. I had seen Dad hallucinating, in the past, after various surgeries, when he was still under the influence of anesthesia. That was dementia. The mental blips, the careless actions cited by the therapist were . . . what? Forgetfulness? Inattention? Willful disinterest? They could be anything, I thought, but surely not dementia.

Everyday Gear Good Stuff

Long-Handled Lawn Trimmer

Image of Long-Handled Garden Clippers or Lawn TrimmersDetermined gardeners who find kneeling to trim and clip lawns uncomfortable might like these long-handled clippers. Once quite common (think 1950s-1960s), these babies did the job before motorized weed whackers took over suburbia. That long handle and those little red wheels allow you to snip the grass as you stroll along.

Yes, they’re inefficient, but hey, is there any reason gardening on a nice day should be fast? No gas fumes and no recharging required. No kneeling, either, or unpleasant vibrations shaking your hands and arms.

At Home Clothing Everyday Gear Gifts

Slippers With Built-In Lights

Image of a Pair of Brightly Striped Slippers with Lights in the ToesSooner or later, just about everyone walks (or falls) into something on the way to a light switch in the middle of the night. These Bright Feet slippers are ‘bright’ in more ways than one, though, and are a marvelous way to get across a room when there are no other lights on. These are also a great alternative to a night light that is too bright or not usefully located.

Tiny, but brilliant, LED lights are embedded in the front of each slipper. There’s a sensor on one side of the slipper, which turns on the LED only when it’s dark. Batteries go in a slot on the other side of each slipper.

Image of a Pair of Pink Slippers with Lights in the Toes

Everyday Gear Gifts

Easy-to-Use, One-Handed, Spice Dispenser

Image of a Spice DispenserIt doesn’t seem quite fair that right around the time that taste buds may become challenged, dexterity may, too. If the finicky process of measuring small amounts of herbs and spices means you’re using fewer when you cook, this gadget might be just the thing you need to make dinner more flavorful again.

It’s called the SpiceShot. You hold it in one hand while pressing down with your thumb, and it dispenses one-quarter teaspoon of spice at a time. Four clicks, and you’ve added a teaspoon to your recipe. No batteries required, and not much pressure, either.

It’s lightweight and easy to grasp; five colors are available to code your favorite spices, or to create visual art for your countertop. (Is that cayenne contrasting so beautifully with the lime green SpiceShot in the picture above? Whoo-hoo!)

If you love to over-herb your pizza once it’s on the table, this container will look right at home with your modern salt and pepper shakers.

Made by Chef’n; also available from Chef’s Resource, which has better pictures (like the one above, for example). Available in black, silver, cherry, avocado and apricot.


Pockets for a Wheelchair

Image of a Two-Pocket Tool PouchA few months ago, a staff member at my dad’s nursing home ordered a batch of pouches meant to be attached to wheelchairs. They’re pretty sleek, but very difficult for my dad and others to use — the external pockets are flat and hard to get into, and the main zipper pocket is difficult to open and close. Worse, the slim lines of the pouch meant that it kept getting lost between Dad and the side of his chair.

Most of the more compact pocket/storage solutions I’ve seen for wheelchairs share these flaws.

I found a better solution at Home Depot. The picture above shows a “2 Pocket Nail & Tool Pouch” made by McGuire-Nicholas. It’s meant to hold tools in the large upper/back pocket, and nails in the smaller lower/front pocket.


Minding Our Elders – Care-Givers Speak

Image of Minding Our Elders BookCarol Bradley Bursack aptly describes her book Minding Our Elders as a “portable support group”. It’s a series of stories told, not about the elders of the title, but about their minders — by the caregivers who took (or who are taking) care of them.

The tone of the book is informal and conversational. Each of the twenty-six stories is essentially a stream-of-consciousness tale, a slice of the life of the teller. The stories are full of human resentments, love, confusion, anger, contradictions and emotional pain.

At Home Nursing Home Wheelchairs

Alarm Mat for Those Who Stray

Image of a Vinyl Floor Alarm MatAs my dad’s mind and body change, his ability to understand and interpret the changes is diminishing. As a result, falls have become a very serious issue, and a frequent occurrence. Dad has never wanted to ring the call bell for assistance, but now he sometimes forgets to use it, and, occasionally, forgets that the bell exists.

One of these alarm mats is now installed at the entryway to his bathroom — the place where his falls inevitably occur. It’s quite inobtrusive (the color of his carpet is almost identical to the color of the mat), but the alarm is not. There’s no mistaking it for any other sound, and no ignoring it.

It’s quite sensitive; I set it off myself just by stepping accidentally on a corner.

A switch box is mounted out of wheelchair reach on the inside of the bathroom. A slider turns the alarm off, and, when returned to the original position, resets the alarm.

This solution is working well for Dad; the alarm could also be used next to a bed (as in the image above), or across just about any doorway. The mat’s quite thin (especially around the edges), and very ‘sticky’; it’s unlikely to cause tripping.

Available online from Mountainside Medical and various other medical supply houses

At Home Everyday Gear Gifts

Soap Without Stress

Image of a Soap Dispenser with an Automatic SensorIn its catalog blurb, the company selling this stainless steel soap dispenser touts the way it avoids cross-contamination in the kitchen. Since you don’t have to touch the dispenser, there’s no chance of getting chicken bacteria all over the pump and sharing the bugs later with the vegetables.

But what I love about this is that it’s effortless. Place your fingers under the nozzle, and the sensor dollops the soap onto your hand. No slippery bar to fuss with; no lightweight pump to go flying; and no coordination required at all.

You might want several — it works for lotion, too.

It’s powered by three double A batteries, and pricey at $45.00 (USD) — but not nearly as pricey as actually installing a sensor into your existing plumbing. The 18 ounce capacity means you won’t be refilling it too often, either.

Sensor Soap/Lotion Dispenser from Williams-Sonoma

At Home DIY Everyday Gear Medical Practice

Make A Medical Record Book, Part 3 – Tips and Tricks

In Make a Medical Record Book, Part 1, I described the parts of a medical record book, and in Make a Medical Record Book, Part 2, how to use it at a medical office. Here are some additional tips and tricks for making your medical notebook as useful as possible.

At Home DIY Games/Recreation

DIY – Guitar or Banjo Pick Adapted for Large Knuckles

Image of Various Guitar Picks, Including Metal OnesArthritis and other joint problems can cause enlarged or swollen knuckles, making it difficult to keep a guitar (or banjo) pick on the finger. I adapted a steel pick like the ones shown here (on the right in the picture) so that my dad could keep playing his instruments a little longer.

My ‘fix’ is a little crude, but it worked well for Dad. I bought two metal picks, and used pliers to bend the ‘pick’ portion on one (that would be the blade part, not the band) back and forth until it broke off. (I made sure to bend it so that the rougher edge would be on the outside of the band, not next to Dad’s finger.) This left me with a ring-like band.