Gifts Good Stuff

Small, Inexpensive Camcorder for Sharing Experiences

flip.jpgIf you have a loved one who won’t be able to be with you for part of your holiday celebrations, you may want to rush out and find a Flip video camera. The Flip is a very cool piece of gear; it’s about the size of a rectangular cell phone and it’s incredibly easy to use — basically point and shoot.

But that’s not the best reason to get it. If you want to share holiday joy (or any other experience) easily and quickly, this little critter is your best friend. The Flip comes with an audio-video cable that plugs the camera directly into your television. Hit the play button, and there’s your video where everyone can see it. How easy is that?

At around $99-130 (USD) for the standard model (1 GB of memory), and $120-150 (USD) for the Ultra (2 GB) this camcorder is cheaper than many digital cameras. No, it won’t make cinema-quality video, but it does make terrific memory videos. It’s so small that you’ll never be tempted to leave it at home, and it’s so easy to use that there’s just no excuse not to film away.

If you’re filming for someone like my dad, who’s in a nursing home and finding it increasingly difficult to focus on details, you’ll want to remember to frame people and objects so that they can be identified easily.

After the holidays, we’ll be using ours to snap everyday things that may interest Dad — this would include dogs we encounter, our bad cats at play, odd or vintage motor vehicles, and stuff we see on local outings.

If you’ve got a youngster who may be participating in the holidays from a couch, bed, or chair, you might consider putting him or her in charge of recording the festivities. Judging from reviews on Amazon, kids as young as four can use the Flip, though I’d expect that eight and up is generally more realistic, at least for semi-independent use.

Recording time is 60 minutes; built-in software accommodates Windows and Macs, lets you upload films to YouTube and other sites, and capture frames for still photos. Reviews make it clear that if you’re serious about editing, you’ll need to buy separate software just for that. But that’s getting technical — here at GA, we’re more interested in the social side of things.

Flip is powered by 2 double A batteries; ours came with two cases and a wrist strap. I’ve seen them at Sam’s Club and Costco (though I see Costco doesn’t have it online today). Sam’s sells it only in the stores, not online. Amazon has them in stock, but you won’t take delivery by the 24th. Don’t let that stop you; there’s a whole new year ahead!

High Tech Medical Practice Reflections

First Partial Face Transplant – 2 Year Follow-Up

isdin6.jpegIn November 2005, Isabelle Dinoire, a 38-year-old woman whose face was mauled by her dog, received an historic face transplant at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire d’Amiens in France. Two years later, her doctors have published a follow-up study of her case in the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to the NEJM article, Mlle. Dinoire “the patient is very satisfied with the results of the transplant”. She is able to eat, drink, and speak normally; it is said that, with make-up, her surgical scars are no longer evident. The results do appear to be remarkable:


The picture on the left is NOT a post-transplant image; it’s from 2001, four years before the face transplant, when Mlle. Dinoire was 34 years old. The middle picture is from November, 2006, one year post-transplant. The right picture is of Mlle. Dinoire in June, 2007, eighteen months post-transplant, showing her natural face, without make-up.

isdin-chart.jpegThe post-surgical journey has been difficult. Mlle. Dinoire has suffered several bouts of rejection and one of kidney failure. She has battled infections; she must, of course, take immune-suppresents for the rest of her life. The return of functional abilities has exceeded expectations, though. This chart (left), from the New England Journal of Medicine, tracks the changes throughout the first six months; her abilities now far exceed those noted here.

isdinpostop.jpegMlle. Dinoire’s case is controversial for many reasons. One of her doctors initially reported that she had attempted suicide; Mlle. Dinoire herself confirmed this in an interview with a London newspaper. Her injuries occurred when her dog was trying to rouse her from unconsciousness following the drug overdose. (Her donor did commit suicide, adding another layer of emotional complexity to the case.)

Mlle. Dinoire, a single mother, has a history of depression, and had been unemployed for a year prior to the incident. Criticism has been leveled at her doctors, who, some feel, may have chosen a particularly vulnerable patient for this historic operation.

Long-term, the physical problems alone may prove overwhelming. Notes The Washington Post:

Maria Siemionow, director of plastic surgery research and training at the Cleveland Clinic, which has been planning to do face transplants, expressed concern about Dinoire’s “unexpectedly aggressive immune response.” Scientists need better ways to prevent rejection of large, complex tissues such as faces, she said.

Siemionow, along with others, also expresses concern about the psychological implications; no psychological study has been published in connection with Mlle. Dinoire’s treatment.

isdin-doc.jpgBritish filmmaker Michael Hughes has made a documentary of the surgery; Mlle. Dinoire allegedly signed a deal for movie rights to her story earlier this year, netting (according to one account) over $400,000 (USD). The Hughes documentary is reviewed here (in French).

Whether Mlle. Dinoire’s pioneering venture will prove worthwhile over time remains to be seen. The potential scope of this experiment is breathtaking, yet it cannot help but recall the innocence and irony of Miranda’s words in Shakespeare’s Tempest:

O brave new world
That has such people in’t!


The Tin Noses Shop

The Origins of Plastic Surgery

At Home Home Modifications

Car Battery Disconnect Switch for Drivers with Dementia

batswitch.gifIn the United States, there is probably no greater rite of passage into adulthood, and the independence it represents, than acquiring a driver’s license. Losing that privilege through disability can be incredibly devastating. When Alzheimer’s or other dementias are involved, explaining why driving is no longer safe may not be sufficient to keep a loved one off the road.

One non-confrontational solution is this battery disconnect switch. It’s easy to install on the battery terminal; turning the knob disconnects the battery, making it impossible to start the car. When the car must be driven, the knob is screwed back down, and the battery functions again.

It’s much easier, emotionally, to accept that the car just isn’t working today than it is to accept that a lifetime of independence is gone. A mechanical solution like this may minimize conflicts, while, at the same time, keeping the roads safer for everyone.

“No Start” Car Battery Disconnect Switch, $19.95 (USD) at The Alzheimer’s Store

At Home DIY Everyday Gear Gifts Nursing Home

Calendar with Date Marker

call-tag.jpgDistinguishing one day from another is one of the difficulties of living in a nursing home. Sometimes it’s also an issue for people who don’t observe a routine outside of their usual living space.

Knowing what the day and date are and anticipating activities and holidays are important tools for keeping mental skills in good shape.

I was pleased to find this calendar last year for my dad. The daily squares are large enough so that I can note activities in large letters; my dad can easily read the calendar from his wheelchair.

This calendar also has an uncommon feature: a date marker. This is a red rectangle that slides on a transparent strip of plastic. The plastic band wraps around the calendar; you move the rectangle each day to the correct date. If Dad doesn’t remember what activities are on today’s schedule — or if he’s confused about what day it is — the rectangle cues him.

The only drawback is that it’s boring! We solved that in Dad’s room by hanging three different calendars (all showing Golden Retrievers, of course) next to this calendar. They’re folded so that only the glossy photos of dogs show.

On the first of the month when I change the page of the large calendar, I also flip the canine calendar pages, revealing three new dogs-of-the-month. Practicality and glamor; you can’t beat the combination!

I found this calendar in an office supply store last year, but haven’t seen it this year. It’s called AT-A-Glance Wall Calendar with Additional Features, and I found it online at

Members of the DIY crowd could probably find a number of ways to implement a similar date marker on almost any wall calendar by making a bright cardboard rectangle and cutting a clear plastic strip from holiday packaging.

Everyday Gear Gifts Wheelchairs

Accessory Bags for Wheelchairs, Walkers, Scooters and More

Managing the ‘things’ of everyday life is complicated if a wheelchair, walker, crutches or the like are also part of life. Where do you put the stuff you want, or like, to have with you as you during the day? I’ve seen a lot of bags that are theoretically mobility equipment friendly; most are poor adaptations of ordinary bags and neither well designed nor well made.

These accessories, from Adaptable Designs, are different. They seem to have been made by people who really understand how they’ll be used. Here’s a sampling of what Adaptable has to offer.

sidepouch.gif The “Sidekick Wheelchair Pouch” is meant to attach just below the seat of a manual wheelchair, on the inside of a manual wheelchair armrest, or on the outside of a power chair armrest. One pocket is fleece lined for glasses; there’s an open bellows pocket for bulkier items, and a zippered pocket for smaller items or for privacy. The zipper has a ring pull for easier use.

pouch.gifAdaptable’s “Versa Crutch Pack” would make even a six-weeks’ tour with crutches much more pleasant. If you’ve ever tried to handle a purse, a cell phone or a planner while swinging through life on crutches, you’ll see the utility of this bag. According to the website, this pouch’s

roomy main zippered compartment fits wallet, checkbook, comb/brush, medicine, etc. — even an occasional sandwich.

This one’s for standard crutches, forearm crutches, some power chairs and some scooters. In a typical thoughtful Adaptive Designs touch, there’s a strap to stabilize the pouch, so it doesn’t develop a rhythm of its own while you’re moving.

armorg.gifIf a backpack is overkill, and something like the Sidekick Pouch isn’t quite big enough, the “Just Right! Organizer” might be perfect. Like the bags above, it uses hook and loop straps to attach to

the inside armrest of manual wheelchairs; the inside or outside of scooter and power chair armrest; scooter tillers; [and] bedrails.

Whew. Here’s a partial description:

Fold-over zippered flap pocket is an ideal place for keeping checkbook, wallet and other valuables. Ring-type zipper pull is particularly helpful for those with limited hand dexterity. Keep the flap out to “hide” the contents of the outer bellowed pockets. Tuck the flap inside the main compartment if open access if preferred — the zippered pocket is still easily accessible.

There’s much more! Adaptable’s website is particularly user-friendly; you’ll find lots of information about which kind of equipment works best with which accessory, and specific size information, too.


DIY – Covers and Pouches for Mobility Aids

DIY – A Simple Cupholder for a Wheelchair

Pockets for a Wheelchair