At Home Games/Recreation Gifts Good Stuff Kids Nursing Home

Engaging Hand-Held Game for One or More

Big Screen 20QOver the holidays, we bought a hand-held game called 20Q thinking that it might be entertaining for everyone if the family was visiting, and we couldn’t get out due to weather. The idea is simple — you think of an object — an apple, a bicycle, a brick — and the game asks you 20 questions in an attempt to figure out what it is. Using artificial intelligence technology, 20Q interprets your answers, guessing right a surprising amount of the time. (OK, almost all the time.) We were pretty cocky to begin with, but 20Q has a lot of personality, and didn’t mind humbling us one bit. The thing’s sassy — it taunts you as you play!

The beauty of it is that you don’t need any prior knowledge to play. You just need to know the names of objects, and to have the ability to answer relatively simple questions. The trickiest of the questions are along the lines of “is it a mammal?” In our experience, even if you don’t know an answer, though, the game goes on just fine.

Ours was the pocket version. Because it was so small and round, I thought my dad might have trouble holding it and using the buttons — and he did, a little. But he was too involved to mind much.

Naturally, we went out and picked up the big screen version so Dad could have it at the nursing home. It’s rectangular and easier to hold, and the buttons are also further apart and simpler to use.

When we first played the game with the family over the holidays, we read the questions out loud and answered them together. It was noisy and a lot of fun, with a lot of laughing. But even when my dad played the game by himself, 20Q seemed almost social — he’s interacting, not just reading the questions. And it’s addictive . . . the day we gave the big screen version to him, he hustled us on our way, and headed back to his room so he could play more! It’s gotten increasingly difficult to get him engaged with new things, so it was a treat to see how he took to this neat little toy.

The game is battery-powered and has several options for answers: yes, no, sometimes, rarely. There’s a backlight on the pocket version to make the text more readable. The big screen version doesn’t have the backlight, but the text is quite clear if you just change the angle when you’re holding it.

The text is surprisingly large — it scrolls, and you can slow it down or speed it up on either version. We were able to set the big screen version so that Dad had no trouble reading the questions, even though he’s not at all used to electronic games.

For the right nursing home or assisted living resident, this could be a fine independent activity. Anyone confined to bed or inactivity (however temporarily) could do worse than while away the boring hours tussling with this ‘intelligent’ little device. It could also be just the thing when conversation lags during hours spent in waiting rooms, or when hospital visits threaten to become stultifying.

Beware — it’s very competitive, and you’ll really need to stump it. Dad loves knowing that he might get the upper hand . . . next time! Even when you can’t win, it’s amazing and amusing to be awed by this clever little box.

Recommended for ages 8 and up. Available just about everywhere you find toys (except around Christmas time, when we couldn’t find it locally at all), and at (which sold out at Christmas). The pocket version is available in a slew of languages, but you may have to order online to get those.

Games/Recreation Gifts Kids

Arm-Powered Toy Car

PlasmaCarHere in the USA we love our vehicles. Maybe we take it to an extreme, but to lust for wheels seems so . . . human. For those among us too young to drive, or for whom bikes are not a possibility, may I present the PlasmaCar? No pedals, no batteries, no fuel, no pollution, and it looks like an utter blast. It’s arm-propelled — make it go by turning the steering wheel back and forth. Use it in the living room, the basement, or take it to the park. Look at those lines — could aerobic exercise get any cooler?

U Silly Goose carries it online, and has a nice succinct description of it. Prepare to share — the weight limit is 220 lbs. on a flat surface, 120 lbs on a rough surface — weight, not age, is the only limitation here!

There’s a video of PlasmaCars in action on the PlasmaCar homepage, and a link to a Discovery Channel physicist explaining centrifigal force and how it works. You can read many glowing customer comments on the site, too, but comments aren’t moderated and there’s a ton of spam, too, some of it not exactly family-friendly.


Gift Suggestions

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and a good excuse to give a gift to someone you care about. Holidays are especially important in nursing homes because they keep the days from being too routine, and act as a touchstone to lifelong events.

At Home Clothing Gifts Good Stuff Nursing Home

Slippers for Swollen or Sensitive Feet

berber slippersNo-Slip Fleece Socks are just the right thing when warmth is the major consideration, but sometimes a true slipper is what’s needed. For feet that can change size during the course of a day or a week, a slipper that wraps gently, expanding and contracting accordingly, is an excellent solution.

women's velcro terry slippersThe men’s version of this slipper is available in both terry cloth and berber fleece from The Vermont Country Store. The women’s comes only in terry, but in a wider range of colors than those for the guys.

I bought a pair of these for my dad when he couldn’t wear his sheepskin slippers any longer. At first I worried that the open toe wouldn’t be warm enough, but that wasn’t a problem; the air circulation was great for his toenails, and the bit of extra room good for his toes.

Related: Soothing Adjustable Slippers

At Home Gifts Good Stuff Kids Nursing Home

Companion Pets — Puzzle the Cat

Puzzle Cat from Douglas ToyWe’ve covered dogs thoroughly on Blondie’s post, so it seems only fair to mention cats, too. Douglas Toy Company does a great job with their cats, too, as Puzzle (photo) amply demonstrates.

Douglas also has a large offering of the curly ‘kohair’ pets. I admit I’m not crazy about them (I like my animals to look very much like the real thing), but even I realize that the kohair fabric is extra soft.

At Home Clothing DIY Everyday Gear Gifts Good Stuff Kids Nursing Home

No-Slip Fleece Socks

It’s winter, and the house is cold, especially at night — and nothing is colder than my feet. What I long for, on these cold evenings, is the perfect pair of socks. I want the lovely woolly ones that are soft and dreamy. Sadly, fuzzy socks threaten to kill me with every step I take.

At Home Gifts Good Stuff Kids Nursing Home

Coloring Books For Adults

dover floral arrangementsdover arts and craftsAdults who enjoy coloring books don’t have to settle for the horrid pap that’s often handed out to children. Dover Publicatons offer an amazing line of truly thrilling coloring books.

At Home Gifts Good Stuff Kids Nursing Home Reflections

Companion Pets — Blondie the Golden Retriever

Blondie, Dad's Golden RetrieverAs my dad checked into a rehab hospital after spinal surgery several years ago, I noticed a woman down the hall who was preparing to check out. Actually, it was her companion who caught my eye — a nearly full-sized Golden Retriever: a beautiful stuffed animal perched alertly and affectionately at the foot of her bed.

Dad had lost his beloved companion of 14 years — a loving Golden named Amber — not long before, so my mandate was clear. I learned from his neighbor that her Golden had been made by the Douglas Company of Keene, New Hampshire, and a quick jump to their site let me identify the name and model number. An Internet search turned up a store, and Blondie (as she was quickly named) joined my dad in the rehab hospital.

It’s almost impossible to describe the effect her arrival had on my dad. She’s been his constant and loyal companion ever since. Blondie has been there to smooth the way as he’s moved to new hospitals, to Assisted Living, and, more recently, to his nursing home.

When my dad and I flew from the west coast to the east coast in an air ambulance, Blondie was squashed into the flying tube with us and the medical team — keeping watch at my dad’s feet. As a result she was with him from the first moment he was in his new nursing home.

Blondie has also been an amazing ice-breaker — everyone wants to ‘meet’ her, and to talk about her. Her proud ‘Daddy’ basks in the glow of all this attention; he’s never been “that new patient in room whatever.” Everybody knows who Blondie and her Daddy are.

We sometimes talk about Blondie when I visit him, and he frequently lovingly shakes a paw. She’s clearly a companion — my dad always has a friend in his room, even when no people are around.Sherman

I don’t see Blondie on the Douglas Toy site, but Sherman (pictured right) could be her younger brother, and he’s clearly all Golden — ready to love anyone on a moment’s notice.

Blondie and Sherman are big dogs — Sherman is 32 inches long, and I suspect Blondie is even a little larger — so they aren’t necessarily the right choice for every dog-lover. Most of the Douglas Toys are exceptional for an uncanny likeness to real life, though, and they do cover all the bases from little 6 inch puppies on up to the likes of Blondie and Sherman.

Sherman will set you back a hefty hundred dollars at his regular retail price, although I see that at least one Internet store has him for around seventy-five dollars. Never fear, though, Douglas has puppies for far, far, less, too — all of them as heart-meltingly sweet as Blondie and Sherman.

Douglas Toys

See also: Love, Imagination and Human Interaction

Everyday Gear Gifts Good Stuff Home Modifications

Super Large Analog Date/Time Clock

Big Clock Some days it’s a good to have basic data first thing in the morning and on demand all day long. This expensive clock from The Alzheimer’s Store has large clear numerals and text showing the month, day, date and time in high contrast.

Unlike an LED clock face, it’s readable from any direction; my dad can see his even at night from the ambient light in his room. At 12 inches by 15 inches, it’s large enough to see from across the room, too.

The clock works are mechanical, and the cost apparently has to do with the durabiliy of the flipping mechanism (each numeral/word is on a separate tab which is turned by a little motor). Setting the features is simple; the clock runs on one AA battery, theoretically for two years.

It’s worth every penny; my dad refers to it regularly and has often mentioned how helpful it is.

Everyday Gear Gifts Good Stuff Nursing Home

Alzheimer’s Doll — We All Need Someone to Love

People with middle-to-late-Alzheimer’s (and sometimes just plain humans) often respond well to the emotions a baby doll evokes. Lee Middleton, a well-known ‘collector’ doll designer, offers a doll she calls “Someone to Care For” which she designed specifically for people with Alzheimer’s. The doll’s face and limbs are extremely realistic, and he/she can even suck a tiny thumb. It’s available in light and dark skin tones, and various hair and eye colors.

Someone to Care For Doll