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.

Clothing Everyday Gear Nursing Home

Soothing Adjustable Slippers

old-friend.jpgMy dad’s circulatory problems are worsening, and he’s finding his shoes to be more and more uncomfortable. Severe edema in his legs means that the heels of his shoes hold his feet at an uncomfortable angle, but he still prefers wearing something shoe-like along with his compression stockings.

The adjustable slippers we gave him a couple of years ago were fine for casual wear at the time, and I’d still recommend them highly. Now, though, dad’s legs and feet need a bit more coddling: These sheepskin slippers, made by Old Friend, are just the thing. The heel makes them feel like shoes, and helps to keep them on Dad’s feet; the velcro over the top of the foot allows the slipper to be readjusted day-by-day as needed.

The wool fleece lining is light and airy, keeping pressure off Dad’s feet, and the open toes keep air circulating around his nails to minimize problems in that area.

Best of all, these slippers are cozy and luxurious, just like the traditional sheepskin slippers he used to wear and love.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that it took me several days of diligent hunting to find them in Dad’s size. One shop owner told me that he’d gotten a huge number in last year but had a terrible time “getting rid of them”! My advice? Snatch them up as soon as you find them — they’re a great idea, but I don’t think many people know they exist.

I found Dad’s at Muldoon’s in Wisconsin; Zappos also carries them, but they were out of his size, and I didn’t want to wait.

Note: Old Friend recommends freshening sheepskin footwear by dusting the interior with baking soda and letting it sit over night. Shake or vacuum the soda out the next day. Fashionistas who are slaves to the ubiquitous sheepskin boot, take note!

At Home Nursing Home Travel Wheelchairs

Simple Two-Person Transfer Sling

Image of a Gimpgear Personal Transfer SlingPreviously, I’ve written about the hydraulic lift I used to transfer my dad from his wheelchair onto the seat of a car. It’s a great device, but cumbersome and requires installation in whatever vehicle is being used.

The sling in the picture above (left) is quite similar to the one my dad’s automatic lift. The difference is that the Comfort Carrier doesn’t require a mechanical arm. If you’re in situations where there are usually two people available to help with a transfer, this is a far simpler — and much less expensive — solution.

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

Gifts Nursing Home

Father’s Day Gift Suggestions

Father’s Day is next Sunday. Herewith, a list of gift suggestions to make Dad’s day especially nice. (Many of these suggestions appeared on the recent Mother’s Day Gift Suggestions post, but there are a few new ones to inspire you, too.) These items are particularly suited to fathers who live in assisted living or nursing homes, but most of them are things just about anyone might enjoy.

For TV-watching dads:

Simple Remote Controls for TV

Sleek, Super-Size Remote Control

Fun and Games:

Marble Run for Dexterity and Better Hand Coordination

Holders for Playing Cards

Engaging Hand-Held Game for One or More

More than a card:

Coloring Books For Adults

Loving company:

Companion Pets — Blondie the Golden Retriever

Companion Pets — Puzzle the Cat

For happy feet:

Slippers for Swollen or Sensitive Feet

Shoehorn With a Sense of Humor

Better than a Rolex:

Super Large Analog Date/Time Clock

Custom rims:

Spoke Guards for Wheelchairs

Games/Recreation Nursing Home

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.

Nursing Home

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.

Good Stuff Nursing Home

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.

Games/Recreation Gifts Nursing Home

Holders for Playing Cards

Image of a Blue Plastic Playing Card HolderPlaying cards is a favorite pastime for many people, and a fine way to spend time companionably during a nursing home or sick room visit when conversation lags. Depending on the game, even very young children and adults of all abilities can join in.

At Home Everyday Gear Nursing Home

Why You Might Want to Pay $500 for Titanium Eye Glasses

Image of Eye Glasses Being RepairedA couple of months ago, I wrote about the the titanium glasses we got for my dad and discussed the amazing flexibility of the frames. This week they were put to the test. It’s not quite clear what happened — apparently my dad’s glasses landed on the floor and were either stepped on by an aide or perhaps wheeled over by . . . well, we won’t say who.

Image of a Swiss Army Card Tool Kit