During the past three decades, Marion Somers, PhD, aka "Dr. Marion," provided care for more than 2,000 elderly clients while she owned and operated a thriving geriatric care management practice. It is now Dr. Marion's goal to help caregivers everywhere by providing valuable insights and information in her book, Elder Care Made Easier: Doctor Marion’s 10 Steps to Help You Care for an Aging Loved One, and on her Web sites, DrMarion.com and DrMarion.org.
I’m thrilled by the recent advances in adapted equipment. Books, videos, Web sites, and pamphlets are out there for almost any type of elder care, handicap, or special need. They are more widely available than people think. Once you determine your elder’s need, you should be able to find adapted equipment that will improve the quality of his or her life.
Adapted equipment draws from a wide variety of products that can help your elder function more independently and/or on a higher level. They can help your elder regain confidence in his or her abilities, and they can even alleviate your elder’s overwhelming fear of being dependent on others. Along with advancements in medical technology and pharmaceuticals, adapted equipment has come a long way in recent years and can be a vital part of a senior’s later years.
Most people are unfamiliar with adapted equipment, but as a caregiver, you must become aware of this growing field. I’m talking about commonplace products like a wheelchair or an elder-safe stepladder, as well as more obscure products, like jar/bottle openers and grocery store scooters. Other examples include high curved bowls and large-handle eating utensils that help prevent food spills and modified “sippy” cups that prevent liquid from spilling. Anything that can help maintain dignity and independence should be integrated into your elder’s life.
One area that has been improved tremendously is transportation. Cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans can now be modified before they are purchased or on the aftermarket. No matter what your elder’s handicap may be, vehicles today can be adapted so that even a quadriplegic or paraplegic can operate them.
Each limitation now seems to have its own set of adapted equipment. This includes installing handicapped driving controls, safety travel chairs, and a swivel-seat, so that drivers can use their own body weight to work for them (instead of low- or non-functioning muscles). Ramps can also be installed to make it easier to get in and out of a vehicle, especially if someone is confined to a wheelchair. Chairlifts are also available.
Many elderly people simply stop driving when it becomes too difficult to operate a vehicle. But as long as your elder has an ability that can be overcome by adapted equipment, consider exploring this option. It can be as simple as adding a larger rearview mirror, which provides a wider view of the back. Extra-large side mirrors with a fisheye are also available to give your elder a different and better perspective of other traffic. Anything to enhance your elder’s judgment and safety should be considered.
Finally, in case of emergency, it’s crucial that you take various safety precautions when your elder is driving. This includes having safety flares, jumper cables, a flashlight, a small disposable camera (in case of an accident), a pad and pen, and an insulated camping blanket in the car. Also be sure your elder always carries a single sheet of paper listing all emergency telephone numbers (including roadside services). It’s best to keep a copy in the glove compartment, so that your elder always knows where to find them.
Caregiving is largely about helping your elder maintain as much control of his or her life as possible. Adapted equipment can help accomplish this important goal. Consider any and all products that might improve quality of life. You have no idea how big a difference this can make.
By Dr. Marion
Elder Care Made Easier Blog
[A version of this blog originally appeared on Dr. Marion’s Web site.]