Independent Living Products

Watching an aging parent or senior loved one take so much time to do the simple tasks they used to do easily, can be a painful experience (for you both).   Seniors may begin to unfortunately think of themselves as an invalid or cripple.  You can resist doing things for them by instead focusing on the many independent living products, which can help them be more independent.  Point out that most older people have some difficulties, but that today is a wonderful time in which many senior living products can extend independence and preserve their self-sufficiency and independence.

Independent living products are also known as assistive devices.  Many of the devices commonly found in medical-supply stores and in some large pharmacies focus on walking, incontinence, and modifications to bathrooms.  You can use your imagination, ingenuity and shopping skills to come up with other devices that help in your senior’s particular situation.

Don’t be impulsive and believe every advertisement that you see as to how the product will perform miracles for an aging senior!  Investigate whether the independent living product will actually improve your elder’s ability to perform daily activities.  Godsends like reachers (long tools with retractable hooks controlled by the hand) allow a person to reach into a cabinet and pluck items out of arm’s length off the shelves.  Some reachers handle objects weighing up to two pounds, but can also pick up a dime or hold a paper cup without crushing it.  Many fold for easy carrying.  Reachers furnish a sense of independence.

If you can’t find the independent living product that best fits you needs, you can actually create many assistive devices in your own home.  For example, you can tape cut-up tennis balls to the legs of aluminum walkers so that the metal doesn’t damage floors or make a racket.  Another trick is to wrap foam rubber around the handles of toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and kitchen utensils to improve the grip.

Alternatively, a photo-press telephone with small frames into which you can place pictures of frequently called family and friends may be a helpful purchase.  A senior with less-than-nimble fingers or who has problems remembering phone numbers, even with speed dialing, can just press the photo of the person they want to call.  Oversized knobs that fit over standard cabinet knobs are another example of a small adjustment that can make a big difference in the life of an older person who has some physical weaknesses, but lives alone.

Sock donners, dressing sticks, zipper pulls, long-handled shoehorns and thousands of low-tech, sturdy but lightweight gadgets facilitate self-dressing despite painful joints, stiff backs, and limited range of motion or weakness in shoulders and elbows.  An aging senior with the right devices can reach clothing in a closet, pull it towards themselves, hold the items, insert their legs and arms without strain, and even button and zip.

You can create many independent living products yourself with a little help and ingenuity from your friends.  Ask family and friends who once offered to help to now offer suggestions and do a little work.  For example, ask people who sew to replace difficult clothing fasteners with Velcro.  Swap regular shoelaces with elastic ones solves the shoelace-tying problem.

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