Dear readers: The first column of this new year consisted of interesting new or widely praised tech products and services intended to help us stay in touch with our older family members during COVID. Since then, more products and services have come to my attention, so I thought that a second column was warranted.
Many of the products and services listed will be extra helpful during COVID restrictions, however, most will likely be of ongoing interest.
AARP how-to videos: We rarely think about the tasks necessary for caring for a vulnerable adult in the home until we are faced with them. Even then, we tend to punt without thinking that with training, some tasks could be made easier for the caregiver and perhaps safer for the elder.
These AARP videos are short and to the point and cover medical tasks, managing incontinence, using specialized equipment, mobility challenges and more; https://www.aarp.org/ppi/initiatives/home-alone-alliance/family-caregiving-videos/.
teleCalm: My past experience tells me that one of your biggest problems with your older family member who may be declining cognitively is how the person uses their phone. A few of the options include the ability to block potential problem calls such as spam and sales calls. You can set the phone to accept family members and friends while blocking all other calls, and even limit outgoing calls for a time.
There are refined choices in between. As with so many services, some may overlap with what you may already have, but their unique choices could be a boon for many, and teleCalm can be managed by using a phone app; https://www.telecalmprotects.com/.
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GrandPad: I mentioned this dementia-friendly tablet in a column last March, but it’s worth repeating. The GrandPad tablet allows the user to stay in touch with family, listen to music and summon help, yet it’s made specifically for those who are not tech-savvy or, as noted, are experiencing cognitive decline. Personal check-in services are an option that could be helpful to some; https://www.grandpad.net/.
Dabblesack: Arts and crafts, games, puzzles and music designed to engage people living with dementia are all features of Dabblesack. Conversation-promoters are available for those who struggle for topics when visiting, as well as my personal favorite which is suggested community service projects for those older adults who feel the need to give (these projects are done from home).
Dabblesack is an exceptional labor of love that will help caregivers long after society returns to a more normal life; https://dabblesack.com/.
Robotic pets: Love or hate the idea of a robotic pet, some older adults living with dementia do gain comfort from these realistic “pets” who have no needs of their own and therefore can’t be accidentally neglected or abused; https://joyforall.com/.
Coloring book: Loretta Woodward Veney first developed "Colors Flowing from My Mind!: An Intergenerational Coloring Book" as a way to keep her mother engaged. If you give this as a gift, include a set of colored pencils or pointy crayons (check with the facility if they are involved); https://lorettaveney.com/books, or available on Amazon.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.