Any project goes better with the right tools. But first, a person needs to know what tools are available and how to use them. Caregivers constantly prove how creative they are, often with everyday objects. We called my petite Grandmother “Kleine,” which in German means “little one.” She struggled to care for my stocky grandfather after his stroke. One day, she fastened a belt to the foot frame of  their iron bed so Grandpa could pull himself to a sitting position. That was in 1963.

It’s a New World

No one likes to ask for help, but sometimes we must surrender to reality. But must we? Can our loved one perhaps retain his or her dignity, especially with what we call ADLs? Activities of Daily Living include those commonplace things we do daily —shower, get dressed, walk about safely without another’s help, or feed ourselves.

My Grandfather was a proud man and needing help for personal care galled him no end. Too bad he was not living in 21st century. Today, occupational therapists recommend several simple products that help people pull on socks and pants, button a shirt, or pick up fallen objects. Due to weakness and pain, some folks need help to lift their legs onto a mattress or swing them into the car. People with Parkinson’s, people with tremors, find weighted eating utensils are easier to grip and help reduce the tremors enough so they can eat independently.

Seeing is Believing

I described these “tools”, DME’s (Durable Medical Equipment) based on my colleague Nancy Rhodes the Nurse Practitioner’s terrific video featuring an occupational therapist demonstrating these gizmos. While many medical measures require a physician’s prescription, people can purchase the appropriate DME at any medical supply store without a prescription. The staff are knowledgeable, and equipment is, well, durable and varied. They also know what Medicare will and will not pay for and how to go about billing for covered items.

Be sure to watch Nancy’s interesting and informative video. I enjoyed watching the interaction between the therapist and Nancy, who added helpful hints along the way.

We have quite a few of these DMEs in our home that are useful in non-medical ways also. My favorite is the reacher. I use it to fetch something that fell behind a piece of furniture, or under a bookcase for example. Good thing I had two reachers after my cataract surgery. I was not  supposed to bend over for a while, to avoid increasing the pressure in the operative eye. I was using the reacher to pick up something I had dropped. Suddenly I needed our spare reacher because I  dropped the first reacher!  It’s a wonder I didn’t need a third one.

Besides Nancy’s wonderful video, her book, Caregiver Success, is an encyclopedia of  nursing tips for the family caregiver, because, as she says, “Grandma did not come with instructions.”