Wednesday, October 10, 2012

10 Simple {Cheap} Elder care Helps

Use inexpensive dish cloths for napkins, spills, gentle tactile stimulation.

Boo uses an inordinate amount of paper towels daily...or he would if I provided them. For the sake of our environment and our budget, I don't. I have used handkerchiefs and old washcloths, but Boo seemed intent on losing those. It seems they just weren't attractive and he was more interested in losing them than using them. A few weeks ago, I bought a package of a dozen brown plaid dish cloths---very manly, you know--- at Family Dollar for less than five dollars. Bingo...Boo loves them. He uses them as napkins, to wipe up anything he spills and bonus of bonuses, the slight texture of the cloths is just right for rubbing between his fingers. The tactile stimulation seems to help him self calm.

Knit caps. Even I know this one is a bit unusual. The seasons are changing here which means it's getting colder. We're talking about the low 50's not freezing temperatures. As far as Boo's concerned, it might as well be 50 below. Once he gets cold, it's really hard for him to get warm. Last night, even with the bedroom at 80 degrees, Boo was shivering. I was roasting. Then, I remembered camping in the winter. We wore knit caps when we slept to conserve our body heat. I plunked a knit cap on Boo's head and thirty minutes later, he wasn't shivering. He was comfortable at last and I turned the heat down.

Wyler's sugar free individual drink mixes. These are so easy. Boo dislikes water from time to time. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this particular dislike. He must remain well hydrated, however. There are seven or eight different varieties at our local Family Dollar. They're also sold at grocery stores. I just add one packet to Boo's water bottle and he'll drink it with no complaint. They're also convenient to add to his outing backpack with snack foods. I know these little packets are chock full of chemicals and add nothing healthful to Boo's diet. I consider them a decent trade off for staying well hydrated. (Even slight dehydration can worsen Boo's confusion and cause spikes in his blood sugar. So, I'm diligent about ensuring that he's hydrated.)

Small rubber balls to squeeze. This is a tremendous gentle hand strengthener. We had tried the balls filled with sand. Let me mention here the HUGE mess a little bit of fine sand makes in a bed or on the floor. The small rubber balls are far better. I generally crochet a simple cotton thread cover for the balls. They tend to bounce less when dropped and they provide some tactile stimulation.

Spray hand cleaner. The alcohol based cleaners are far too harsh for Boo's skin. The hand cleaner in a squirt bottle is too messy and Boo doesn't like the gel feel of it. Instead, a home health agency provided a sample of a spray hand cleaner to try. This is evidently not an isolated problem. The 12 ounce version of Boo's sample was over twenty dollars. Rather too expensive I thought. Instead, we experimented and came up with our own solution. I mix three parts distilled water with one part baby shampoo or liquid Castile soap, pour it in spray bottles from the dollar store and instant spray hand cleaner. Even if Boo doesn't adequately rinse his hands, it isn't drying or greasy.

Simple homemade phone book. Boo has used this in the past when he was able to place phone calls. Sadly, he can no longer do that. I bought a small 4 x 6 photo book at the dollar store. On one page, I put a photograph of a person or place that Boo might want to call. On the opposite page, I put a white index card with the name and phone number. Until Boo's second stroke, this was a very useful tool.

Rice filled heating packs. This is an easy I'm-cold or my-____-hurts remedy. I have several small freezer zip lock baggies filled with one quarter to one third cup of uncooked rice. Heat in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, wrap in a washcloth and apply to cold or hurting area. These don't get hot enough to burn least not when heated less than 45 seconds. They also seem to provide just enough warmth to soothe Boo, but not enough to harm him. I have seen lovely pouches that enclose the rice bags, but I've never gotten around to making one.

Individual sets of clothes. This was once a life saver for me and enabled Boo to help himself. I put a full set of clothes including socks and underwear in a large Zip lock bag. I cheated and stored these in the bathroom. Boo could change clothes as needed without asking for help. Boo can seldom manage changing clothes without help now, but he still knows where to find his “spare clothes.”

Towels as under pads Those wonderful waterproof under pads are great time savers when your elder is slightly incontinent---stress incontinence or those oops moments. Boo is sensitive to the plastic waterproofing. So, I looked for alternatives. I bought a couple of cloth waterproof pads for fifteen dollars apiece. They're great, but are obvious...not so great for Boo's self-esteem. Instead, he favors towels. On his “upset” days, a quick towel thrown in the seat of a chair or on the bed makes clean up quick and easy and less embarrassing. Because they're cotton, they don't cause any skin problems. They're also not waterproof. So, they're only useful for minor accidents.

Instant nonslip socks. Puffy fabric paint on the bottom of washed socks creates instant nonslip socks. I wish this worked on the bottom of shoes, but it hasn't for us. Boo's diabetic socks don't always come in nonslip varieties. Since he almost always uses slippers, that's not the end of the world. Yesterday, Boo hopped up to make a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night without his slippers...and came close to falling. All his socks are now nonslip. It's a simple remedy to help prevent falls.


  1. The towels on seats also work well when you're pregnant and throwing up triggers incontinence. I used to have a couple in the car so I didn't have to clean the seat up when it was -20F.

  2. Wonderful tips, thanks for sharing.