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Posted: February 29, 2008

Caregiving Gadgets and Gizmos

New Ways to Keep Mind Fresh, Blood Pressure Low

Our ongoing examination of products for seniors and their caregivers continues to turn up creative items that address our loved ones’ special needs as well as those of us who care for them.

This time we’ve looked at dozens of new products with a special eye to highlighting things that will benefit your loved one’s health, improve their independence, and make life easier for you both. We’ve also kept an eye out for new products that will bring you closer together. Here are some of our most recent favorite finds.

Control Blood Pressure Melodically

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RESPeRATE is an electronic device intended to help lower blood pressure naturally by pacing your breathing. It works by analyzing individual breathing patterns and creating customized melodies of two distinct inhale and exhale tones for a user. Its manufacturer, InterCure, Inc., of Fort Lee, New Jersey, says that just listening to the melody through headphones will help naturally pace breathing.

By gradually prolonging the exhalation tone, RESPeRATE helps slow your breathing, which relaxes the muscles that surround your blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure levels. While breathing returns to normal after each RESPeRATE session, the beneficial effect on your blood pressure lasts, according to InterCure.

The company also says that clinical studies have shown that after three to four weeks of use, RESPeRATE reduces blood pressure an average of 14 points systolic (the top number) and 8 points diastolic (the bottom number).

RESPeRATE retails for $299. For more information or to order, visit www.resperate.com or call 877-988-9388.

‘Talking’ Monitor for Checking Blood Pressure

The LifeSource Talking Auto-Inflation Blood Pressure Monitor is simple to use and may be a good option for the aging eye. It sports a blood pressure cuff that automatically inflates at the touch of a button. It also has a large digital display to show both your blood pressure and pulse, and it will also announce results audibly.

The LifeSource monitor comes with a large-print instruction manual, and an audio manual is also available from LifeSource upon request.

This monitor retails for about $119. Look for LifeSource blood pressure monitors at your local pharmacy or visit www.andmedical.com or call 888-726-9966 to find a nearby retailer.

HandiRecords Keep Medical Records . . . Handy

Whenever you take your loved one to the doctor or emergency room, you need to know what medications they use, what other doctors they’re seeing, what conditions they’ve been diagnosed with, and all sorts of other medical information. It can be difficult to remember at the best of times, but particularly hard in an emergency situation.

HandiRecords is a checkbook-sized organizer with 24 pages to record doctors’ contact information, medications, allergies, hospitalizations, medical tests, doctors’ appointments, and other medical information. It’s easy to carry in a purse or pocket where all that information can be at your fingertips.

HandiRecords comes in two styles, Classic and Tri-fold, and costs $5.99 and $9.99, respectively. You can also purchase a plastic card holder that fits inside HandiRecords to hold insurance cards, appointment cards, and so on for $2.99 more. You can order online at www.handirecords.com or by calling 866-349-8653.

Legal Tracking of Elder Care Payments

ElderCarePay is a software package that helps you manage the task of paying for in-home elder care. If you hire someone to come in and care for mom or dad, you’re responsible for reporting that person’s income to the IRS. You’re responsible for withholding federal, state, and local taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare -- that’s the law. ElderCarePay helps you do all that on your computer.

ElderCarePay calculates taxes for you and prints W-2 forms (those tax forms sent to employees at the end of the year). It also prints paychecks (you’ll have to purchase blank checks for this purpose). Its maker, Essentia Software, describes it as easy to set up and use.

If you want to pay extra, Essentia will set it up and enter all of your information for you. This set-up service may come in handy because it includes preparing all the paperwork to request your state and federal employee identification numbers. If you don’t know how to do these things, the company will do it for you.

The software costs $147.95 per year. To have ElderCarePay set your account up for you, it costs $99.97 for one caregiving employee and $49.97 for each additional employee. To purchase, visit www.eldercarepay.com. You can also phone 888-999-1722 for more information.

Mind Exercises with Online Games

Happy Neuron games have been specifically designed by a cognitive psychologist to target the five major areas of cognitive functioning -- memory, attention, language, executive function (that means logic, reasoning, and problem solving), and visual/spatial function (that means operating in a 3-dimensional world and interpreting visual information). Research shows that actively participating in brain fitness workouts like these can help defer the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Happy Neuron offers more than 25 different online games. Players can log on from any computer that has internet access. The games are easy to learn and do not require a great deal of computer know-how to play. There is plenty of variety to keep things interesting, and the games should challenge players of all skill levels.

There is a “Virtual Coach” to track a player’s progress and compare results to other players of similar gender, age, and education levels. Games are then recommended to improve an individual’s areas of weakness.

The Happy Neuron games are available online for a monthly fee of $9.95 or for an annual fee of $99.95. You can try them free for seven days by signing up at www.happy-neuron.com. You can also call 800-560-0966 for more information.

Book Helps Jog Fading Memories

The Sunshine on My Face: A Read-Aloud Book for Memory-Challenged Adults by Lydia Burdock is a 34-page hardcover picture book written for adults with Alzheimer’s or other memory disorders. The book is designed to stimulate conversation and reminiscence and to promote physical closeness and interaction, all important things for adults dealing with dementia.

The pictures are bright and bold, and the print is large enough to be easily read. Described as a “two-lap book,” it’s a wonderful book to share with your loved one.

The Sunshine on My Face is available through most bookstores and generally retails for $17.95, but you can find it cheaper at online booksellers.

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Kelly Morris is a former social worker and home health and hospice worker whose writing has appeared in a number of health-related journals. She lives in Mansfield, Ohio, and can be reached at multihearts@hotmail.com.

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