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Posted: May 30, 2008

Caregiving Gadgets and Gizmos

Products to Ease Stress, Help Insure Safety

Our never-ending search to find helpful devices that can improve life for you and your loved one has turned up some interesting products to keep your loved ones safe and to help them (and you) relieve stress. We’ve also continued to look for items to improve the quality of life for your loved ones with dementia.

Erase Stress

The StressEraser is a small biofeedback machine intended to allow you to monitor your stress (and do caregivers ever have stress!). Slip your finger into a slot on the device, and an infrared sensor will monitor your breathing and translate your pulse beats into waves you can watch on the display screen. All the while, the machine is basically decoding various nerve signals into something you can see and easily understand.

StressEraser tracks two types of nerve patterns -- stimulating nerves that increase your heart rate and lead to faster breathing patterns, and pacifying nerves that do the opposite. You want the opposite pattern of pacifying nerves!

While tracking your nerve pattern, you watch the waves displayed on the screen. You want them to come in gentle arcs. This may take a little time on the machine, because if you are under a lot of stress at the moment, the arcs will look more like peaked mountains. StressEraser also will monitor your breathing, and it will beep to tell you when to exhale. By controlling your breathing, the manufacturer says you will learn to control your stress.

Use the StressEraser during times that you feel particularly stressed to help calm yourself down, but also practice with it at other times. You’ll learn the proper breathing pattern, and this may help when you need it -- even without the machine. Use it for 15 minutes right before bed for a good night’s sleep, the device manufacturer says. We think there’s a double benefit from StressEraser – it calms mom or dad when agitated, but it’s also a great help for overworked and overwhelmed caregivers.

The StressEraser retails for $299. You can order by calling 888-437-0700 or order online at www.stresseraser.com.

Finger Fidgets

These innovative exercise gadgets provide exercise for the hands and also provide visual and auditory stimulation for those with dementia. Finger Fidgets come with three 10-inch plastic mesh sleeves in different colors with balls inside. There is a foam ball, a wooden ball, and a chime ball. Moving the balls inside the sleeves exercises the hands and fingers, making it also good for anyone with arthritis.

The colors, textures, and sound of the chime ball provide sensory stimulation that is helpful for those with dementia. It will be a soothing activity for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, due to the repetitive nature of the task.

Finger Fidgets cost $24 for a set of three. Call 800-225-2610 or order online at www.alimed.com.

Walk-In Bath Tub for Safety

These bath tubs are the perfect solution for someone who has trouble stepping over the lip of a regular tub. They have a door that opens and closes securely, allowing one to walk right in, preventing the risk of tripping and falling while climbing into the tub. You walk into the tub, close the water-tight door behind you, and then fill the tub. The tubs come with a color-matched grab bar and a slip-resistant floor for safety.

These tubs also come with the option to add a number of special features, including hydrotherapy water jets or air jets and an aromatherapy feature. These features make the tubs therapeutic as well as simply a way to get clean. They will help relieve the pain and tension associated with stress, arthritis, neuropathy, and other conditions.

The tubs are attractive and should fit in well with most bathroom décor. They are available in several sizes, to fit into most sized bathrooms.

These tubs aren’t cheap. Prices for most walk-in tubs start around $3,000, but may cost more depending on the model and additional options you choose. For more information, or to find an installer near you, call 800-465-1202 or visit them online at www.walkinbathtubstore.com.

Portable Grab Bars for Bath, Shower Safety

These portable grab bars from Bridge Medical are easily attached to any tub or shower to provide a safe handhold. There are two styles -- the Telescoping Grip and the Telescoping Pivot Grip. Both are adjustable in length. The Pivot Grip bar works for non-parallel surfaces, such as corners. Both grips come in two sizes, medium and large.

These grab bars are useful if you don’t want to install permanent bars because of a temporary need or housing restrictions. They are easy to attach and remove, and you can take them with you if you travel and set them up anywhere.

These grips range in price from about $100-$150. Look for them at a medical supply store near you, or call 877-746-7940 or look them up online at www.bridge-medical.com to find out where you can buy them.

Doll Therapy for Women with Alzheimer’s

Dolls are not just child’s play anymore; they’re a recognized form of therapy for women with Alzheimer’s disease. (Men can certainly try it out too, but most men obviously don’t show an interest in the dolls the way women do).

People with Alzheimer’s may begin to lose interest in the world around them, but when given a life-like baby doll to hold, many women with Alzheimer’s show interest in the doll. They hold it, talk to it, sing to it, and so on. The manufacturer says the doll brings back fond memories of when their own children were small and is a source of comfort to them.

For doll therapy to be effective, the doll needs to be as life-like as possible. We like the Ashton-Drake dolls. They are about the size of a newborn baby. They are made of vinyl, which feels soft like real skin. They look incredibly life-like.

The Ashton-Drake dolls come dressed, but you can purchase real baby clothing for them as well. Newborn-size clothing will fit them. Women in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may enjoy changing the baby’s clothes, but the women for whom doll therapy is most helpful, women in mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s, may find it difficult to dress a doll.

Ashton-Drake has several dolls to choose from. They range in price from about $100 to $130. You can view the dolls on their website at www.ashtondrake.com, or call 877-268-6638 for more information.

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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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