Buckeye ingenuity: Caregiver adapts items to help elderly, disabled

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LONDON, Ohio – When Joyce Brown’s father had a stroke in 1995, she became his primary caregiver. She helped him use adaptive equipment, much of which was given to him at a rehabilitative center, that helped him with everyday living skills.

One piece of equipment, for example, helped him pull up his socks. Another – a pole – helped him reach into the closet and get shirts off a hanger.

In 1997, Brown became the family and consumer sciences agent for Ohio State University Extension in Athens County, and was asked to speak to the Athens County Arthritis Support Group about ways to make everyday tasks easier on the joints. An arthritis sufferer herself, Brown took a keen interest in the subject.

Buckeye ingenuity. “I gathered some of my father’s adaptive equipment together and went to our local pharmacy to see what else they had available. One of the things I saw were elastic shoe strings that were priced at $2.99 a pair.

“Now, I had just been working with some very narrow elastic on another project, and I remembered paying only 89 cents for about three yards. I asked myself, why couldn’t you just cut shoe string lengths from the narrow elastic and use it as shoe strings?”

The savings would be more than $5, she reasoned. The idea took hold, and Brown started generating ideas for homemade adaptive equipment that was much more economical than what was available in stores or catalogs.

Brown will share her ideas and show examples of such equipment at Farm Science Review, Sept. 18-20, at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center near London, Ohio. Her presentation is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 1:30 p.m. in the McCormick Building.

More tips. Examples of homemade adaptive equipment include:

* Attaching the ring part of a key ring to zippers to make them easier to pull. Large paper clips also can be used, and can be removed from the zipper easily.

* Using a W-shaped potato masher to turn knobs on the washing machine or the stove.

* Driving a nail into a wooden cutting board so the pointy end sticks up. The nail, which must be made of aluminum, stainless steel or other food-safe material, holds potatoes or other foods in place while slicing. The point should be slightly blunted with a file to make it less hazardous.

“People can save a lot of money if they make their own adaptive equipment,” Brown said. “Even if they eventually do decide to buy commercially available equipment, the homemade alternatives will give you the chance to determine if a specific ‘helper’ will really help you, before you spend the money and time to get it.”

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