The Remote Dilemma
“Help! There are too many buttons!” I was surprised to hear this from my dad. My husband and I had spent a considerable amount of time fixing up one of our bedrooms for dad and we were particularly proud of the new TV we had purchased for him. However, I was astonished to learn he no longer recognized the remote control and couldn’t use it because there were just too many buttons.
As we tried to figure out what to do, he became increasingly frustrated. The TV was his main source of entertainment. Feeling desperate, I bought a simple remote, padded it with foam rubber and covered it with electrical tape leaving only the power and channel buttons exposed. I used white out to mark the on/off function and he still could not figure it out. Finally, we decided to try an old TV that didn’t require a remote.
Off to the thrift store we went, where we found a TV with the old knobs you turn for channels and volume. Incredibly, this WORKED!
I believe that even though most of his short-term memory was slipping away, he maintained muscle memory from using one of these old TVs for so many years. In general, his interactions with the family increased and he appeared more relaxed. Now, of course, this won’t work for everyone.
My dad had to adjust to a new home, new environment (he moved from Pennsylvania to Florida), new family members, new routines and the loss of almost everything he was familiar with. It took at least six months for him to settle in. Along the way, we had many rough days. However, by modifying routines and the environment, he eventually accepted that he was now home.
Light switches and other modifications
Our next problem was the light switches. Every time he turned one of the light switches off, he cut the power to the TV. Our solution was to install a safety cover over the switches we didn’t want Dad using. In order for Dad to have access to the light switch that controlled his lamp, we put a brightly colored cover over it. The pattern and bright colors directed his attention to the right switch.
These are just a couple of the things we did while my dad was with us. There is a good resource on “Home Modifications” by the Fischer Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.
Observe and modify
My recommendation is, if possible, to put yourself in the role of outside observer. Think about what your loved one is trying to do, and why. Also, try to resist the temptation to do everything for them. Ask yourself, “Is there a way to modify the environment so some semblance of independence can be maintained as long as possible?” If you understand what is motivating someone and what abilities they retain, often you will come up with creative solutions.
Here’s another example: My father worked until he was 80, and that included almost 30 years in the military. For all of his adult life, people depended on him. After he became a widower, stopped working and had to move, he lost his purpose in life.
When he moved in, I often found him in the kitchen rinsing dirty silverware and putting it away in the drawers. I wanted to scream, and after walking away in frustration several times, I took a closer look at what he was doing. He would consistently put the silverware in the drawer in the opposite order of how we kept them. The family decided we would not interfere with his “helping”; instead, we waited until he went to bed and then removed the silverware he’d put away and put everything in the dishwasher. By making subtle modifications based on his behavior, Dad felt needed and valued, while continuing to maintain his dignity. ♠
What about you?
- Are there things you modified in your home?
- Are there situations you faced like my remote story that might help others?
Leave us a comment and let us know!