My father has macular degeneration and is losing his vision. He has lived in the same house for more than 52 years. He never wants to move, he tells me. My mom passed away five years ago, so I help when I can. It is an hour away if there is no traffic. With my own family and career in social services, I offer care and support from a distance when I cannot get out there. He does not need a caretaker yet. I have found some solutions that have helped him and me too, so I worry less. Some of my ideas do not always fly with him, like an indoor camera with an intercom. Okay, so he wasn’t ready for me to see him in his living room every day, I get it. This is what is working for us:
Call Blocker for Landline: My brother bought a Sentry brand call blocker for my dad two years ago on Amazon. There are many varieties and brands now. My dad used to get at least five telemarketing calls a day. With the Sentry there are no more spam calls. The phone rings once and it is cut off then the number can be blocked. Everybody else, like me, can still call but it eliminates all the other annoying calls. There are no monthly fees for this device, it is a one-time purchase. He hasn’t had any telemarketing call for two years since he got this.
Large ‘No Solicitations’ Sign: I don’t like the idea of strangers knocking on my dad’s door. He is 85 years old, so I am protective. There has been a huge reduction of salespeople since we posted this sign on his front door. They sell these signs on Amazon and at Home Depot.
Shower Grab Bar: My husband bought a grab bar at Home Depot and put it in with a diamond drill bit. Some people bath less if they do not feel secure in the shower. He does not need a shower chair at this point. He is very happy with the shower bar and feels much more confident while bathing.
Meals On Wheels: My dad can’t prepare food due to his vision and has lost weight, so we signed up for Meals On Wheels. He pays a minimal fee to have two meals delivered on designated days. This was one of my ideas that he hated at first, but we eased into it. Now he loves it. He receives a hot meal, a drink, fruit and a cold sandwich for later.
Dial-A-Ride: I got my dad signed up for Dial-A-Ride in the city he lives in shortly after he quit driving. He looked pretty annoyed with me when we were registering and did not use the service for months. Then one day he decided to start using it to go out to lunch every week at his favorite restaurant as he used to when he drove. It costs 25-cents one way. My dad is a good tipper and it pays off, he gets exceptional service.
Free Talking Books: The Braille Institute provides a free talking machine and books designed for people with low vision or those who cannot hold a book. Books can be ordered online or by calling their library. They provide a free return envelope for the books. I also was able to get my dad a reading magnifying glass at no charge through the Braille Institute. For more information, visit brailleinstitute.org or call (800) 808-2555.
Free Phone through The California Telephone Access Program (CTAP): My dad was having trouble dialing his home phone, so I applied for a specialized phone from californiaphones.org. Somebody came to his house and trained him (and me) to use his new phone. Now he can feel for the button that dials me and others with one touch. Anybody in California who has difficulty using a standard telephone qualifies with a doctor’s note. They can be contacted at (800) 806-1191.
Ring Doorbell: I have had a Ring Doorbell and have found it very useful. I ordered one for my dad. I can see when a delivery is made at my dad’s house or somebody is on his porch. Sometimes I get on the intercom and pretend like I am in the other room. Nobody needs to know he is home alone at times. It is a one-time cost of approximately $100 and then $30 annually.
My dad also wears a medical alert button, and I have meals delivered to him through apps like Postmates and Uber Eats. There are many services and programs to assist seniors and caregivers. Looking for assistance and asking for help is the first step.
Jennifer Marquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @jenntmqz on Twitter and Instagram.