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Creative and Affordable Home Safety Ideas

Creative and Affordable Ideas for Homecare Safety
—thoughts from a fellow journeyman
I often get requests for ideas on how to affordably and effectively avoid pain, suffering and expenses associated with homecare. Last month, I gave a presentation on “trip & fall prevention” and highlighted the following:
1. Throw out the throw rugs! Anything loose on the floor must go, especially when vision is impaired.
2. Communication is a major challenge in homecare. Remember, there are three elements of communication, a SENDER, A MESSAGE and a RECEIVER. I devised a simple, inexpensive solution to frequent “disconnects” at home. For a nominal cost (tag and garage sales are excellent places to save money for these items), invest in:
a. A “baby monitor”—this handy device listens to whomever it is near; it serves as your EAR to those you serve and for whom you care. There is a monitor and a receiver, the latter is what YOU as the caregiver, must keep with you at all times. Frequently, there are receivers that clip onto a belt.
b. An intercom system, usually consisting of 3-4 separate units that send and receive.
Application of both systems:
Because I could not rely on my Mother to activate any device, anything I utilize must be automatic (self-activated). Hence, I set the monitor next to Mom’s bedside to hear everything she uttered. The sounds from this unit was communicate to the receiver, (usually on the belt of the caregiver). The (3 or 4) intercom units were set around the home in strategic positions so that whenever the caregiver heard from Mom, it was broadcast throughout the home on the intercom units. The caregiver, would merely reply to Mom on the closest intercom unit (that were dispersed around the home).
Result: Awesome, reliable and inexpensive communication system that maintained 30-second response time to my Mom whenever she required help.
Lighting in the Bedroom
The last tip I have today is a wonderful preventive technique regarding lighting in one’s home, especially bedroom. Mom was visually impaired..and subsequently tripped over her commode through NO fault of hers! I spoke with her on various solutions and, after I nailed the commode to the wall, I configured holiday lighting under her bed…soft pastel colors that were safely out of touch/tripping yet could light up the entire floor with the activation of a simple foot switch (common during the holiday season to activate Christmas trees). I installed the switch on the edge of Mom’s bed, on the railing so she could easily turn them on and off without disturbing Dad (who at the time, was alive and responsible for the lighting for Mom 24/7). As Mom’s vision deteriorated, I changed the color of the lights under the bed to WHITE. As her mobility and cognitive acuity changed, I automated the lights so that a direct light was targeted towards the commode…activated by motion detector…so NO action was needed on her part!
Result: Prevention of future issues, pain and suffering. Dad slept better and Mom was safer. Mom retained her pride and dignity….priceless at any age.

Be well…strive to be happy….savor every moment.

Joy to Your World

Joy to Your World
—thoughts from a fellow journeyman
The movie, “The Bucket List”, had many wisdoms; as you might recall, there was a segment referring to the meaning of life…and joy. The value of life is based on two questions:
….did we find joy in our life
…did we bring joy to others?
This movie made a real impression on me, (and undoubtedly many others).

Be Mindful for Unexpected Joy
Having been on the “senior circuit” for over 20 years, I give programs on my photography of ghost towns, steam boats and steam trains. However, for certain audiences, I am often asked just to sing! In this recent performance, a dignified resident of this facility got up and began to dance after about 30 minutes…and dance she did. She danced at every table; she danced slow….she danced fast…not out of desperation or imposition, but out of sheer joy! Although her speech was somewhat limited and faltering, she approached me within about a foot and managed to utter “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”! (Assuming it was a song request, I complied and did my best for her.) She was a perfect example of unabashed, sheer joy; especially when I was later informed that she is 100 years young! (A poster child for graceful aging if ever I saw one!)

About a year ago, I was asked by my church to sing for a senior suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. (As a Stephen Minister, I am asked to minister at times for those suffering grief and loss. I often bring my guitar and sing.) This gentleman did not always remember the name of his wife, who was his primary caregiver. He could not speak and consequently, he had a very empty existence with his condition at the time. They both lived in their own home with no other caregivers. His wife did all she could to provide support, food and comfort but was clearly suffering herself from the caregiving burden. Soon after my beginning to play, he began to sing with me! (I was aware of the therapeutic benefit of listening to and actually singing songs. As a matter of fact, experience has shown that certain patients with Parkinson ’s disease often respond well when they actually SING songs; rather than merely listening to recorded or live performances. Tremors often stop when patients sing!) What started as a brief performance, lasted 45 minutes! During my final number, (True Love originally performed by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly. This was my mom’s favorite song), he looked over to his wife and winked at her!! This priceless and timeless moment was never caught on film, phone or tape, but will forever be etched in my memory! I am unsure whether his wife even saw his tender act of timeless love, but he knew that I saw it. Although he might not have remembered her name, he knew she was important to him and that he loved her. After the song, I left in silence, since that was his comfort and familiarity. I have not heard from him since that visit.

In closing, (not conclusion), be mindful of opportunities to savor joy in your life…and the chance to bring joy to others that you might encounter along your personal journey. As I often say in my workshops—be relevant, make a difference!

In addition to writing books, blogs and articles on aging matters, CHUCK OAKES is a Stephen Minister, actor and local entertainer. His latest book, YOUR HOME, YOUR CASTLE, prepares families for homecare of their aging loved ones and is now available from Amazon and Kindle. You might have seen him on local television commercials.
For more information—518-280-6077

Hope After the Holidays

HOPE AFTER THE HOLIDAYSthoughts from a fellow journeyman

OK, the visitors have gone, the packages remain, decorations will soon come down…the radio will continue to play holiday songs for a week or so, but somehow, in some way, there is an emptiness inside.

What is that void, that emptiness we often feel in January? Well, for some of us, it is “empty wallets” as the bills are paid and we remember the financial challenges of the season. But what else? For some families, we say goodbye to visitors from afar, who we might not see again for a while.   For unemployed workers, holidays’ “afterglow” is another loss they must endure, along with loss of income, social connections and routine.


As a relative newcomer to Upper New York State, I am still getting used to the winter activities, or lack thereof, in the region. I love the outdoors, but not really the bitter cold and travel challenges that go with the winter here. I too, am in search of a greater appreciation for the season and its value.


Of course, there are the indoor sports, hobbies, reading and of course, the Internet/computer to help entertain us during the winter doldrums. Many of these events and opportunities for personal growth and fun can be found in magazines, on television or associations you might be a member of. There is no easy answer to the questions and challenges of adjustment and loss, but there are some basics to embrace and focus on; they include:

  • Savor the moment. Too often, many of us strive for improvements and career enhancements, etc. In this season, the focus of material goods help the national economy and keep people at work…making the stuff we purchase, collect and ultimately, must rid ourselves of later in life. As you know, life can change in a heartbeat, embrace the moment! Enjoy today, for tomorrow might be different….better or worse, who’s to say.
  • Focus on your “core”. We frequently become our worst critics and consequently, do not give ourselves the support and encouragement we need. We need to become our own best friend and truest ally. In my opinion, genuine success is realized when we have become the person we always admired in others! It is nice to please others, we cannot always satisfy everyone’s expectations of US; consequently, we must satisfy our OWN expectations. Learn to appreciate and yes, LOVE yourself.
  • Strive for health and happiness, not perfection. While it is admirable to strive for perfection and the ideal, it is frequently unhealthy and the journey itself can create unhappiness…and immune issues. Realistic goals and attainable objectives can reduce stress, anxiety and improve wellness.
  • Look for ways to help others. Every day, there are opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others; whether at the store, school, the retirement community or by calling others on the phone. (Internet not required) It is amazing how good you will feel, when doing for another person…without obligation or expectation!!

In this season of being thankful, giving and receiving gifts, we all have a treasure trove of precious and priceless gifts to share with others….OURSELVES. Be genuine, be sincere…be YOURSELF! Strive to become the caring person you truly are!


In the Bleak Midwinter has become my holiday favorite and my signature song to perform during Christmas. It reminds us that when we have little to give of a material or financial nature, the MOST precious and priceless gift remains

Lyrics taken from “In the Bleak Midwinter”—

“….what can I give Him, poor as I am. If I were a Shepard, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. Then, what can I give Him…give my heart.”


CHUCK OAKES is a Stephen Minister, consultant, speaker and author on aging matters. His latest book, YOUR HOME, YOUR CASTLE, prepares families for homecare of their aging loved ones and is now available from Amazon and Kindle. For more information—518-280-6077