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CARENOTES | Past Carenotes | Let's Talk


Welcome to CareNotes. In this special section we will feature a reader's letter and provide an opportunity for an interactive exchange that will help find some answers and possible solutions to concerns. If you wish to respond to this letter, simple follow the link provided at the end of the letter and add your comments and thoughts to our CareNotes Board.

This Week's Carenote - 8/5/14


My 85-year-old mother had to move in with my husband and me after being in a bad car accident. Her mobility is quite limited and she must use a walker, but does her own daily personal care. I prepare her meals and do her laundry. She is living in our ground floor bedroom with bath and has her possessions around her (edited, as she is a hoarder).

Since she moved in nine months ago, she hasn't been able to understand how to use the remote control for her TV, which is on the same account as ours, and she keeps deleting our recorded programs. She keeps denying she did, but our "history" shows she has.; Has anyone else dealt with this issue? Tips and/or suggestions would be gratefully appreciated. We took her remote away and she about blew a gasket! Thank you.


Caregivers Reply

Shared by: Luba
Hammton, NJ

At some point, parents start to regress in their thinking. It is that old biblical adage, "once a man, twice a child". Better to adjust your thinking when it comes to your parent. It might save your sanity. If she says she didn't change the remote, best to not keep asking, even when you know that she did. Your mom may want to maintain as much control as possible and the remote is a way of holding on to whatever she can in a world where she knows that she may be slowly losing ground. My mom, bless her soul, I love her dearly and she knows that, but sometimes I want to strangle her in her contraryness. I cannot imagine her living anywhere else than with me and my hubby, but, there are times when I have to take a breath and focus on the larger picture. Caring for her as best as I can. You are going to have to judge whether to give the remote back if she continues to be upset or puchase a TV for her that she can watch all to herself. Think of it, many people are no longer able to keep pace with technology. Sounds like she cannot and she's pushing any button on the remote. Buying a TV with remote may be the answer and make that her own TV to do with as she would. Best of luck!

Shared by: Elizabeth
Newport, RI

Above all, consider what upsets her. It is perhaps her loss of opinion and independence that she senses. The remote can be a symbol of power. Using the suggestions below empowers her. This will help her overall well-being. Best wishes!

Shared by: Nancy
Salt Lake City, UT

I Googled "best TV remote for elderly" and came up with several options for TV remotes that did not include other buttons and they were all in the $20-$35 range. Each one had and On/Off button, channel up and down, volume up and down, and a mute button - that's it. Might be worth checking out.

Shared by: Anne

In addition to getting her a simplified universal remote, you might also consider putting your other remotes away when not using them so she can't access one. The simplified remotes selection also includes ones with larger buttons which help with vision and use of hands (i.e., arthritic fingers) issues.

Shared by: J Clarke

Does her TV have to have the DVR? You can often get just a digital adapter for the TV so that she can watch all (or a limited set) of channels but without the TV Guide service. You could also have a set-top box than enables the TV Guide and OnDemand (pay per view-style) services but not DVR.

Shared by: Stan
Port Orange, FLorida

I have a mother-in-law who has been living with us for about 3 years now. She has an issue with slight dementia at some times. Anyway, we had to change to a mew remote control because of our Cable Company switching to full digital channels. She could not figure it out as far as turning it on and off, switching channels, etc. What I did was drew out an enlarged picture of the remote and replicated the various buttons on it, particularly the on and off button, mentioned it's color and in large print outside the picture notating it's use briefly in large print and arrow pointing to it! I did the same highlighting the volume button, the channel buttons particularly, and notating which buttons NOT TO TOUCH at all!!!

I have this on a table near where she watches TV in our living room. It seems to have helped somewhat. Once in awhile she'll still get confused and I'll show her the diagram again to remind her!

Hopefully, this will work for you, and since, it appears she has no memory problems, she shouldn't get confused. Good Luck!

Shared by: Elizabeth
Winston-Salem, NC

My situation is a little different, but I hope it helps. I went back to work when our daughter was 3 months old and my 69 year old mother was amazingly gracious enough to come to our house and watch her EVERYDAY for the first year. Our remote is very different than hers, so I wrote out instructions on which remote turns on the TV, how to switch to watch a DVD, how to watch a recorded show, and also what buttons to NOT press. In those 9 months, she never really got the hang of it. TVs are complicated now, and it just made her feel out of touch. I realized it wasn't as much about the remote as it was about her reality about aging. For her, it wasn't that long ago when we did the same for her mother. We wrote out instructions on how to work the CD player so she could listen to her favorite music. We numbered the instructions on the paper and numbered the buttons on the CD player, which kept her feeling independent.

You've done a wonderful thing in caring for your mother. It is difficult to anticipate how the transition to becoming a caregiver to an aging parent will effect your own household. Sometimes a deleted TV show is the final straw. I wish you the best of luck in finding a balance. Please remember to take care of yourself. God Bless.

Shared by: Amy

I think there are "simplified" remotes that have fewer control buttons than usual. Maybe your cable company has such controls or can direct you to one. If all your mother needs to do is turn the set on/off, change channels, and adjust the volume on HER set, eliminate the other options. Or duct-tape the other buttons.

Shared by: James
Little Rock, AR

You might try purchasing a universal remote and program only the TV and not the DVR on it. That way she would not have access to recorded programs and be restricted to real time TV programs- and your recorded programs would be safe from deletion and she would have TV, just not your recorded programs.

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