12/1/2022 | By Maura Horton

Being caregiver for a family member can be challenging, but using adaptive products can ease the stress, for caregiver and loved one both. Maura Horton learned this firsthand, and is now a driving force of the adaptive movement. She shares her knowledge in this article for Seniors Guide.

America’s population is rapidly aging. Currently, there are about 54 million people over the age of 65. By 2030, that number is expected to reach 74 million. The number of people over the age of 85, who generally need the most care, is growing even faster. More and more people are becoming family caregivers to aging parents, other relatives, friends, and neighbors.

The most recent report on caregiving, produced by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, found that in 2020 there were 53 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S., an increase of nearly 10 million since 2015. This number likely grew during and since the pandemic, as more people opted to age in place or leave nursing homes and retirement care facilities.

The spectrum of caregiving is broad, varying from aiding with tasks like meal preparation, shopping, and cleaning on a part-time basis to full-time intensive care providing assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). Caregiving of all types can be stressful and can take a toll on the care provider mentally, physically, socially, and financially. When the person being cared for has medical needs and health complications, the family caregiver’s responsibilities and stressors can be amplified. Modifying daily tasks and living areas and using adaptive products can help ease the stress.

Adaptive products to help caregivers and their loved ones

A 2022 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology found that 1 in 10 Americans over age 65 is living with dementia. Dementia is one age-related health complication that caregivers and their loved ones are faced with, but there are technologies and tools that can help improve safety, well-being, and make caregiving a little easier.

Related: Tips for dementia caregivers

Adaptive clothing

Arthritis and other mobility challenges are other common challenges. Adaptive clothing can help the individual maintain a greater sense of independence by making daily dressing and undressing easier. MagnaReady offers a variety of clothing for men and women designed to accommodate different needs and styles. From pants designed for wheelchair users to dress shirts, polos, blouses, sweaters, and jackets with patented magnetic closures, MagnaReady clothing eliminates the need to grip and manipulate snaps, buttons, and zippers. ZipOns by BeFree are pants that unzip from the hip to the ankle, making them easier to put on a person who is bedridden or on someone who has casts or braces on their legs.

Related: More adaptive clothing ideas

Medical aids and resources

happy senior Asian couple in a park, him in a wheelchair and she's behind. Image by Witthayap. Being caregiver for a family member can be challenging, but using adaptive products can ease the stress, for caregiver and loved one both.

Providing medical care for a loved one can be intimidating for caregivers who do not have a background in health care. From basic plastic pill organizers to more high-tech prescription management systems, there are a variety of options available to help ensure the right medications are taken each day. DrySee, the first liquid-indicating bandage, can be used to cover surgical sites and other wounds to keep them dry and sterile during bathing, or as an everyday wound covering. The gauze on the DrySee bandage will turn blue if it gets wet, indicating it should be changed.

Often, local aging and disability resource agencies or hospice providers can help caregivers acquire medical products like walkers, wheelchairs, hospital beds, and more at little to no cost. Caregivers can usually find these local services through a simple internet search or by visiting the Elder Locator from the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Modifying living areas

Simple changes to a senior’s living areas can reduce the risk of falls and help them retain more independence. Removing or securing throw rugs to the floor with rug tape, installing grab bars, adding knobs and pulls to cabinet doors, and arranging items in closets and cabinets at levels that do not require excessive reaching can improve the safety of a home and empower seniors to accomplish some ADLs on their own.

Related: Home modifications for Parkinson’s patients

As more people take on the role of a family caregiver, it is important that they research support systems and services in their area. Caregiving can feel very isolating and overwhelming, but with the right plans, adaptive products and other tools, and access to information, caregivers can ensure the well-being of their loved ones and themselves.

Maura Horton