Helping Your Elderly Parent Use a New Remote Control


We taped off the middle row for my elderly mother .jpgBy Kaye Swain

Caring for our elderly parents brings many challenges, doesn't it! Some are huge - often health related. Some are tiny. All can be another source of irritation for a beloved senior who is already feeling frustrated over all the changes aging is wreaking in their life.

While we can't always fix the big things, we can often help find positive solutions to the small things. Putting a smile on our senior's face can make a day brighter and joy-filled.

My senior mom and I are going through massive changes this year with both health issues and moving to a new state. We are still working together through the big changes but we did come up with a solution to a small change that has made things much easier for her.

When we moved into our new home and finally got the cable service turned on we were happy to see we would have the DVRs we had used for the past eight years. But then he handed us the remote controls and I knew we had one of "THOSE" issues. It was totally different from the one we had gotten used to!

Being the techie sort, I do OK with mine. Even so, after a month I still have to stop and think about which button is where more than I'd like. My senior mom has had a much harder time right from the beginning. Try as she might, she kept turning it off instead of on, going to a black screen instead of her DVR shows, and getting lost amidst channels she didn't even know. She finally got so frustrated she was ready to give up on TV. That's when I put my thinking cap on.

I tried one big button TV remote from the local drug store but it didn't have a way to connect to the DVR. Then I went to Target and got another. It could turn the DVR on and off but not access her shows. Out of desperation, I searched online and discovered we could buy what looked like our old remote online. Only problem was, when it arrived it couldn't "talk" to our remote as they were for two different cable companies.

At that point, I called our own cable company to see if they could help me reprogram the new remote. He did recommend I try an online wiki for that company. But even better! He told me he had two other TV remotes that were "senior friendly" and worked with all their equipment. I headed down that same day and picked both up - at no charge! Awesome!

After trying both remotes, we finally settled on the one with the biggest and fewest buttons. Less things to remember and easier to find everything. It's not perfect. She still often forgets which button does what. We took the advice of the cable company staff and blue-taped around the middle of the remote where there were buttons she would never need. Then I put a tiny thick sticker from the grandkids' project box on the top right button that we didn't need to use. That one has to keep being stuck back on but all those taped off buttons have helped some.

I also drew arrows towards the two most important buttons she needed to use. She can now access all her shows most of the time, though still needing some help from me. While I love the size of the buttons on her remote, I have stuck with the original TV remote as it gives me more control for setting up taping shows. The nice thing is those arrows to help her are a big help for me as well when I'm putting on a show for her to watch.

It's not perfect but it's much better and she's definitely happier. For those of us juggling those varied caregiving issues, that's a HUGE win, isn't it? And now, if we ever move again, or if you do, we've learned to call our cable company first thing to see if they offer senior friendly TV remotes! Kudos to all the companies that provide those!