Reading is a challenge

Mary Wehr-Anderson’s mom suffer from macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of vision problems in older adults. “She can’t drive anymore,” says Wehr-Anderson, 47, of South Bend, Indiana. “And she used to love to read, but now even the newspaper is a challenge.

Her mom can still get around the house fine, though Wehr-Anderson drives her to doctors’ appointments, balances her checkbook, brings dinner, and helps in any way she can think of. Luckily, she lives just six miles away. “My mom has had to give up things she used to enjoy,” says Wehr-Anderson. “But she’s still home, and she loves that.”

If your parent’s vision is faltering, make sure he or she sees an ophthalmologist, who may recommend treatment or magnifying devices that can make household reading easier. But also try these changes:

  • Raise the wattage. One of the first things Wehr-Anderson did was to make sure the lighting fixtures in the house were fitted with the highest-watt bulbs recommended by the manufacturer. Most lamps have a sticker that gives this information. Or, consider replacing fixtures to accommodate a higher wattage.
  • Install night-lights in hallways, especially between the bedroom and the bathroom. For extra convenience, try the Leviton Motion Activated Light Control, which will automatically turn on a light when your parent moves into a room and then turn it off again up to 15 minutes later.
  • Look for products that have large, easy-to-read displays. In our tests, seniors liked Ameriphone’s Amplified Photo Phone P300. The numbers on this corded model are twice as big as those on a regular phone. It also has nine speed-dial pads with photo displays. You can program each pad so that when your parent touches the button, the phone will dial the person in the photograph. For a parent who prefers a cordless phone, GH Institute engineers recommend the Clarity C430; it also has oversize buttons. Both these models have a light that goes on when there’s an incoming call.
  • Get an oversize remote for the TV. Have you noticed that your mom hardly ever changes the channel? It could be because those buttons on the remote control are so tiny. Our elderly testers said the Tek Partner Universal Remote Control solved that problem. It weighs just under a pound, and the keypad lights up when you push any button.

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