10 October 2014

Cable TV remote for an elderly parent with dementia


I have been recurrently frustrated by the inability of cable television and electronic device makers to offer a remote control suitable for use by people with impaired cognitive function.  My 95-year-old mother does not have a DVR, does not need a picture-in-picture function, and could never navigate through a scrolling channel-guide menu.  When I explained our situation to the staff at the local Charter office, what they offered me was a similar remote with bigger buttons ("for handicapped people.")

I finally had to modify the remote using duct tape.  It's not optimal, because some buttons get accidentally pressed through the tape, but it's way better than the original.

Addendum:   A tip of the blogging hat to the many readers who offered practical advice in the Comments section.  Also on further net searching I see a simiilar solution was devised by Marilyn at Nag on the Lake.

Addendum #2:  Reader Matthew notes that there is a commercial product on the market that effectively does what I was trying to achieve with tape:  Button Blocker.

22 comments:

  1. You could remove the silicone rubber keys except for those you want active. I'd either slice them off with a sharp knife from the outside, trying to cut flush with the bezel, or open up the remote and remove keys. The keys may be molded into one piece or there may be separate key sets you can remove or modify. Not the classic duct tape solution, but this would probably render the unwanted keys non functional.

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    1. In addition or instead of that, you could open up the remote and put insulative material (cello tape might be enough) over the contact points inside, so that extraneous buttons wouldn't do anything even if pressed.

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    2. Is there a trick to opening these things (other than the battery compartment)? A seam runs around the perimeter, but doesn't seem to yield to fingernail pressure. Should I approach it with a hammer and screwdriver? or is there a more subtle technique?

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    3. There are probably screws somewhere on the deal. I often see them inside the battery compartment, or hidden under stick-on rubber feet. It's also possible that it's a snap-together case, in which case a little careful prying with a small screwdriver may help. I wouldn't try the hammer unless you have a unit you can sacrifice just in the name of seeing how it's put together.

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    4. Then again, it looks like replacements are net terribly expensive if you do smash one to flinders:
      http://www.amazon.com/Charter-Ocap-4-4-device-Remote-Control/dp/B0014A50GE
      (that one may not be exactly the same, but it looks similar to my eye)

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  2. I wondered if these still existed...and they do!

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=simple%20universal%20remote&sprefix=simple+un%2Caps

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    1. I got one of those once, and it seemed to work fine with the TV, but wouldn't control the cable box. I'll try again.

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  3. There is a very simple remote called the Flipper. We used that with reasonable success after a parent suffered a stroke. flipperremote.com

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  4. I just wish there was a way I could stop myself from trying to change the channel on my t.v. with my cellphone, or better yet actually do it with my cell phone. Too many gadgets are the same general size.

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  5. There's all kinds of adaptive equipment out there. Just do a search on "adaptive tv remote".

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  6. Guess which pic was the "before", and which one the "after" ;)

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  7. What about this?
    http://www.elderdepot.com/flipper_big_button_universal_remote_control.php?gclid=CjwKEAjw8O2hBRDKur2lseLW6C8SJAC-r1J3v3mxOm9okjfmbXGGrwv2YkMAVOVWOZvUfTDjOq3KAhoC09rw_wcB

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  8. I would like a much simpler remote for myself, no dementia necessary. I just have bad eyesight and little need for other TV features.

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  9. Thanks to all for sharing those suggestions, some of which I'm going to look into.

    I think this will become a useful thread for others with similiar problems.

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  10. If you have some patience, you can open the control up and physically remove the contacts for the buttons you want to disable. That way nothing will be pressed by accident. Should be able to use nail clippers for a quick snip.

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  11. Dementia? Hell, everyone needs a simple remote like this. I have never in my life used any other functions but on-off/ volume/change channel. My mother has arthritis and finds all remotes horrible.

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  12. Rather than using tape, why not use sugru to cover the unused buttons? It will stiffen up enough that the buttons won't be able to be pushed and you can mold it to fit the hand. Once it cures, it won't be sticky like tape can get when it heats up.

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    1. I had to Google "Sugru." New to me. Tx.

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  13. then again, if you still go witht he tape. you could pack somthing like lollipop sticks between keys to make them more unpressable.

    but yeah, sugru.

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  14. Sugru is The Awesome. Also, the Q@-tip or lollipop sticks idea is way good.

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  15. I noticed that you had a Charter remote control. I found a product called Button Blocker which does almost what your picture does, minus the tape. It goes onto the remote control, and covers the more confusing and unnecessary buttons. Good idea seeing all the other who know someone that has dementia, alzheimers, arthritis, joint problems, vision problems, blindness
    ButtonBlocker.com

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    1. Thank you Matthew! I've moved your information up to add it to the body of the post.

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