Flipper – More Than a Remote Chance It Can Help Seniors

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If someone had told me that a big button television remote control could actually improve someone’s life I would have been skeptical. But it turns out that’s exactly what the Flipper Remote can do. While most of us have no trouble dealing with a standard set top box remote, or television remote, it can be an almost overwhelming challenge for those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The same for folks with dexterity issues sometimes brought about by arthritis or Parkinson’s disease or those who may have vision issues. We had an opportunity to speak with Jean McCarville who recently purchased the Flipper for her 91-year-old mother who suffers from dementia and severe arthritis and lives in an assisted living facility. She says she was unaware of the product before she started looking for a solution,

I was basically Googling and I was trying to find a remote control that didn’t have a hundred buttons on it because basically she wasn’t going to be able to handle all that and that’s when I came across Flipper. i just Googled “simple remote control for elderly.”  I just put that in. She has pretty bad arthritis in both her hands and that was a problem even when she was more coherent.  Then she has mild to moderate dementia depending on what day of the week it is. You never really know where she’s going to be at. So there was no way she was going to be able to handle a regular remote. Comcast offers one. They call it a big button remote but it’s way too complicated. It’s not going to happen for somebody who’s older.

McCarville’s mother is in the memory care unit of an assisted living facility. She’s been there for seven months, but the facility wanted to give her time to settle in before getting a tv in her room. She admits that before entering the facility just turning on a television was a challenge for her mother.

At home, she was having a terrible time, She had two remote controls. She had one for the set and one for the cable box And that was getting harder and harder for her to understand that she needed to turn on both devices. And that the cable remote was only to change channels but she still needed to use the tv remote for the volume.

Think about how small these buttons are on these remote controls. She has arthritis very badly in her thumbs so just for her to be able to do a power button on and off was a big issue, you know accidentally pushing other buttons. She had to lean down into the power button, it was very difficult for her at home.

McCarville says the Flipper was a markedly improved experience,

She’s had the Flipper a couple of weeks. She got it pretty quick. I handed her the remote and it wasn’t like a remote she had seen before so it wasn’t what she was used to having in her hand. But once I told her about the colors, she seemed to be able to understand about the colors. So she knows the green button is the on/off button and she got that really quickly. She asked me, “how do I change the channels?” So I told her the blue buttons were for changing the channels. So, she may not be able to get it as well as an elderly person without dementia but the very fact that she can turn that set on and off is a good thing. And she understands the idea of the colors. One of the very attractive parts of that remote is that the Flipper will turn on both the cable box and the tv. You don’t need two remotes.  And I would have bought in on that alone.

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McCarville says that another selling point was that her mother wouldn’t have to scroll through 200 channels.

We like the “favorites” part but we haven’t finished programming it yet. When you have dementia, it’s very funny because there are so many things that become overwhelming very quickly. If there’s too much food on your plate, that’s overwhelming to someone with dementia. If there are 140 channels, that’s overwhelming and they will freeze up. So if you can keep the channels limited, you’re not trying to shortchange your elderly parent out of tv but if there are too many channels, they’ll freeze. So if she can program five channels that’s better than 140 channels.

McCarville says she did have to program the remote so it would operate both the cable box and the television, but she says that Flipper advises reading the instructions carefully and slowly to set the codes. That was the only thing her mother couldn’t do on her own. She points out that the television has become a major part of her mother’s life. She notes that while there is a lot of structure when it comes to free time, residents can either go back to their rooms or go into a common recreation area where a large screen tv repeats the same movies.  Having the television in her room gives her mother a small sense of ownership in an environment where she has very little control over what she does and how she spends her time. As for a recommendation, she puts it this way,

I never write back to a company but I know she would not be able to watch television without the Flipper. It’s the difference between having a tv and not having a tv.

Flipper is easy to set up.  And the programming can be locked in so someone cannot accidentally reprogram it. The remote has five big buttons to turn power on and off to both the tv and the set-top box. It can work with just about any television, satellite receiver, or set-top box. There are big buttons for channel up and down, volume up and down, and a smaller mute button.  There is a keypad that can be used to program as many as 30 favorite channels but it can also be hidden away. Instructions are easy for the caregiver to follow. Price is $29.95, though Tech50+ readers can get a 10% discount by clicking on this link and entering the code: Tech50 

 

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Gary is an award-winning journalist who has been covering technology since IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981. Beginning at NBC News, then at ABC News, Ziff Davis, CNN, and Fox Business Network. Kaye has a history of “firsts”. He was the first to bring a network television crew to the Comdex Computer Show, the first technology producer on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, the first to produce live coverage of the Solar Power International Conference, and the creator of the Fox Business Network signature series, “Three Days In The Valley”. Along the way he created the History Channel Multimedia Classroom. He has been a contributor to both AARP’s website and to AARP radio, as well as to a handful of other print and web-based publications where he specializes in issues involving boomers/seniors and technology. He has been a featured speaker and moderator at industry events such as the Silvers Summit and Lifelong Tech Conferences at CES, the M-Enabling Health Summit, and the What’s Next Baby Boomer Business Summit. His column, “Technology Through Our Eyes” appears in half a dozen newspapers and websites across the country.

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