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Aging in Place at Home: The Definitive Guide Part 8

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Grooming Banner

Regular grooming plays an important part in maintaining good health and even fostering a positive psychological mindset: look good, feel good.

Proper grooming requires dexterity and good near vision, two capabilities that become markedly more difficult with age. Thankfully, there is a wide assessment of assistive devices that can be used to help older adults meet their grooming needs.

Ergonomic nail clippers


The changes to one’s body brought on by aging are many and various, but some of these changes are more obscure than others, such as thickening finger and toe nails. As unassuming as thickened nails may seem, trying to trim them with conventional nail clippers can actually be quite problematic, especially for those with unsteady and weak hands.

Ergonomic nail clippers are designed to maximize the force imposed while minimizing the effort users must exert themselves. Furthermore, ergonomic nail clippers reduce strain on the user’s wrist by changing the cutting angle to a more natural position.

Must-have Features

Rotary nail clippersExtra-long handles – The nail clippers should have extra-long handles that make the trimmer easier to hold and squeeze.

As a general rule of thumb, longer handles provide greater leverage when operating the clippers. Also, an oversized grip allows those who struggle with pinching smaller clipper handles to employ a less precise motion to squeeze the clippers. The extra-long handles are the dividing line between function and non-functional clippers.

Stainless steel – The sharp edges of ergonomic nail trimmers should always be made of stainless steel to avoid rusting and any other kind of corrosion.

Non-slip grip – Ergonomic nail clippers absolutely must have a non-slip grip to avoid accidents while trimming nails. A slip of the hands and fingers may result in taking the wrong clipping angle or even cutting oneself.

Find a set of ergonomic nail clippers that have a grip that prevents slip ups and drops.

Features to avoid

Scissor nail clippersScissor-style nail clippers – Scissor-style nail clippers do not generate enough force to cleanly cut through thickened nails. Even scissor-style nail trimmers that claim to be made for thick nails fail to deliver.

Avoid scissor-style nail clippers and opt for ergonomic nail trimmers that feature a pliers-style body.

Recommended supplementary products and home modifications

Electric ear and nose hair trimmer


Conventional ear and nose hair scissors require a steady, dexterous hand to maneuver the scissors at the correct angles to properly cut the hair. For those with limited fine motor hand skills, an electric ear and nose hair trimmer is an ideal solution because it reaches any area without all the hand twisting and contorting that comes along with operating conventional ear and nose hair scissors.

Must-have Features

Water-resistant nose & ear hair hair trimmerWater-resistant – Electric ear and nose hair trimmers that are water resistant allow users to easily flush hairs out of the device with running water.

This makes for very quick and straightforward clean up.

Stainless steel blades – The blades that cut the ear and nose hair should be made of stainless steel. Stainless steel blades offer users the benefits of staying sharp and resisting corrosion.

Hair trimmer with dual-sided bladesDual-sided blades – In addition to being made of stainless steel, the trimmer blades should also be dual-sided.

A blade with cutting edges on both sides is able to successfully trim hair in hard to reach areas that single blades miss. Furthermore, dual-sided blades can groom hair more quickly and help reduce the amount of time that users must spend in front of the mirror.

Finally, dual-sided blades last longer than their single counterparts because the work is essentially cut in half for each side of the blade.

Features to consider

Hair trimmer with built-in lightBuilt-in light – To help illuminate the nose and ear cavities, consider an electric trimmer with a built-in light. Determining which areas require attention can be difficult because of limited light, especially in the nose.

A built-in light can help users see where to direct the trimmer quickly.

Features to avoid

Metal body – Some manufacturers have tried to bolster the quality of electric ear and nose hair trimmers by making them out of metal rather than plastic. Although the metal-bodied trimmers are heavier, they do not increase the durability of the device.

A plastic body protects the internal components just as well as a metal body, so avoid the extra expense of a metal body and stick to plastic models.

Facial hair attachment – Attachments are available with some electric nose and ear hair trimmers that convert the device into a facial hair grooming tool. Unfortunately, the small motor of nose and ear hair trimmers is undersized for the job of grooming facial hair.

To avoid burning out the nose and ear hair trimmer, leave the heavier task of facial hair grooming to a more powerful electric shaver.

What to know before buying

Ear and nose hair trimmers are known to have a short shelf-life, so temper any unrealistic expectations that the product will last for years to come. With that being said, a unit from a reliable brand can certainly last a couple years under proper care and use. Stick with known brands and avoid overpaying for metal-bodied units: remember that plastic models last just as long as metal models.

Recommended supplementary products and home modifications

Electric toothbrush


Dexterity and hand control diminish with age, so some may find themselves struggling to properly handle a toothbrush. Hands that are hampered by arthritis, essential tremor, or other conditions affecting fine motor skills can thwart even the most earnest attempts at brushing one’s teeth.

An electric toothbrush oscillates the brush head automatically so that users don’t have to rely on their hands and wrists to perform those motions. Users only need to direct where the brush head goes and the electric toothbrush does the rest.

Must-have Features

Timer – The electric toothbrush should have a built-in, 2-minute timer that alerts the user when it is time to end brushing. By relying on this timer, users can ensure that they are brushing their teeth for the two minute period recommended by most dentists.

Failing to brush long enough is a common mistake, but an electric toothbrush with a timer ensures otherwise.

Electric toothbrush pacerPacer – A pacing feature works in conjunction with an electric toothbrush’s timer to guide users on how long they should brush each quadrant of their teeth. Once the 2-minute timer starts, the pacer cues users to brush a new quadrant every 30 seconds.

Following the pacer guarantees that the four areas of the mouth are brushed equally.

Rechargeable electric toothbrushRechargeable – The small portion of electric toothbrushes that are powered by double A or triple A batteries tend to burn through those batteries rather quickly. And fiddling with replacement batteries is most likely a task that those with limited dexterity cannot manage.

Therefore, it is vital that an electric toothbrush have a built-in rechargeable battery.

Electric toothbrushes typically hold a charge for about a week before needing to be recharged. When the battery is low, simply place the toothbrush on its charging stand until indication that it has replenished.

Features to consider

Pressure sensor – Heavy-handed users who have a tendency to push too hard on the brush head should consider an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor.

Electric toothbrush pressure sensorWhen the sensor picks up that a user is applying too much force, the toothbrush responds by lessening the intensity of the brush head. And if the user continues to push down too hard, the toothbrush stops the brush head completely until the user releases.

This feature can help preserve a user’s gum line and outer enamel.

Adjustable intensity setting – Those with sensitive teeth may want an electric toothbrush with different possible intensity levels.

Users can test the various intensity settings and set the electric toothbrush to the most comfortable level. Even users who don’t necessarily identify their teeth as sensitive should consider an electric toothbrush with an adjustable intensity setting because the default intensity of a standard electric toothbrush may not be satisfactory.

Having the ability to increase and decrease intensity makes the toothbrush more functional.

Features to avoid

Special brushing modes – Special brushing modes for whitening and tongue cleaning may sound useful, but they really don’t offer any significant advantage to the normal brushing mode. A special mode merely changes the movement pattern of the brush head without any guarantee that such a change is more likely to bring about that mode’s intended results.

Don’t pay more for special brushing modes.

What to know before buying

Each electric toothbrush comes with a standard brush head, but the toothbrush is typically compatible with a number of different kinds of brush heads of the same brand. For example, users who need softer bristles can replace the standard brush head with a sensitive brush head.

Check out the brush heads that are compatible with the electric toothbrush to verify that the correct kind of brush head is available.

Only purchase electric toothbrushes that include a money-back guarantee period. A money-back guarantee gives users time to try out the toothbrush to make sure they are satisfied. If the toothbrush doesn’t pass muster, then it can be returned with no questions asked.

Furthermore, the time that a money-back guarantee affords is a safety period to rule out that the electric toothbrush suffers from any manufacturer defects.

Recommended supplementary products and home modifications

Electric water flosser


Cleaning teeth with conventional string floss is particularly difficult for those with poor sensation in the fingers and weak hands. Many users are unable to wrap the string floss around the fingers to establish a secure hold. The few that are able to hold the floss often lack the necessary finger strength to keep the string taut enough to push between the teeth.

Floss picks avoid both of these problems but still require users to contort and twist their hands to fit the floss pick between teeth in different parts of the mouth.

An electric water flosser circumvents all of these issues and actually makes flossing possible for those with limited dexterity.

Must-have Features

Electric water flosserWater reservoir tank – Choose an electric water flosser that comes with an attached water reservoir tank.

The tank should hold enough water to supply the water flosser for at least a 90-second cleaning session. A water tank that empties in less than 90 seconds may not offer users enough time to thoroughly floss. Larger tanks that run longer than 90 seconds are acceptable but often unnecessary.

The water reservoir tank should be removable so that users can easily refill it under a bathroom faucet. A full 90-second water tank is very light to carry, even for users with weak arms and hands.

Tanks with a larger supply than 90 seconds are probably light enough for most users, but it may be wise to steer clear of these oversized reservoirs just in case.

Adjustable pressure level – There is a wide range of personal preference concerning how much pressure a person’s gums can comfortably accept.

Electric water flosser with adjustable pressure settingsAdditionally, gums are more particular than teeth in that their tolerance threshold is much lower; generally, teeth handle aggressive brushing better than gums handle aggressive flossing. So, it is very important to find an electric water flosser that allows users to customize the water pressure.

Most electric water flossers with adjustable water pressure strength give users a range of levels from one to ten, with ten being the most forceful. When first using the flosser, start with the lowest pressure setting and move upwards until the right level is found. The ideal pressure level should be powerful enough to clean without being so powerful as to cause pain.

In addition to its cleaning benefits, some find that using an electric water flosser gradually toughens the gums, too.

Electric water flosser with pause switchPause button on handle – Users should have complete control over the flow of water while flossing, so be sure to find an electric water flosser with a pause button on the handle.

This on/off switch gives users time to properly position the flosser without wasting water on unwanted areas.

The pause button is also helpful if the user needs to stop momentarily to spit out or wipe off any water.

Swivel tip – The tip that attaches to the flosser handle should be able to swivel in place so that users can change the angle of the tip without having to contort their wrist.

A simple swipe of the finger rotates the tip in the direction that the user wants. A swivel tip makes an electric water flosser much more user-friendly.

Features to consider

Special floss tips – In addition to the standard floss tip meant for general use, there are also special tips available that are made to clean crowns, bridges, implants, furcations, and other dental work. Each tip has a different shape and spray pattern to address unique dental needs.

Electric flosser special tips

Those who have such dental needs should consider purchasing these additional floss tips. Some manufacturers actually include certain special floss tips along with the purchase of an electric water flosser.

Features to avoid

Cordless – As an attempt to make electric water flossers more convenient, manufacturers developed battery-powered, cordless models. The goal was to make them more portable for travel, save countertop space, and avoid the nuisance of the cord.

Cordless electric water flosserAlthough cordless flossers are definitely more portable and streamlined, they fail at being more convenient because they hold such little water.

The built-in water reservoir is so small that users don’t have the time to thoroughly floss their teeth before the water runs out. Consequently, users must refill the reservoir multiple times for each cleaning session.

Cordless units also do not spray with as much force as countertop models that are plugged into an outlet. While not all users need the power of a countertop water flosser, it is still wise to have the higher pressure available when a deeper clean is warranted.

Finally, the cordless water flossers do not boast the same durability as the countertop flossers. Cordless models are known to be fickle and give out without any notice.

Avoid cordless flossers and stick to the conventional countertop electric water flossers.

What to know before buying

When shopping for an electric water flosser, verify that there is space on the bathroom counter where the unit can sit. It is much more convenient to designate a permanent spot for the flosser on the countertop than to lug it in and out of a cabinet each day.

If there isn’t room, consider finding a new home for other items on the bathroom counter that are taking up space. And if cabinet space is maxed out already, then users might have to add adding shelving or some other storage solution to house toiletries that once were kept on the countertop.

Only purchase electric water flossers that include a money-back guarantee period. A money-back guarantee gives users time to try out the flosser to make sure they are satisfied. If the flosser doesn’t pass muster, then it can be returned with no questions asked.

Furthermore, the time that a money-back guarantee affords is a safety period to rule out that the electric water flosser suffers from any manufacturer defects.

Recommended supplementary products and home modifications

Long-handled hairbrush or comb


Neck, shoulder, and upper arm issues can make the seemingly simple task of brushing one’s hair frustrating at best and impossible at worst. Users who are unable to raise their arms and hands above their shoulders can use long-handled hairbrushes and combs to do the reaching for them. The long handle also serves users with stiff necks who cannot tilt within reach of a conventional hairbrush or comb.

Long-handled hair brush

Must-have Features

Non-slip, soft grip handle – The handle of the hairbrush or comb should be made of a grippy material or feature a textured finish to guard against users dropping the tool. With a non-slip handle, users can take the hairbrush or comb into the shower with them.

Furthermore, the hairbrush or comb handle should offer a soft grip that is easy on users’ hands. A soft grip handle especially benefits those with arthritis, carpal tunnel, and other conditions that affect the ability to grasp and hold onto objects.

Long-handled comb

Rigid body – The longer the hairbrush or comb is, the more susceptible it is to bending. A slight bend is fine, but too much of a bend can render the hairbrush or comb ineffective.

Therefore, long-handled hairbrushes and combs must have a rigid body that is sturdy enough to keep from bending during use.

Features to avoid

Soft bristles/teeth – Avoid hairbrushes and combs with soft, flexible bristles and teeth. If the hairbrush bristles and comb teeth are too pliable, then they will give way and fail to gather very much hair. The bristles and teeth must be stiff enough to keep shape when moving through a head of hair.

Recommended supplementary products and home modifications

Electric shaver


Electric shaverShaving facial hair can become an increasingly difficult and painful grooming task with age. Those with shaky hands and diminishing vision may discover that a traditional razor blade no longer adequately provides a safe, close shave.

Electric shavers make shaving easier and safer for users by removing the skill prerequisites that traditional razors demand. Users don’t have to be concerned with executing a proper swipe of the blade; electric shavers do all the work automatically.

Must-have Features

Water-resistant electric shaverWater-resistant – The electric shaver must be water-resistant to allow users to quickly and easily clean the device under running water.

Rinsing the shaver with water is much more efficient than trying to clean with a dry brush.

Cordless – A cordless unit offers freedom of movement while shaving and avoids any kind of entanglement issues that might occur with a corded unit.

Direct plug electric shaver

Direct charge – Make sure the charging cord can plug directly into the electric shaver. Should the battery die in the middle of a shave, it is very important that users can simply connect the unit to the charging cord and immediately resume shaving.

Avoid the units that can only charge when placed in an accompanying stand because they cannot charge while simultaneously in use.

Features to consider

Electric shaver with pop-up trimmerPop-up trimmer – A built-in trimmer that flips out of the electric shaver is a handy feature that helps with grooming sideburns.

Typically a pop-up trimmer is built into even the most basic electric shavers and isn’t a feature for which users have to pay extra. This may be reassuring for those who would otherwise be concerned if the pop-up trimmer is seldom used.

Wet/dry option – Users who prefer to shave with cream should find an electric shaver that offers wet shaving as an option. Units that are compatible for wet shaving can also be used for dry shaving, so both options are available to users with a wet/dry model.

Dry shavers, though, are strictly meant for dry shaving and can malfunction if used with cream.

Features to avoid

Electric shaver with cleaning stationCleaning station – Many electric shavers have cleaning stations that automatically clean the shaving head. While a cleaning station may seem convenient, it is really unnecessary because of how simple it is to clean the shaving head manually under running water.

Also, cleaning stations and the cartridges of cleaning solution come at an added expense that significantly increases the overall cost of maintenance.

If the particular electric shaver the user wants is available on its own without the cleaning station, then take advantage of the savings. Don’t feel obligated to use the cleaning station in the event it is already included in the purchase.

What to know before buying

The blades on the shaving head dull over time and must be replaced periodically to maintain the shaver’s optimum performance. Depending on the unit, the shaving head may need to be replaced every six months to a year.

Check to make sure that the replacement shaving heads are easily available and reasonably priced before buying a particular shaver. In some cases, the replacement shaving heads are almost as expensive as buying a whole new electric shaver! Take account of the future shaving head expenses before purchasing an electric shaver that is very expensive to maintain.

Only purchase electric shavers that include a money-back guarantee period. A money-back guarantee gives users time to try out the shaver to make sure they are satisfied. If the shaver doesn’t pass muster, then it can be returned with no questions asked.

Furthermore, the time that a money-back guarantee affords is a safety period to rule out that the electric shaver suffers from any manufacturer defects.

Recommended supplementary products and home modifications

Universal cuff


Keeping hold of and using grooming items can be too challenging for those with impaired grip strength, poor hand sensation, paralysis in the hand, and other conditions affecting hand ability. A universal cuff holds onto an item and forms a strap that users can wrap around their hands so they can then utilize that item.

Universal cuffs provide greater independence by making previously unusable instruments and tools usable again.

Must-have Features

Adjustable grip size – The cuff grip that holds onto the implement should be adjustable so that it can accommodate items of various shapes and sizes.

Universal cuff with tooth brush
Universal cuff with hair brush

Having leeway in the size of the grip adds versatility to the cuff and ensures that users aren’t stuck with a cuff that doesn’t hold the implement it was intended to hold.

Adjustable strap size – The strap that wraps around the user’s hand should also be adjustable in size. The cuff strap must wrap tightly enough to stay on the user’s hand but not so tightly that it restricts hand function.

Straps made of a flexible, stretchy material are best.

Non-slip grip and strap – The grip should be strong enough to hold onto items so that they don’t fall out of the cuff. The way the grip functions and the material it is made of both impact how effective it is at preventing slips.

Furthermore, to guard against the cuff falling off the user’s hand, the strap should also boast dependable non-slip properties.

Features to avoid

Cuffs that attach to hand – There are two kinds of universal cuffs: those that attach to the hand and those that attach to the implement.

Cuffs that attach to the hand require users to put the cuff on their hand before each task. Users insert the appropriate implement, complete the task, and then remove the cuff. The time and effort it takes to repetitively put on and take off the cuff is too much of a burden for users.

Universal cuff that straps to hand

A cuff that straps around user’s hand rather than the implement

Cuffs that attach to the implement are much easier because users only need to slip their hands into the strap and they are ready to go. For cuffs that attach to the implement to be most effective, users should buy a cuff for each of the items they need help with holding.

What to know before buying

Attaching the cuffs to all the various household items requires hand strength and dexterity, so users should recruit a helper to initially attach the cuffs. Once the cuffs have been paired up with their items, users are all set to utilize those items independently.

Recommended supplementary products and home modifications

Tube dispenser


Squeezing gel or paste out of a tube involves dexterity that many users lack, especially those with arthritis, carpal tunnel, and other maladies that affect the strength of fingers and hands. Some users may be able to squeeze a tube when it is full but find that squeezing becomes increasingly difficult the more the tube is depleted.

Tube dispenser

A tube dispenser offers relief to those weak hands by eliminating the squeezing motion. Plus, tube dispensers get much more of the contents out of the tube than squeezing by hand. Those who have expensive ointments and creams can save a lot of money by using a tube dispenser to make sure that none of the contents are wasted.

Must-have Features

Slide-style dispensers – The tube dispenser should be the kind that slips onto the tube and pushes out contents as it slides toward the opening.

Slide-style dispensers replace the squeezing motion with a pushing/pulling motion, which is much easier for users to perform.

Slide-style tube dispenser

Features to avoid

Roll-style tube dispenser
Roll-style dispensers – Avoid tube dispensers that use a mechanism to roll up the tube.

Roll-style dispensers replace the squeezing motion with a cranking/twisting motion, which is still difficult for users with limited dexterity to perform.

What to know before buying

Slipping a slide-style dispenser onto the end of a tube can be difficult. To make the process easier, try tamping down the end of the tube so it is as flat as possible. Also, make try to find a dispenser with an opening that isn’t so small that it’s too tight to fit the end of the tube.

Users may need to try a few different kinds of dispensers before finding one that works best.

Most tube dispensers are made to fit a standard toothpaste tube, so users intending to use a dispenser on a wider tube may not be able to slip the dispenser onto the tube. Make sure the dispenser slot is wide enough to accommodate the tube before buying.

Recommended supplementary products and home modifications

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