By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: I'm a caregiver for my 85 year-old father and he has a terrible time tying his own shoes. Is there anything I can do? Lisa in Connecticut, 50

ANSWER: I have one word for you: Velcro. There are now many types of shoes that use one or multiple Velcro straps in place of laces or buckles. It makes it much easier to take the shoes on and off. They almost become like slippers. There are many stores that sell these shoes, so look locally or visit various online retailers.

If your father is not nimble with his small motor skills anymore, Velcro can help him maintain a higher level of independence. It's a truly magical product that I use often, and not just on shoes. Zippers and buttons can be difficult to navigate at an advanced age. Velcro can be sewn, glued, or ironed on to many clothes such as shirts, blouses, and jackets. It makes it easier to open up clothing or pull it over head to take on and off.

I also affix Velcro on the side of wheelchairs to act as a purse holder or attachment system for other items. One time, I even used Velcro on a dog's sweater since the owner couldn't snap/unsnap its sweater jacket when she walked the dog in the winter. Sometimes Velcro is not the easiest to put in place, but it will save a lot of time and effort in the long run.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.