WITH our aging population, the way we care for the elderly is changing; Shifting focus to the home and community, to local GPs and health care providers, and to the individual and families.
It is believed that with the right support, more older people can live longer and healthier independent lives at home rather than needing hospitals or nursing homes.
Trevor Flanagan is an assisted living and mobility aid specialist who is part of the Halocare Help Panel and advises on intelligent aging. He has this practical advice to help address some of the household problems that older adults may face.
Better Safe Than Forbearance is good advice, and there are simple steps we can all take to achieve safer, more independent lives and peace of mind. In the elderly, falls, burns, and drug mix-ups are among the greatest risks.
Falls become more problematic with age. They can even contribute to aging and hold us back. We do more damage and we may not recover as quickly. So play it safe and make a plan to avoid falls in the first place!
Have your eyesight checked regularly and get glasses or cataract surgery or whatever is needed to make sure you have the best eyesight possible.
Talk to your family doctor or community nurse if you need medication to lower low blood pressure that makes you dizzy. And discuss the side effects of any medications you are taking that may make you dizzy or light-headed.
Ask about physical therapy or an exercise program with simple movements that you can do a few times a day, even from the comfort of a chair.
Foot pain or unsuitable footwear do not contribute to stability or mobility, so a family doctor or podiatrist can help with simple shoe insoles, surgery or medication.
Eat regularly to maintain strength and drink plenty of water because dehydration makes us dizzy.
Clear out the house so there are fewer obstacles. Remove loose carpets, repair wobbly steps or floorboards, and install rails to support if necessary. Put stools to rest by the stove, sink, or anywhere you need to be on your feet for a while.
Raised toilet seats, handrails and shower chairs are helpful in the bathroom because a steamy room and wet floor increase the risk of slipping.
If stairs are difficult, narrow, or uneven, could you move your bedroom down?
If you are feeling pretty unstable, don’t risk falling. Stay away from uneven floors such as the back yard and get support in the form of a walking stick or rollator. Use a wheelchair or electric scooter if you have a lot of ground to cover.
TOP MOBILITY TIPS
Check out these simple “Life Hacks” for the elderly that could make your life or the lives of older relatives a little easier and safer.
• Remove carpets that could trip you or secure them to the floor with double-sided tape.
• Non-slip, rubber-soled shoes that are snug-fitting are best for preventing falls.
• Sit whenever you can so that you are comfortable and not lose your balance; a chair in the bathroom for brushing your teeth and a high stool with armrests in the kitchen for washing up or dinner.
• Tape up extension cords and trailing wires or use zip ties to hold them together.
• Have someone clean your lightbulbs or replace them with brighter bulbs, and use both ceiling and lamplight so you can see clearly, especially at night.
• If you’ve ever fallen or worried, buy an alarm bracelet or necklace so you can easily call 911 if you fall and can’t reach the phone.
• If you have mobility problems, it is difficult to find products in a low cabinet. Hang a clear shoe bag over the back of the kitchen door or on the cabinet door and keep regularly used cleaning supplies in the bags.
• To round off sharp furniture corners, such as coffee tables or bedside tables, you can get adhesive protective corners to avoid injuries.
FAST SOLUTIONS AROUND THE HOME
• Wearing rubber gloves makes it easier to open glasses. If the jar is very tight, turn it on the lid and slide the tip of a rounded table knife into the gap between the lid and the jar. This will break the airtight seal, making the glass much easier to open when it is erected again.
• Rubber bands wrapped around cups and mugs make it easier for weak or trembling hands to grip. This works for things like toothbrushes or pens, too, or you can buy more comfortable foam handles that will make the grip bigger.
• Attaching a key ring to the zippers makes it easier to grasp. Tuck your belt into your pants before putting them on too.
• Carry a small flashlight with you when you are in an unfamiliar location such as a hotel or a friend’s house so you can safely go to the bathroom at night.
• Tape your remote controls to the coffee table or the inside of your armchair with Velcro so you don’t lose them. This also works with other items, such as reading glasses.
• If you lose an earring or something small like a battery on the carpet, cover the vacuum tube with nylon tights so that the item on the tights can be vacuumed up.
Home modification and technology solutions for independent living are numerous, and general practitioners and public health nurses can provide information to help. HaloCare is a technology that helps older adults live independently so that they can stay safe and socially connected. The 24-hour digital care solution simply connects the various parties involved in care, including local GPs and nurses, HaloCare support specialists, the user and their family, and provides monitored health and safety checks at home.
Trevor Flanagan is a specialist in technology-assisted assisted living, mobility and health aids. See https://www.beechfieldhealthcare.ie or call 01 539 0004
Further information about HALOCARE can be found at https://halocaregroup.com/