No one wants to end up in a nursing home, but some people have no other option if they become unable to care for themselves. If a physically disabled elderly person is fortunate enough to have the resources to stay in his or her home, it is necessary to take precautions in order to avoid accidents.
Dealing With Stubbornness
Many homebound elderly people go on living their lives as they did when they were in better physical health. Understandably, they don’t want life to change, and they don’t want their surroundings to change either. Unfortunately many people are unreasonably stubborn and refuse to alter their surroundings until after there has been an unfortunate accident. If changes were made as their physical capabilities began to deteriorate, chances are they would not have had an accident. After a bone-breaking fall, many who could have gone on in their homes are now forced into an expensive geriatric nursing facility.
So, what does a person do when their elderly parent or relative refuses to make necessary changes around the home that could save their independence or even their life? No matter their age, those who have shown respect to their elderly parent or relative their entire life often have a hard time telling them what to do. They feel they are stepping over the proverbial line of respect. The fact is, those who don’t take a firm stance with elderly parents or relatives may find themselves admitting them to nursing homes if they end up falling and breaking a hip or a limb. If an elderly person doesn’t respond to polite suggestions on making changes in the home, it’s time to stop making suggestions. It’s time to take charge and speak your mind. This may not faze a stubborn elderly parent or relative, but tell them exactly what their future will hold if they become unable to do the simplest of daily tasks. If you have done this to no avail, and if the worst eventually happens, no one can ever truthfully say you didn’t try.
Most people aren’t financially able to hire 24 hour companions, medical care givers, and housekeepers. Most people don’t have time to take care of an elderly parent’s or relative’s daily needs, go to work, and take care of their own families and a demanding household. The ending result is the elderly person’s home is put up for sale, and the now permanently disabled elderly individual is admitted to a nursing home. The home is eventually sold, and the nursing home draws a substantive amount of money from the estate each month until the balance is zero. After all other assets are liquidated, welfare starts paying the tab. After working their entire life, everything the elderly parent or relative worked for is gone.
Elder proofing is somewhat like child proofing a home. Unfortunately some elderly people can be more difficult than children. This of course isn’t true for all, but although some have the will and mind set of an adult, they sometimes have the limited capabilities and the questionable judgement of a child. They revert back to being almost childlike in the fact that they say whatever is on their mind, even if it’s inappropriate or rude. Some become unreasonable and stubborn, but changes must be made.
First and foremost, remove any tripping hazards throughout the home. Elderly people are sometimes on medications that can cause lightheadedness, dizziness, drowsiness, and instability. This is why it is critical to remove hazards before they cause a problem.
Begin by getting rid of throw rugs. It’s important to get rid of any rugs not permanently tacked down that could cause an elderly person to fall. An elderly person accustomed to having throw rugs might not want to get rid of those rugs, but they must be reminded they won’t have the luxury of staying in their home if they should fall and become permanently incapacitated. Get rid of rugs around toilets, rugs under dining room tables, and rugs in entryways.
Remove low standing furniture and any household items that may be tripping hazards. Get rid of items such as hassocks, ottomans, footstools, low standing coffee tables, clothes baskets, clutter, and anything else that could be forgotten about and tripped over.
If linoleum or ceramic tile floors tend to be slick, consider installing commercial grade low-pile carpeting throughout the home. Get rid of carpets that are thick, plush, or too bouncy. Thick padding can make floors too springy which in turn can cause a fall. Changing flooring will be an expense, but it might save an elderly person from a painful debilitating injury.
Bathtubs and Showers
The bathroom is one of the most hazardous rooms in the home. This is of course due to water that can cause dangerous slip and fall accidents.
Install strong bars around the bathtub and shower. Make sure they are well secured to the wall so they will be supportive and safe. If necessary, install bars around the toilet so they can be used for support as well.
Make sure the bottom of the tub and shower are covered with either a safety mat or some other type of rough coating. Some showers and tubs have built-in rough surfaces, but this isn’t always enough to prevent a fall. Adhesive stick-ons work well if they are checked periodically for adherence and wear. Mats work well, but they can become moldy underneath if they aren’t pulled up and allowed to dry after every use.
If there is enough room in the bathroom, consider installing a walk-in shower with large built-in seats and a low edge. These are nice for those who are unable to step up over the side of a bathtub. A large built-in shower seat can be covered with textured adhesive stick-ons so they aren’t slippery.
In the Kitchen
Make sure everything the elderly person uses on a regular basis are within easy reach. Bring items down from high shelves, and get rid of step stools that could tempt them to reach for something on a higher level.
Check the refrigerator weekly for outdated foods. It’s easy to forget how old fresh foods are, and sometimes taste and smell diminishes with age. Foods that appear to be good may in fact be spoiled.
If an elderly person does in fact seem to have a diminished sense of smell, consider changing from a gas stove to an electric stove. A gas valve left on and undetected could prove to be lethal. Microwaves are the safest choice if cooking capabilities are in question.
Don’t wait until an elderly person takes a tumble down the basement stairs before eliminating access. If an elderly person who isn’t capable of navigating stairs insists on using them, consider changing the doorknob to one that locks with a key. Hide the key in the home, and keep one for emergencies. Nothing in a basement is worth risking a deadly or debilitating fall.
Get rid of any chairs that roll. If rollers are removable, then by all means remove them. Chairs with castors can move while in the process of sitting down.
If getting out of a chair is a problem, consider buying a lift chair. They are well worth the expense for those who don’t have the strength to get up without assistance.
Adding height to a couch or sofa can make it easier to get up and down. Add adequately sized sturdy blocks of wood beneath the legs of a couch or sofa and an elderly person with limited mobility will have an easier time standing up as well as sitting down. The added height can make a big difference.
Some Accidents Cannot Be Prevented
Keep in mind that not all accidents are preventable. A person can make all the necessary changes to ensure the safety of his or her elderly parent or relative, and the unthinkable still happens. All a person can do is try their best to give their elderly loved one the same love and care they were once given when they were unable to care for themselves. Sometimes it is necessary for us to take care of those who once took care of us.