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Senior Care Senior Safety

Bathroom and Stairway Safety Makeover

One of our specialties and one of the jobs we called in to do all the time it to modify the bathroom area and stairways to make it safer and more comfortable for someone with mobility issues. When doing this, it doesn’t mean that you need to make it look institutional! Instead, with a little thought and following Aging-in-Place principles, you can make these areas attractive and safe. Here’s a recent consultation we did in Toronto.

Double railings are safer and with returns added at the ends and a strong, contrasting colour, you have gone a long way to lessen the chance of a fall.

Double railings. This condo already had one railing and we installed a second which is always recommended. Much more support. Notice the “returns” at the top of the railing (where the railing returns to the wall), which we had installed as well because the original railing didn’t have them. Returns make it a lot safer as clothing does not catch and the person knows when it is finishing. Also important is to paint the railing a contrasting colour. In this case, all the walls are white and by having a dark brown railing, people can see and grab it easier.

Well placed grab bars and no-slip traction strips on the shower floor increase safety while not detracting from the look.

Bathroom grab bars and no slip strips. The grab bars are a no-brainer for all shower or bath areas and in this case they are the standard nickel. However, very possible to get different coverings and looks. On the floor, after cleaning the shower area, we have put down no-slip strips in a nice pattern to give more grip. A chair allows the person to sit down and relax without worrying about slipping and an extended shower head nozzle allows them the comfort of reaching all areas of the body.

Bidets provide cleanliness with comfort and dignity.

Bidet. We’ve been installing a lot of bidets recently and they’re a great idea! This is one that heats the water as you require it, but there are ones that have pre-heated water and even just plain cold water. All work great, often have dryers in them, can wash front and back and ensure cleanliness with dignity.

There you have it. Four or five easy modifications to a house that will lessen the chances of a serious fall, all while looking good and ensuring comfort. Easily done!

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Senior Safety

Make Your Bathroom Safe & Attractive For Seniors

Bathroom safety is extremely important as that is where a lot of accidents happen. Water everywhere, people needing to step in and out of tight spaces, etc. can lead to slips and falls which then lead to other, long-term problems. However, it doesn’t have to be this way as there are lots of ways to make your bathroom safer without making it look like a hospital facility. In short, safe and attractive! Here are some ideas.

Install some night lights or even this light up toilet seat. It guides the way without eliminating night vision!

Night lights. Simple, attractive and easy to install. Every bathroom should have one to allow people to see clearly once in there, but also to find their way from the bedroom. I’m a big fan of automatic lights everywhere (e.g. hallway strip lighting) and I even like the idea of light up toilet seats if that helps people feel more comfortable and safe.

Promenaid black railing with antique brass fittings. Safe and attractive!

Grab Bars. Another simple but very effective device that we install a lot of. They can be a little trickier for the home owner to do themselves as they should be firmly attached and close to the bath or shower. Want to avoid the hospital look? We like to install the Promenaid line because they can be beautiful as well as useful.

Lots of different patterns and designs for non-slip bath strips.

Non-slip bath strips. Not only do these make your tub or shower safer, they look great! Lots of beautiful patterns and designs out there and they are also simple to install. Every tub or shower should have them.

There you are. A few suggestions that will make your bathroom a lot safer while making sure it stays attractive. All easily done!

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Senior Care Senior Safety

How To Correctly Get Up From A Fall

As people age, they tend to fall and as we’ve discussed many times, it’s important to both exercise to avoid falls while also fall or slip proofing your home. There can be many complications from falling as well as from lying there, unable to get up (e.g. dehydration, pressure sores). As well, once a person falls, there is a tendency to become afraid of falling again, which increases the chances of falling in the future. For example, by staying in your chair all day, which results in lack of exercise, which can lead to a fall next time the person moves.

There are a number of courses starting to appear, to teach older adults how to fall properly, if it does happen. These are excellent. it is also important to know how to get up from a fall, so that you don’t aggravate the problem even more.

Here’s a short video from Care Givers on how to react once you have fallen and how to safely get back up from a fall. Useful and timely given the season of winter here in Toronto!

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Senior Safety

Balancing Exercises For Seniors Using A Walker or Cane

All exercise is good but balancing exercises are very good for avoiding falls.

As someone who sees seniors in their homes every day, one of the things that I’m constantly worried about is their ability to walk safely. Even when they have a cane or a walker, I actually get a little more worried because people then think they don’t need to do exercise or balancing techniques. Falls are the number one issue with seniors and easily the number one issue I get called in to make changes to the house.

Here’s a short video which explains five simple techniques for seniors (and everyone really!) to practice so that they can improve their balance and lessen the chance of falling. The video is with Bob and Brad, who I have posted about before. Two funny guys and they provide lots of good ideas!

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Senior Safety

Non Slip Shower & Bath Strips

These are one of the simplest yet most effective shower or bath safety products out there. Many different providers and looks and what is best is that they can be both safe and attractive! Easily done at home by yourself or call in a handyman to prep your shower/bath area and put them down.

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Senior Care Senior Safety

Winter Fall Prevention For Seniors

Fall prevention is a big part of what we do and I often write about it and provide various resources for more reading. I think I’ll do it again this time! Winter is in full swing right now and some winter specific ideas for fall prevention is always a good idea. So, for you caregivers out there or for seniors who want to get through the season healthy, have a read!

Keep the walkways, stairs and sidewalks free of ice. This may sound like common sense – because it is! However, there’s two reasons for it. Firstly, ice and snow are obvious contributors to slips and falls and therefore some solid shoveling and sand/ice salt over everything makes sense. Secondly and perhaps just as important, is the fact that many seniors tend to stay inside too much in the winter, fearing slips and falls. This can lead to muscle and equilibrium loss, which are the two other factors which can lead to slips and falls. Therefore, in the winter, if you can’t do it yourself, hire someone or ask a neighbour to clear things up for you so that you can get out safely and continue to exercise all year round.

Wear proper footwear. Old boots tend to have old rubber bottoms, which harden over time and become a lot slippier than when they were new. Replace those boots with something new with flexible rubber bottoms. Check the boots out online or at the store to see what their slip rating is. How often should you change your boots? I would think at least every two years. You can get a good pair for $100 or less and that is a lot cheaper than several weeks in the hospital!

Get some ice traction cleats for your boots and leave them on. I first saw these type of cleats in Europe but they are becoming more common here in Canada. I love them. The hardest part of them is putting them on so I recommend having a pair of boots that they stay on permanently. Anytime it looks a little snowy or icy out there, that’s the pair of boots you use. Here’s a link to a good article on them and some suggestions on buying them.

Keep up that exercise and balancing regime. Falls are usually caused by loss of muscle and/or balance. Neither is necessarily inevitable and older adults can reduce their chances of a fall dramatically, by doing more leg and balance exercises. So, during the winter, if you are stuck in the house, now’s the time to do some exercise and get off that chair!

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Senior Care

Talking With Parents About Aging and Home Care

It’s a tricky step to start talking about home care or other services to your parents, as it is a major change from the status quo. Many factors are involved and each case is completely different. However, here is a list of ideas for you to consider prior to taking that step!

Keep them involved. Autonomy is not a minor point for anyone and particularly for people who have run things their own way up to this point. You may prefer safety. They however prefer autonomy. Tread lightly and make sure you get them involved in the discussions at the start and throughout the process.

Do a thorough and slow assessment of their needs. Initially, you can do this by yourself but you may request an OT, family doctor or other health care professional to step in as well. Understand that these needs will change over time. Write everything down in a notebook and don’t do it all at once and then make decisions unilaterally. There are usually some pretty good reasons why your parents are doing things a certain way and understanding those reasons are important. For example, it may seem silly to you that they are doing their laundry down in the basement. However, that may also be a way they get exercise and is part of their daily routine. Therefore, instead of putting the washer and dryer upstairs, perhaps add some railings to make it safer for going downstairs.

Do a thorough and slow assessment of your needs and resources. What are you doing for them and what are you doing for yourself? How much money is available for home care? How much do you save by not having them move out? How much time do you have to assist? Is it better for you to be involved or is it better for a professional to step in? Lots of good questions to think about before you decide to jump in!

Explore all the options. There are many ways for people to age gracefully and safely. I prefer people to stay in their own home because that is what they are used to and normally what they prefer. I tend to find it easier, cheaper and better socially. However, other options like moving to a smaller apartment or condo; assisted living; group living; etc. are all possibilities that can and should be explored. Make sure you talk over all the options with them and remember – it’s their choice!

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Senior Care

Fall Prevention For Seniors

The Centre For Disease Control and Prevention out of the US has published an excellent pamphlet on fall prevention and has cited four basic ways to prevent falls. As well, this excellent checklist has ten questions which are quickly and easy to review, to start to understand your chances of falling and how to prevent it.

1.Speak up. Talk to your doctor or health care providers about falls and get them involved. Ask about your prescriptions and whether they can result in dizziness or possible falls.

2. Keep moving. Exercise is a critical piece of fall prevention. By staying strong, you lessen the chances of falling. Balance is also very important and doing balance exercises helps as well.

3. Get an eye exam. As people age, their vision deteriorates and this can result in balancing and vision issues which can lead to falls. Get an eye exam on a regular basis (yearly) and get your glass prescription updated.

4. Make your home safer. This means getting rid of the clutter and all the various tripping hazards. Install handrails in bathrooms and throughout the house. Eliminate step thresholds into rooms. Lots of things to do here and we can come and do a thorough check of your house to suggest many ideas.

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Senior Care

How To Get Your Parents To Accept Assistance

The first time I show up at a senior’s home to do work, particularly if I’ve been asked to come by one of the children or a caregiver, it’s always awkward. Normally, the home owner or senior doesn’t really want me there, feels that the job could be done by themselves, isn’t that important, or simply doesn’t trust me. All of which makes the situation tricky to deal with. How to get around this if you are the caregiver or the person doing the work? Here’s some ideas.

Say it’s for yourself, not them. In most cases, they’re your parents and they respond well to your needs and fears. Just tell them it will make you feel better and this tends to get the door open. Or, say you just don’t have the time to do it all yourself and you would rather do positive things together as opposed to running around cleaning the house and fixing stuff. After the first job or two is done, it gets a lot easier.

Introduce the handyman and senior to get them talking and exchanging ideas.

Tell them about me. I personally don’t like people coming into the house if I don’t know them. Neither do your parents. Give them some background on the handyman or other person coming in, what they do for a living, what their objectives are, etc. Give them my phone number as well and get them involved. After all, autonomy is not a minor issue here and everyone wants to feel in control! Then, introduce them properly. Let me have a moment to chat with them and hear their thoughts. Ultimately it will be the two of us working together and knowing a bit about each other makes it a lot easier.

Say it’s doctor’s orders. This should be used as a last resort but seems to work better for some people than others. Some folks tend to respect doctor authority (not all do that’s for sure!) and they will allow me to come in to put up some bars or other devices if that’s required.

Be clear that it will allow them to stay in their house longer. In the majority of my cases the senior person feels that this is the first step in getting them to move into another form of care. They often complain to me that “she just wants me to go into a senior’s home.” Explain that that is just not the case. Be clear that having help at home will allow them to stay longer. Make the financial case to them as well. If they fear that you are using up the inheritance, tell them honestly that every day they spend at home makes the inheritance all that much larger. In short, be honest and blunt.

Those are just a few methods that work. Each person is different of course but if you follow some of these ideas it might work out a lot better than most cases I see!

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Senior Care

Embracing Aging 2020

Embracing Aging 2020 is an upcoming free series of presentations to help people going through this process to better equip themselves for the inevitable changes. All of the presentations are at Eglinton St. George’s United Church. There are a number of topics that are to be discussed including:

Feb. 2: Aging-in-Place: Growing Older, Staying at Home. This is all about staying safe and independent in your home or condo as well as how to make it free of barriers and adaptable to your changing needs. Carried out by Margot McWhirter, an Occupational Therapist and specialist in the field of aging-in-place.

Mar. 29: Scam Alert! Presented by Patrick McKeen of the Better Business Bureau. This is all about how consumers can protect themselves from the most significant scams out there.

Apr. 19: Coming of Age. Presentation by Dr. Samir Sinha on Ontario’s and Toronto’s Senior Strategy, how it was carried out and other progress to date.