There are a lot of things to think about when moving mom or dad into your home. It’s not unlike bringing home a child. You have to look around the house from their perspective and find any possible dangers.
Tripping: Falls are a big problem for elders, and many of them have difficulty lifting their feet high enough off the ground. Our elder tends to shuffle, and that makes it important to look at the floors carefully. Are there electrical cords across a pathway? Is there a rug with a high pile? Even floor tiles that are uneven can be a problem.
Bathtubs: It’s hard to get into and out of a bathtub if your joints don’t work well. There is also a fall hazard associated with this. Rails can help, but to be honest the walk in tubs are a much better idea. You can also install showers that don’t have a “lip” that needs to be stepped over. Specially made stools are an added convenience for showers, as they further reduce the risk of falling.
Beds: Two things need to be considered. Wide beds, such as CA King Size, make it difficult to move an elder who can no longer move well. However, narrow beds can make an elder feel uncertain about safety. If your elder and the doctor agree, half rails can help ease the fear and provide help when standing. These can be used on any bed, but most states require a doctor’s prescription as they are considered restraints.
Be aware that these rails also pose a danger in themselves. The article linked to this section says that these rails aren’t regulated, but in California you cannot get rails of any type without a doctor’s orders. We found this out when our elder requested them and we tried to get them for her.
Tables: This is something that occurred to our elder and it highlights an important point. If the elder has a bedside or over the bed table, make sure it is sturdy and can withstand the weight of the elder trying to use it to stand up. If it can’t, it’s too dangerous. Our elder would have fallen if she hadn’t had the railing.
Chairs: Chairs with rollers aren’t a good idea unless someone is there to hold it still. This includes both dining room chairs and office chairs. A good bump can send the chair flying backwards before the elder can be safely seated.
Office Mats: This actually happened, and it was a near thing. Our elder was carrying a glass of iced tea to her desk. She tripped over the mat, spilled iced tea on it, slipped and only just managed to catch herself from falling. She couldn’t straighten up to standing and I had to lift her up to let her regain her balance. Because these mats usually have studs on the bottom they aren’t always a problem, but they should be checked regularly.
After the Move
Rails: If you have long hallways, it might be wise to consider adding a rail on one side to help keep the elder upright. Also, if there is a small step down to the pavement at the door, a rail can make that easier.
Calendar: This was a suggestion from the activity director at our elder’s care facility. Keep a large calendar with all planned events on it. If someone comes to visit, have them sign their name on that date. This is important if your elder has dementia, as it will provide comfort knowing that people have come and that the events did take place. Without the written proof you may have a very unhappy elder.
Medications: There are two considerations with this, and I can tell you both from experience. First, don’t leave any medications sitting around, even in pill planners. Our elder found her pill planner once and took all of her evening medications at ten in the morning. We spent a harrowing day watching to make sure she didn’t have any adverse problems. I suspect the nurse did, too.
The other thing to watch for is cheek pouching. It’s hard to go from the adult managing your own medications to a child who has to ask or wait. Our elder has cheek pouched in the past and is probably still doing it where she is. If you know it’s an issue, you can watch to see if it’s been done. You may need to use liquid medications or ask the doctor if the drugs can be melted so they can’t be “saved for later.”
Our parents did all of these things for us. It’s our turn to show our love by doing them in return. In-home eldercare isn’t easy, but it can be done and sometimes it’s in the best interests of the whole family.