Accidents are an unfortunate part of life, but none of us likes the idea of experiencing pain or discomfort as a result of an accident within our own home. Unfortunately, slips, trips and falls are incredibly common – in the workplace, on the street and even on our own staircases. Falls on stairs may be more common in elderly individuals who may suffer from visual impairment or poor balance, but the ways to prevent falls on stairs are the same for all age demographics.
To prevent falls on stairs, follow these tips:
It may seem a strange suggestion, but lighting plays a major role in how easy or safe a staircase can be. Poorly lit areas make it harder for individuals to distinguish where steps start and end, and this can lead to insecure footing and falls or slips.
The trick is to make sure the light is well positioned to increase visibility across the entire length and width of the staircase. Use a suitable wattage bulb to suit the visibility needs which you have. Having a light switch at the top and bottom of the staircase is also recommended.
It’s not just what’s above you that is important – what sits below is equally vital. With staircases, loose carpet or rugs and mats can pose a real risk to users. This is because they are unstable and can move underfoot, resulting in potentially dangerous accidents.
To cut down on the likelihood of experiencing a trip or fall on the staircase, make sure that any carpet is secured down professionally. If you notice loose edges or frayed threads, then get them corrected as soon as possible, as small problems like this can soon escalate.
It also recommended to keep any loose mats or rugs away from areas which surround the staircase. The edges of these can curl, providing the perfect catalyst to a trip or fall when caught by your foot. Eliminate this risk by using mats and rugs in another area.
Another tip you can use to reduce your chances of falling on the stairs is to evaluate your staircase from an impartial perspective. You can get mathematical and look at step geometry (which analyzes different dimensions on the staircase) as well as looking at other practical considerations – such as whether there is sufficient support provided by handrails.
The safest staircases are those framed by handrails which run the entire length of the staircase on either side, but there are other options. Those who really struggle with the stairs, not just through fear of falling but because of poor mobility or aching joints, can use stairlifts instead. These offer a comfortable seat which travels the length of the staircase in both directions and helps reduce falls as a result.
This article is written on behalf of Stannah Stairlifts, who provide mobility aids to rent or purchase.
Image Credit: A. Schaeffer on stock.xchng
Thanks to Jacqueline Marcell for sharing her story and advice on caregiving for elderly parents. Jacqueline’s parents both suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, which brought many challenges along the way, but also some surprising blessings.
Read our exclusive interview with Jacqueline, now an international speaker and author:
I was a television executive, but I barely survived as a fulltime caregiver to my (once-adoring) challenging elderly father and sweet ailing mother, both with Alzheimer’s which went undiagnosed for over a year. But after fighting through the medical system, endless tears, and depleting my parents’ life savings and much of my own, I finally figured everything out medically, behaviorally, socially, legally, financially and emotionally. The experience was the hardest of my life, but it also unexpectedly created a passion to save others from a similar experience, especially from getting so frustrated they commit elder abuse.
I became compelled to write my first book, ‘Elder Rage’ (www.ElderRage.com), launch the ‘Coping with Caregiving’ Internet radio show, became an international speaker on Caregiving & Alzheimer’s, and became an advocate for eldercare awareness and reform. I would have never guessed I would have this passion for a mission in my life!
You are not alone. There are 65 million caregivers in the U.S. and millions more who have been through it, so reach out and learn from those who went before you. Remember when life takes you to your knees and nearly destroys you to keep searching for the silver-lining even if you can’t find it yet. The lessons you are learning and the insight you are gaining will help others and may also lead you to a higher purpose, passion and reward.
Make a looong list of everything you need help with so when someone says, “Oh, I am so sorry about what you are going through–is there anything I can do?”, you can give the list and say, “Thank you, yes, there is. Here’s a list—pick one!” You may want to include things like: Get the car serviced, tires rotated, filled with gas; get broken items fixed; shop for items you don’t have time for such as a new battery for your watch; have clothes altered, pants shortened, mending done; garden, prune, clear the yard; take stuff to the Goodwill or dumps; organize the pantry, garage, attic, closet; pick up dry cleaning, groceries; make meals or cookies for the freezer; sit with Mom while I go to a support group; rent a carpet shampooer and clean the carpet; do Internet research on medications; evaluate the best local eldercare services and adult day care programs; take me out to lunch!
When I was a caregiver for my parents, joy came from the pride I felt in persevering and solving all the issues and making their lives the best I could. Now my joy comes every day from caregivers emailing me how much my book, radio show or seminar helped them — and that they feel so much less alone with their countless frustrations and rollercoaster emotions. It makes me grateful for all that happened because it gave me the drive to continue to help others.
Getting the right diagnosis for my parents, particularly my father who had always been a ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ personality who could be charming in front of healthcare professionals, yet horrible to my mother and me privately. Once I found and understood the Ten Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s and got my parents evaluated by a Neurologist SPECIALIZED in Dementia, everything started to fall into place. The doctor slowed the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, treated the (often present depression) and also the aggression in my father. Then I was finally able to get my father to accept caregivers, optimize nutrition and fluids with much less resistance, implement creative behavioral techniques, enroll my parents in a marvelous Adult Day Care program, get myself into a support group, and save my sanity!
Put you and your health FIRST and never put off your yearly physical and all medical tests. You can’t take care of anyone if you go down, which statistically happens all the time. I know, because even though I was under tremendous stress as a caregiver, I just didn’t think anything would happen to me. After caring for my parents I developed invasive breast cancer, went through it all, and had a heck of a time regaining my health. Please learn from those who have gone before you and never take risks with your health.
Jacqueline Marcell is an international speaker on Caregiving & Alzheimer’s, and author of the best-selling book, Elder Rage (print, audio, Kindle/Nook), a Book-of-the-Month Club selection receiving 50+ endorsements, 400+ 5-Star Amazon reviews, required reading at numerous universities, and considered for a film. You can read a sample of her book at http://www.ElderRage.com/SampleChapter.asp.
For baby boomers, the stress of caring for aging parents along with caring for your own family is one that leads to guilt, second guessing, and heartbreaking decisions. Even if you’ve planned for the day when your aging parents would need more care, it’s not easy to find the balance between caring for yourself, your family, and your parents.
Use these tips to help you through the tough but rewarding experience of caring for your elderly parents.
When you’re in the middle of a stressful situation, you don’t always realize the pressure you’re under until the situation is over. Take the time to evaluate your response to stress so that you know when enough is enough. Do you get irritable? Frustrated? Do you stop exercising or taking care of yourself? Do you start eating more junk food or zoning out in front of the television?
Ask a trusted family member or friend to let you know if they start to notice changes in your behavior that could signal a need for something to change in your life, whether that’s hiring a caregiver, asking for more help from friends or family, or taking a much-needed break from caregiving for a period of time.
The more your parents can do for themselves, the better they will feel. Helping your parents stay independent might mean making a few changes to their home, such as installing grab bars in the bathroom, placing a bath seat in the tub or shower, or helping them learn how to use a walking cane or rolling walker to keep their balance and get around the house without falling.
If needed, hire an independent contractor or find resources in your community to help you evaluate the safety of your parents’ home and make changes as needed. You should also be aware of basic fall prevention tips such as making sure there are no loose rugs your parent could trip over and making sure hallways and bathrooms are lit at night.
Lack of communication between family members is one of the greatest sources of stress for boomers caring for their parents. Although you’ll each have different opinions and ideas about what’s best for mom and dad, it’s important to hear each other out and be willing to compromise.
Make sure that individual responsibilities are clear, such as taking care of financial issues, home and lawn care, and taking a parent to the doctor or other outings.
Don’t wait until you’re exhausted before asking for help. You’ll be able to take better care of your parents if you build in enough rest time to avoid getting burned out. Along with practical caregiving help, you should also be able to rely on your support system for emotional resilience, a listening ear, and guidance for making decisions on how to care for your aging parents. Although it can be a stressful experience at times, it can also be a very rewarding one!
Falls in the bathroom are one of the greatest risks for aging parents living at home. Make sure your parents stay safe with a bath bench or shower stool, grab bars, and an elevated toilet seat. Free shipping on all orders to the lower 48 U.S.!
If your aging parents are having a difficult time getting out of the house, using a wheelchair can make outings safer and easier. For occasional trips to the doctor or the shopping mall, a lightweight transport chair is your best option. For heavier wheelchair use, a standard wheelchair offers more comfort.
Wheelchairs come in several different styles. For users who want to sit in the wheelchair and propel themselves forward, get a chair with large rear wheels. If a companion will be pushing the wheelchair instead, consider getting a transport chair for a lighter, more compact version.
Get a folding wheelchair to make it easier to store and transport the chair. Lightweight wheelchairs and lightweight transport chairs make it easier to lift the chair in and out of a trunk or vehicle. Some wheelchairs include removable accessories, such as arm rests and leg rests.
Before you purchase a wheelchair, take a few measurements to make sure the wheelchair is the right size for your elderly parent. With your parent seated comfortably on a chair, measure the width of their hips. Add one inch to make room for bulky clothing and wiggle room.
You may also want to measure for seat height. With your parent seated and feet flat on the floor, measure from the underside of the knee to the bottom of the foot. If you plan to use a wheelchair cushion, add about two inches to the seat height. The seat height measurement is especially important if your parent needs to be able to propel the wheelchair with his or her feet.
Finally, measure for seat depth. With your parent seated upright against the backrest of a chair, measure from the inside of the knee to where their lower back meets the chair. Subtract an inch or two for relaxed posture.
Need a better way to get your elderly parent out of the house? Check out our selection of wheelchairs and transport chairs from Drive Medical, Invacare, Medline, and Roll Mobility. Free shipping on all orders to the lower 48 U.S.
Having foot surgery doesn’t mean you have to be stuck on the couch for the next few months or become completely dependent on others for getting around. Here are some tips to help you keep your sanity and mobility after foot surgery.
The fastest way to recover from foot surgery is to listen to your doctor and stay off your foot! With a knee walker, you can still get around by yourself without putting any weight on your foot. Crutches can be awkward—and dangerous if you lose your balance—but a knee walker gives you more reliable support, since you can put weight on your knee instead of your foot.
Some knee walkers also come with a basket so that you don’t have to wear a backpack or shoulder bag to carry your stuff.
Before your surgery, get the house ready by clearing away clutter and making sure you have more than enough space to get around. If possible, arrange everything you need on one floor so that you don’t need to go up and down the stairs. Ask a friend or family member to help you rearrange furniture and move items to make them more accessible.
It’s difficult to feel dependent on others, but it’s better to ask for help than risk re-injuring your foot. If you need to reach something on the top shelf, carry a laundry basket down to the basement, or get the mail on an icy day, ask someone to help you.
If you know you’re going to be spending a long day away from home, it’s also a good idea to ask someone to push you in a wheelchair. Using crutches or a knee walker can tire you out after a few hours. A wheelchair allows you to elevate your foot and enjoy being out and about without compromising your recovery time.
Get around better after foot surgery with a knee walker! View our selection of knee walkers by Drive, Invacare, and Medline. Free shipping on all orders to the lower 48 U.S.
Most seniors prefer to age in place in the comfort of their own home. With a few modifications and safety updates, your loved one will be able to live independently for a longer period of time. The following bathroom safety tips will get you headed in the right direction to keep your loved one safe at home.
When you start to lose your balance, your first instinct is to grab whatever is nearest to you. If that happens to be a sliding shower door or a towel bar, however, the object that you grab onto may not be able to hold your weight.
Keep your loved one safe by installing grab bars in strategic places, such as on either side of the toilet and on the wall next to the bath tub or shower. When properly installed, a grab bar will support your full weight and stop you from falling.
Bath tubs and showers are often the cause of falls in the bathroom, since they are slippery when wet. Use a non-slip shower mat or apply non-skid tape or treads to the bottom of your bath tub or shower.
Sitting in the shower or bath tub is safer than standing. You can really take your time bathing and enjoy yourself with a bath or shower chair. Options range from a small bath stool (for tight shower spaces) to a bath transfer bench that make it easier to get in and out of the tub.
With a handheld shower head, you can easily rinse off without standing or moving around underneath the shower head. The long hose allows you to move the shower head where needed, and you can control the spray settings for your comfort.
A higher toilet seat makes it easier to sit down and stand up. A raised toilet seat platform can be installed over your existing toilet seat for an extra boost. You may also be able to install a portable commode (without the bucket) over the toilet seat for arm rest support.
If you haven’t done so already, get a medical alert system for your loved one. Make sure the alert button is waterproof so that they can wear it in the bathroom. Encourage your loved one to press the button if they fall or get hurt, even if the damage is minor. Better to be safe than sorry.
The water heater temperature should never exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water gets too hot, it can scald the skin. Elderly people have sensitive skin but are not always able to detect changes in temperature. Lowering the water heater temperature also prevents elderly people with arthritic hands or poor grip strength from accidentally turning the water on too hot.
Some bath and sink faucets are difficult for seniors with arthritic hands to use. Replace the faucet with handles that are easy to grip and use. Lever handle faucets are easier to use than handles that require pulling or twisting. Make sure the faucet also indicates directions for hot and cold water temperature.
Are you looking for a bath bench or a raised toilet seat? We have just what you need. Roll Mobility carries the best quality bathroom safety products from Drive Medical, Invacare, and Medline. Free shipping on all orders to the lower 48 U.S.
Thanks to Dana Brown Ritter for submitting this month’s caregiver story. She shares her perspective of the joys and challenges of caregiving in the interview below.
“I am a happily married caregiver to a quadriplegic. My name is Dana. My husband Michael was paralyzed when he was in high school and is paralyzed from the chest down. I am his caregiver and help him get up and dressed in the mornings, and the other way in the evenings. There’s a lot of in between things that I do for and with him that are so second nature at this point, I don’t even realize I’m doing it.”
“Caregiving hasn’t always been a blessing. It started out as a blessing – a special way to show deep, devoted love to the man I gave my life to in marriage. But, then, for a time it was all too much for me to handle. I had anxiety and depression. But then, through counseling, prayer, and pouring my heart out on a blog that my husband and I created together, I found dozens of other caregivers. I now have a network of other wives and girlfriends of men who are paralyzed or have some sort of disability. We share emails and Facebook messages and text messages on a daily basis. I love these women. They are like sisters to me. It’s rewarding to help them and it’s refreshing to have them to help me.”
“I find joy in knowing that Michael and I are a team. He cares for me, too. Not always in a physical way – though he does give an awesome back rub with those pointy elbows!”
“The biggest tip I would give other caregivers is to just admit that you can’t do it all. You need help, and it’s okay to not be a superman/superwoman. If you are a caregiver, you are a superman anyway. I would also encourage all caregivers to make friends with people who speak your language that you can cry to, vent to, and laugh with about all of the stuff the rest of the world will never understand.”
You can read more about Dana and her husband on Dana’s blog, www.lovelikethislife.com. Click on “dealing with disability” at the top to read about their challenges and about Dana’s caregiving journey.
The biggest reason why people buy a lightweight wheelchair is to make it easier to lift the wheelchair into a vehicle for transport. Wheelchairs can be heavy to lift, especially if you have a weak back or previous injuries.
Here are some tips on what to look for when choosing a lightweight wheelchair.
Some types of wheelchairs are lighter than others. Transport chairs are lighter than self-propelled wheelchairs, mainly because transport chairs have smaller wheels in the rear. You’ll often see transport wheelchairs in places like airports, hospitals and clinics, and churches. They’re meant for passengers who are pushed by a caregiver or attendant.
Transport wheelchairs are also smaller than self-propelled wheelchairs when folded, since they don’t have large rear wheels with rims. Less bulk makes them easier to fit in small trunks or tight back seat areas.
You can reduce the overall weight of the wheelchair by disconnecting any removable parts before lifting the wheelchair into the vehicle.
Leg rests are almost always removable. Check the instruction manual to figure out how to remove the leg rests. The tool-free kind are easier to remove.
On some wheelchair models, the arm rests are removable as well. A few models may have other removable parts, such as the backrest.
Some self-propelled wheelchairs come with removable rear wheels. If you need a lightweight wheelchair that the user can self-propel, this is your best option.
Wheelchairs made with aluminum parts are the lightest wheelchairs available. Steel wheelchairs are usually a little bit heavier.
Aluminum lightweight wheelchairs are strong and durable but don’t add a lot of weight, so they are easier to lift and transport.
Need a lightweight wheelchair to use at home or for travel? Check out our selection of lightweight wheelchairs and lightweight transport chairs from Drive, Invacare, Medline, and Roll Mobility. Free shipping on all orders to the lower 48 U.S.
If you have trouble keeping your balance or walking with a smooth gait, a walking cane can help you get around easier. Sometimes walking canes are prescribed by doctors or recommended by healthcare practitioners, and sometimes patients decide to start using a walking cane on their own. Here are some tips for choosing the right walking cane for you.
If the walking cane is only for helping you keep your balance, a standard wooden or aluminum cane is the best choice. These walking canes are lightweight and provide an extra point of contact with the ground, which gives you a larger base of support for keeping your balance.
If you need a walking cane to bear weight—either for an injury, recovery from surgery, or to ease arthritic hip or knee pain—then an offset cane will provide the stability you need. The offset handle allows you to lean more weight onto the cane’s shaft. For significant weight bearing, look for a quad cane. An offset quad cane provides four extra points of contact with the ground and can hold more weight than a single-point cane.
Most aluminum canes are adjustable. Wooden canes are not. Before you purchase a walking cane, ask someone to measure the distance from the crease of your wrist to the ground, with your arm hanging down by your side. Make sure the walking cane you buy is adjustable to this height.
Using a walking cane improperly can disrupt your walking gait. The cane should support your natural gait, not throw you off balance. Bring the cane forward with your weak or injured leg. Move the two forward together as if they were a unit.
Use the cane for support if you need it, but don’t hold the cane grip backwards or lean your weight excessively into the cane. If you need more support than a cane can provide, consider using a walker or rollator.
Need help choosing a wheelchair for your aging parents or a loved one recovering from injury or surgery? These tips will help you decide on the best portable wheelchair for your needs.
The first thing you need to think about is who is going to be pushing the wheelchair. If there is a companion who will be pushing the chair all the time, then a transport wheelchair will work for you. If the person in the wheelchair needs to self-propel, however, you’ll need a standard wheelchair with large rear wheels.
Transport wheelchairs are best for occasional use, for example, trips to the doctor or the shopping mall. They are lightweight and come with smaller wheels, which makes them easier to fold compactly and lift into a vehicle.
For everyday use, a standard wheelchair is more comfortable. The padding is usually thicker and the seat is designed for longer periods of sitting.
The wheelchair seat should be wide enough so that the person seated in the chair is comfortable, not squished. There should be enough extra room to allow for bulky clothing, such as a winter coat.
Before purchasing a wheelchair, measure the width of the user’s hips when seated. Then add an inch for extra wiggle room. This is the minimum seat width you’ll need for a wheelchair.
If you need to lift the wheelchair into a vehicle, the wheelchair should be light enough to lift without straining your body. Transport wheelchairs are the lightest models available. Lightweight standard wheelchairs are also available.
If you need a self-propelled wheelchair that’s lightweight, look for one with quick-release rear wheels. Remove the rear wheels and any other removable accessories (such as the leg rests or arm rests) and lift the parts separately into the vehicle to make it easier on yourself.
If you’re looking for a portable wheelchair, check out our selection of transport wheelchairs, standard wheelchairs, and lightweight wheelchairs by Drive Medical, Medline, Invacare, and Roll.