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From a very young age, we start learning how to be independent. Picture the small child attempting to tie their own shoes, and when offered help, they respond with “I can do it!” That trend continues throughout our entire lives and for those that are seniors, maintaining their independence is one of their key strongholds.
So what do you do when parents insist on staying in their own home and refusing assistance? How can a family work together to help parents achieve their goal to stay at home for as long as safely possible? Homes in general have not been built to accommodate medical equipment and aging, but the good news is, that trend is changing.
For those older homes, depending on the medical needs, there are many options. One can install a chair height commode or strategically place grab bars for help with the commode and the shower. Changing out faucets from a twisting knob to a lever is much easier for those with arthritis or limited strength in the hands. There are some faucets that require no touch, as you may see in public restrooms – a wave of the hand is all that is needed. Hot water temperatures should be evaluated for the entire home in order to minimize burns, (consider those that have had changes in sensation or if there are memory issues).
If the senior person in your life requires the use of medical equipment – can it fit through doorways inside the house, and can they easily enter/exit the house using their equipment? If not, then more extensive modifications may be needed, such as widening doorways or installing ramps. A geriatric care manager may be needed to assist with understanding some of the long term needs based on specific medical conditions, and to help with long term planning in case the elder can no longer stay at home, even with the modifications.
What is your plan to help your loved one maintain their goal of remaining independent?
Author: Cheryl A. Acres RN, CCM