What can I do to make my home safe?Safety is the first consideration in planning for the arrival of an older person to your home. Most medical conditions increase the risk of falling. Falls can lead to fractures and head injuries which worsen the condition of the elderly person. The risk of falling can be a result of weakness due to stroke or other neurological problems, certain medications which lead to dizziness and vision problems which make moving about the house very difficult.
These problems can be solved by taking the following precautions
- Removing slippery rugs.
- Installing handrails near bathrooms and bedrooms.
- A shower or tub chair which will prevent a weak or unsteady person from having to stand in the shower, or get up from a sitting position in the tub.
- If the house is multi–storied, it is advisable to have the entire living space of the elderly person on a single floor which will ensure that the elderly person does not have to climb stairs too often.
- If this is not possible then additional railings can be installed to enable the elderly person to hold the railing with both arms as they go up and down the stairs.
- Another option for multi–storied houses is to install a stair–glide, which is a motorized chair that rides up and down a rail attached to the stairwell. These chairs have their own safety features, including safety belts, seats that swivel, and back–up power.
- If the elderly person has to use a wheelchair, navigating through the house becomes very difficult. The doorways have to be wide enough to fit the chair. Barricades have to be put up at stair landings to prevent accidental falls. Other adjustments will have to be made in the design of the house to make it accessible by a wheelchair.
What can a physical therapist or occupational therapist do to help?Physical therapy
A Physical Therapist can often be referred to, to check the physical condition of the elderly person. The therapist normally checks the patient’s walking abilities, how difficult it is for the patient to get out of bed or do other activities like getting up from a chair, picking up objects like pillows form the floor, etc. The general physical strength of the patient is evaluated and accordingly exercises are suggested. These exercises can be performed at home or the patient may have to visit the doctor to perform certain exercises which may need use of special equipment. Normally, the doctor and the physical therapist work together to ensure proper and effective exercises which will HELP in improving the patient’s health faster.
A home visit from a physical therapist can be extremely helpful. A physical therapist can evaluate your living space and can make recommendations on how best to make it safer and easier for an older person to negotiate. When I do home therapy prescribed by a doctor, I usually schedule visits 2 to 3 times a week to do strengthening exercises, practice transfers in and out of bed, and exercise to improve balance and coordination.