The Professional Choice

A companion overview to the popular "Ask Mr. Handyman" radio program airing on Christian Talk Radio, KCRO 660AM Saturdays @ 9:30AM.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This Holiday Season, Observe your Senior Parents

Senior living centers receive more calls after the holidays than any other time of the year. Spend some quality time with your senior parent or grandparent, in their home and observe them in their daily tasks. Do they struggle bathing, using the toilet or fixing a meal? Sometimes they struggle with the most basic task. Watch and observe.

Today, seniors are remaining in their homes longer, and usually alone. Many adult children do not recognize how much of a struggle their loved one is having in completing daily tasks until a bad fall or other scare triggers a good evaluation and information quest. Most seniors are either too stubborn or too proud to admit they need help or assistance until it’s too late.

Planning to live out your senior years in relative comfort is like planning your will, an uneasy task for most but very much a necessity. The old fear that a "nursing home" is the only option has been diminished with in-home care, senior living centers, assisted living and specialized care facilities. If the determination is made to remain in the home there are some common home modifications that need to be considered.

Falls are a major problem for senior citizens. Sixty percent of falls happen in the home. Bathrooms are the main concern and in fact, are the most common area to require modifications. Reducing the chance for falls in the bathroom is the most important task to consider. These modifications may be extremely minor, like adding grab bars or putting a riser on the toilet to completely revamping the bathroom for wheel-chair access, a walk-in tub or pedestal sink.

Replacing old knob-style faucets for the newer, lever-style ones is a simple change, and is especially helpful for people with arthritis. Showers are generally safer than tubs for senior citizens because there is a smaller sidewall to step over. A hand-held shower adaptor and a portable stool is an inexpensive modification that can be installed in a few minutes but it will not relieve the risk of stepping over the side of the tub. Walk-in tubs are a great addition but not for everybody.

Grab bars are essential but they must be properly affixed to the wall. Suction cup grab bars are not recommended regardless what the TV commercials state! Non-slip flooring is a must! A grab bar at the top of a stairway may help to transition from the top step to a landing area.

Kitchen modifications are usually most necessary when the occupant has true physical handicaps and in need of a wheelchair.

Wheel-chair ramps, stair-lift units and other home entry modifications are most often thought about when thinking of ‘aging-in place’ but the bathroom is the place most falls take place. The most important factor is to plan ahead. Add these “senior-friendly” home modifications BEFORE they become a “must-have” item. If you witness your elder parent struggle a bit this Christmas season, consider having some of the basic items installed by a professional to assist them before a major fall awakens you to their condition. Act rather than react! You may just save them and you a whole lot of pain and suffering.