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.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Safety Tips for our Senior Population

Household dangers are lurking all throughout the home; and if you’re a member of our senior population, the risks are even greater.

Interior and exterior lights using motion sensors or photo cells can light the way to safety. Inside the house, place them in the frequently traveled paths at night; like between the bed and bathroom or on your way to the kitchen. Outside, replace the lights that require a flip of the switch with a motion sensor or a photo cell, so you’re never caught in the dark upon returning home.

Decorative and bath rugs are attractive, but without proper backing or with backing that’s worn down, they can be a slip, trip, or fall hazard. Check and make sure they still grip the floor, and if not, add a non-skid backing or toss them out.

All inside or outside stairs need to have a hand railing. As you age you may want to consider installing one on each side of the stairwell for your assistance in navigating those steps.

Your home should already be equipped with working smoke detectors. Each year have someone check their functionality, batteries, and that they’re clear of dust and debris. Cans of compressed air can be purchased and used for cleaning computer keyboards and blowing out cobwebs and dust from your smoke detectors. Carbon monoxide detectors are a must if you have a gas heater, water heater or attached garage.

Finally, put safety over vanity and be honest with yourself when it’s time to install grab bars, handrails, non-skid strips in the bathtubs and showers. Installing a few of these much needed safety items prior to absolutely needing them will enable you an opportunity to ease into their use as you age and become more dependent upon them.