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Equipping Elderly Loved Ones to Live Independently

Joined: 8/19/2013
Posts: 2
My grandmother is one of over 23 million people in the U.S. who are age 70 or older. Like many, she doesn't want to live in a retirement community. She loves her house and wants to continue living there independently. She's in reasonable health, but I worried about her safety as mobility and health slowly decline. So, my husband and I took a few simple steps to make the home safer and to ensure her well being as she lives independently.

1. Shore up the House
Homes are not generally designed with seniors in mind. There are several companies that specialize in home improvements to make life simpler and safer for mom and dad. Some key things to consider include installing handrails in hallways, lowering cabinets to make them easier to reach, adding entrance ramps, widening doorways and installing stair lifts. Simpler things you can do yourself include clearing electrical cords from walkways, removing or tacking down area rugs and testing smoke alarms.

2. Upgrade the Bathroom
Bathrooms are particularly dangerous for seniors. The presence of water and slick surfaces make slip-and-falls common occurrences. Consider replacing the shower or tub with a low-profile curbless type and add slip-resistant treads to shower floors. Handrails in showers and by toilets are also a good idea. An elevated toilet seat can also go a long way towards keeping mom and dad safe. As people age, weak leg muscles can give out when attempting to sit down or stand. Install a nightlight to improve visibility and set the maximum water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid scalding.

3. Get a Medical Monitoring Device
We’ve all seen the commercial…”help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” While the acting certainly leaves a lot to be desired, the message is valid. If your parent falls in the home and is injured, or simply can’t get back to their feet, they could be laying there helpless for quite some time. A medical monitoring device generally includes a remote pager that’s worn like a necklace. When a health or security-related emergency arises, they simply push a button to reach a 24-hour call center that sends help.

4. Buy a Medical Alert Bracelet
If your parent was unconscious due to an accident or illness, how would anyone know about their ongoing medical conditions, allergies or medications? Whether it’s a bystander, a first-responder or hospital staff, knowledge is key in this situation. A medical alert bracelet provides critical information in an immediately accessible form. While some offer a few lines of engraving, others include a phone number that connects with medically trained specialists who can relay in-depth health information as well as alerting you or other contacts directly.

5. Schedule Regular Medical Appointments
Older adults need regularly scheduled medical appointments to stay ahead of deteriorating health. Talk to your parents’ doctor about the appropriate timing and then make several appointments ahead of time. Add them to your own calendar and plan on attending with your parent. Blood pressure tests can provide critical information about vascular performance. Bone density tests can alert you to osteoporosis. Blood tests can identify changes in blood sugar and cholesterol levels that may necessitate medication. Be sure to always talk to your parents’ doctor about all medications they are currently taking and ask if current dosage levels are still appropriate. Then, write down exactly what pills your parents need to take and how often and post it somewhere mom or dad will see it daily.
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Comment by warren

Joined: 6/22/2011
Posts: 293
Excellent summary and, as you're no doubt aware, add monitor driving, which may be a challenge. Thank you for writing.
Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 3:37:39 PM
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