Help! I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Stay Home!

senior companion careMost elderly people want to stay in their own homes as long as they can.  It sounds reasonable enough—wouldn’t you want to live at home?

If home is where they want to be, and there are no reasons why that would not be the best option, I make it my goal to help my clients stay at home.   Most people, however, don’t plan ahead to stay home.  Instead, they end up in a crisis situation with no chance to make the simple changes that would have made them more likely to succeed in their home environment.

If you are taking care of elderly parents, I recommend for you to print out the information below and share it with them as an encouragement to be proactive in remaining at home.  In youth, we often have to learn the hard way.  But as we age, the consequences of learning the hard way are a little more severe.

 

Be Proactive

If you want to stay at home, be smart and be proactive.  One of the biggest reasons people can no longer live at home is a fall or the threat of a fall.  A simple tumble can lead to broken arms, legs, or hips, which can then domino into a variety of other health problems.  When it happens at an older age, broken bones can lead to lifelong pain and disability.

To stay at home, your biggest goal is to minimize the chance for falls.

To begin, minimize your risk of falling by picking up your scatter rugs.  One fall usually changes everything!  They may look cozy, but if you break your hip, you may not have the option of staying at home.

If your laundry is in the basement, think about getting someone to help you with it.  It’s risky to descend basement steps, especially with a basket full of dirty clothes.  Letting someone help with this one task would, again, minimize your risk of falling and maximize the possibility of staying in your home longer. If you have the monetary resources, you may even want to consider relocating your washer and dryer to the main floor of your home.

Consider moving your bedroom to the main level of the house if you are currently sleeping upstairs. By minimizing your trips up and down the stairs, again, you reduce the risk for falls and maximize your ability to live at home.

 

Exercise

If you have balance and strength issues, get some physical therapy—either formally from a professional or by attending exercise classes such as Silver Sneakers.  There are also classes offered at many senior centers or senior apartment buildings.   This will strengthen your muscles, improve your balance, and minimize your risk of falling.

 

Take Precautions

If you have a Lifeline or another type of emergency response system, WEAR it!  Sometimes, getting immediate help makes a big difference in your long-term recovery.

If your physician has told you to use a cane or a walker, USE IT!  As the old saying goes, “Pride goeth before a fall!”  Better to swallow a little pride and admit you could use a little stability than to fall and face long-term consequences.

You can install hand railings, shower or tub grab bars, ramps, etc. if you need to—again, all are good ways to be proactive.

 

Accept Assistance

Elderly folks tell me that the chores with which they have the most difficulty are changing bed linens and making the bed, pushing the vacuum, cleaning out the refrigerator, and mopping the floors.  Bending, reaching, and overextending can set an elder person up for loss of balance resulting in a fall.

Many elderly persons detest the idea of having anyone come in to help them with the tasks and chores they have always done for themselves.  By thinking ahead and allowing someone to help, whether a family member or a paid professional, you can remain in your own home longer.  If you can let yourself accept help in the few areas that are the highest risks for you, you can continue to do other less risky tasks yourself.

Accepting help when needed is a smart thing to do.  Instead of making you more dependent, most of the time accepting help actually does the opposite.  It fosters independence by allowing you to stay at home longer.

Julie Ellingson, LSW

 

November 4, 2011

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