Home. It is the dwelling where we rest our head at night. However for many it represents so much more. It is where we raise our family, share time with grandchildren and where we create most of our fondest memories. As we get older or experience some medical compromises, our bodies and minds are impacted. Physical impairments can evolve that can alter strength, balance and flexibility. This impacts the ability to walk, shower and perform daily activities and unfortunately increase the risk of life altering falls. Our ability to remain in our homes is threatened. The following recommendations may be the solutions crucial to remaining in our homes safely for many years to come.
Falls. In the blink of an eye a sudden fall can change our lives forever. Medication interactions, altered vision, inappropriate footwear and decreased cognition are just some of many factors that should be evaluated by a competent professional to help reduce falls in the home. Decrease clutter, abolish throw rugs, and assure flooring is slip resistant. Electrical cords should not cross walkways. Door thresholds should be made flush with the adjacent flooring surfaces to allow transitions for walking when utilizing assistive devices or mobilizing a wheelchair. Creating a well-lit environment with strategically placed motion sensor lighting will also undoubtedly result in a safer environment.
Many catastrophic injuries occur from falls on stairs. The solution may be as basic as adding an additional stair rail. When you think railings, don’t just limit them to the inside of your home. Railings can be added by a front or back step or along the walkways that lead to your home. Having something to grab onto can reduce the risk of falling.
The majority of falls occur in the bathroom. Well placed grab bars in the shower, preferably at least one vertical to enter and one horizontal on the far wall is advised. It is imperative that these grab bars be installed by a skilled carpenter to assure they will remain anchored when they are needed most. Dispose of any suction cup grab bars. They are not safe. Shower benches, hand-held shower heads, and walk-in tubs can also prevent falls.
Disabilities. As we get older we are often exposed to medical setbacks that result in disability. Home modifications may be necessary to create a safe and accessible home. Ramps, Stair-Lifts and Vertical Platform Lifts are all examples of solutions that can bridge the difference between moving and remaining in your home. It is imperative to consult with a professional who understands the functional abilities of the disabled individual as well as the caregivers interacting within the home. Methods of transferring, degree of assistance needed, strength of caregiver, and many other factors need to be considered before investing in function enhancing modifications. Stair-Lifts can be extremely effective in allowing someone to get upstairs to their bedroom, bathroom or even simply from the ground floor up into the main level of the home. A Vertical Platform Lift or Ramp can bring an individual up to a higher level while remaining in a wheelchair. Ramps and Stair-Lifts can be rented as well as purchased for short term and long term requirements. Door widening or off-set hinges can address the difficulty of getting a wheelchair through a narrow doorway. Additionally, a raised toilet can reduce efforts of getting on and off the toilet. The right modification can result in many years of safe and functional living in the home. As Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz so eloquently stated, “There’s no place like home.”
Back Home Safely is a physical and occupational therapist owned business that offers a free home assessment for safety and accessibility issues. Their staff of skilled carpenters and technicians can follow through with any recommendations made.
Karen Frank PT, Gregg Frank OTR/L, CAPS, Home Improvement Contractor