Stay on your feet with home safety and mobility aids
Did you know that seniors are injured at home more than any other location? The bathroom and stairs are particularly dangerous.
Yvonne Lightfoot, Seating and Mobility Specialist from Hauser’s Home Healthcare, understands that some people are reluctant to use a mobility aid as they feel it takes away their independence and makes them look older than their years.
In truth they are gaining their independence by keeping themselves safe and active.
“Walkers, canes, wheelchairs and scooters all offer a wonderful way to renew your independence and to keep you engaged,” Lightfoot explains. “Scooters are great for individuals who can’t walk long distances, giving them the freedom to meet friends for coffee, go shopping or even do the gardening.”
Regardless of what type of mobility aid you use, it is important to make sure it fits you properly. With walkers, handle and seat height can affect your overall balance and also increase the likelihood of falls, if not measured accurately.
Safe use of walkers includes using the brakes and not pushing it too far ahead as that could throw you off balance.
“Speak with an Occupational Therapist to be assessed and educated on what mobility aid is right for you,” she explains.
For assistance with gaining access to mobility aids, The Ministry of Long Term Care has established the Assistive Devices Program, which helps cover the cost of mobility aids for those who qualify. Veterans Affairs, NIHB, ODSP and OW may provide funding as well.
Most falls happen in the bathroom. To help prevent this, Lightfoot suggests installing grab bars, bath chair, bath lifts, non-slip bath mats, tub rails and/or handheld showers. If you aren’t sure what you would benefit from, an Occupational Therapist can also assess your bathroom (and entire home) for safety concerns. Personal Support Workers are also available should you need extra physical support as well.
But don’t stop there! To ensure that you are safe and self-sufficient throughout your entire home, it is important to evaluate all areas of your home and alter where needed to assist with daily living. This includes installing lift chairs stair lifts, railings, porch lifts and/or ramps.
“Life call alarms can give you and your family the peace of mind that you’re connected to emergency services in case of a fall or medical emergency,” Lightfoot says.
“Using your mobility device to move from room to room and not holding onto furniture also creates a safer home environment.”
If you are taking more than one medication, Lightfoot encourages everyone to talk to a doctor or pharmacist for a medication review. Some medications including those that help you sleep/ relax or improve your mood have been known to change or increase your risk of falling, so it is very important to know and plan accordingly.