Setting safe spaces for older family
DECIDING to invite an elderly parent to move in to your home may be a logical choice for many families, but making the family home safe for them is often a factor that is ignored.
Not only may families have to change living arrangements and routines, they may also have to make some physical changes to the bricks and mortar.
Sylvia Klopper, founder of CareChamp, which is based in Cape Town, Joburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth, says families should ensure tripping and slipping hazards are removed.
Practically useful changes include:
Removing rugs, door mats and loose or torn carpets.
Installing grab bars and railings in and around showers, bathtubs, toilets and stairs.
Providing a bath shower seat.
Clearly marking changes in floor levels.
Removing any electric, telephone or extension cords that require stepping over.
Making sure the door openings can accommodate a walker or wheelchair and there is or space to manoeuvre while opening and closing doors.
Encouraging the wearing of shoes with non-slip soles. Older people are more likely to fall if they are barefoot or wearing socks. Shoes help distribute weight from the heels to the balls of the feet, which improves balance.
Fitting night lights to ensure walkways and furniture are adequately lit day and night. If there are stairs, install lights at the top and bottom.
Preventing the danger of burns.
Ensuring stove controls are clearly marked and easy to use.
Regulating the heat of water to prevent scalding or burns.
When elderly people fall, Klopper advises relatives to resist the impulse to move them.
“If the person is capable and wants to get up, she/he may try to get up quickly. It is important to convince them that they proceed with caution when getting up from the floor. If they cannot move, call an ambulance.”
If the elderly person can be treated at home, Kloppers says it is still a good idea to notify the patient’s doctor.
“This is so the doctor can review current medications and dosages. Sleep aids and blood pressure medication may cause drowsiness or dizziness that can lead to another fall. Blood thinners could also increase bleeding in the event of a fall.”
When it comes to caring for wounds, Klopper says elderly people heal more slowly.
“One of the most important things is to prevent the development of pressure ulcers – commonly known as bedsores. They commonly form where the bones are close to the skin, such as at the ankles, back, elbows, heels and hips.
“A large number of pressure ulcers may become chronic wounds and the afflicted patient may even die from an ulcer complication, so it’s something to be mindful about.”
Klopper adds that she and her colleagues have seen cases where families use home remedies to treat such wounds in the early stages, but she would discourage this.
They should rather consult doctors immediately as these wounds are extremely painful and can be difficult to heal.
Living arrangements change in a home when an older family member moves in.