Set­ting safe spa­ces for older fam­ily

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY - BONNY FOURIE

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.

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