Red Flags: Holiday Visits with Seniors Part 2

Hello! This blog post is a follow up to the Thanksgiving blog, “Red Flags: Holiday Visits with Seniors”.

Many seniors want to age in place or remain at home. This is an area on aging that I have a passion for and I do believe is possible with the right plan in place and of course it will take some financial planning and efforts too.

AARP, at an article reported that , “87 percent of adults age 65+ want to stay in their current home and community as they age. Among people age 50 to 64, 71 percent of people want to age in place”.

If your parents want to age in place, then visiting them on the holidays can serve as a time that you can recognize red flags, that some additional supports, may be needed. One common additional support is assistive devices or aids, this will be the focus of this blog post.

Assistive devices or aids can be a tremendous item to help your parents perform activities of daily (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).

ADLs are like bathing and dressing and IADLs are like washing dishes and doing laundry.

Items like canes and walkers, can help maintain independence and encourage your parents to keep walking, as a form of exercise, with the support of the cane or walker, your parents will find themselves feeling less worried about walking and falling.

As a RN and Certified Geriatric Care Manager I love the “Rollators”. A rollator is a walker with four wheels, brakes, and a seat. The idea that your parents can stop and rest whenever they need to, then continue on their walk is great; in addition, it promotes independence.

Now, on the other side of things, with the rollators, cognitive (mental) ability is needed to be able to set the brakes before sitting down and too be able to “stay with” the rollator. Patients with dementias can not learn NEW things, therefore adding a rollator in the mid to late stages would not be effective; you will find yourself having to use frequent verbal cues.

I prefer all my patients to be evaluated by an occupational therapist (OT) and physical therapist (PT) to ensure that your parents have the correct assistive devices to ensure optimal independence and safety.

So red flags, one is furniture walking. What you will see is your parent using their hands to brace themselves on chairs, tables, and even walls. Although, I do not like to refer to babies and seniors in the same reference, but it is just like when a baby begins to learn to walk, they use their environment to brace themselves for safety and security. However, in no way is this safe or secure. If the furniture is weak and they are bracing themselves with all their weight, this can cause a fall and possible injury.

Most accidents occur in the bathroom and kitchen. So, the bathrooms are one place definitely to take some time to check. How do you think they are fairing getting in and out of the tub/shower? – is it too high to step in and out, is it slippery; How do you think they are fairing getting up and down from the toilet? – is it too low. If you notice that your parents’ hygiene has changed (wearing same clothes, unkept hair, or smell), this may be because they are afraid to go into the bathroom to do their ADLs, so they avoid it all together. Some basic bathroom aids to have are a hand-held shower head, raised toilet seats, and grab bars. For the kitchen, I would recommend a “reacher” for high places and ensuring they cane, walkers, and rollators can fit into that area. Again, I would recommend an occupational therapist to evaluate the home/environment and your parents to determine what devices are needed in the bathroom and kitchen to promote independence and safety.

Home health occupational and physical therapy can do these evaluations as a part of a one-time visit, which a physician can order, and Medicare will cover.  

There are many assistive devices or aids available to help with activities, but the first step is recognizing that your parents need the devices. It may take some convincing for your parent to accept assistive aids, so you can explain it is just the same as glasses, they help people with a change in vision be able to see better. One thing I like to do with my seniors, is help them to decorate the rollator or walker, to make it their own, I have found that, this makes them more willing to use it. 

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!

Starting January 2018, I will post blogs on the 1st Wednesday of the month and 3rd Wednesday of the month, each and every month.

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