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Help! I've fallen and can't get up!

Posted 04-09-2009 at 08:50 AM by faucetman886

A familar commercial message but all to real to senior citizens and their families. As many of you that follow my blogs know, I am a retired disabled accountant suffering from Parkinsons. My family and I have had to make many adjustments to our lives because of my condition both physical and economic. I tried living alone and maintaining my home until my savings were depleted and eventually I had to face the reality of limited income and limited physical ability. I had to give up my home and the independence that it afforded me and became, for a while dependent on living with one of my children. These are decisions that so many families are being forced to make these days because of the aging of the baby boomer generation as well as the deterioration of the American economy. I assure you it isnít an easy decision from eitherís viewpoint, the parent or the children but a reality none the less. Although I was able to regain some independence last year by moving in to a small place of my own with close friends nearby to look in on me I was still faced with having to make my new space safe.
Over eighty percent of all fractures in senior citizens over the age of sixty-five years of age are caused by falls. In twenty percent of falls the injuries result in death. The long term result of a fall is fear of another fall, permanent disabilities, pain and the loss of independence. At some point these fears of both the senior and his or her family may result in institutionalization. I have so far only fallen once and it was while I was still living with my son. I lay in the floor for what seemed to be forever but was only a few minutes before I could get myself up. Fortunately I suffered no major damage but it caused me to develop a fear that I have never had in my lifetime and additionally caused us to begin to rethink my safety. We did and still today I maintain some simple things. I ALWAYS have my cell phone on my person so I can call for help if need be. I am slower in my movements and more careful in my daily activities so as to minimize the chance of another fall and because I live alone, as I mentioned before, I have nearby friends who check in on me and react if I donít answer the phone or have not been heard from during the course of a day.
Fully one-half of all accidents occurring in the home, are in the bathroom such as slips getting in and out of the shower or tub, getting on and off the toilet and simple slips caused by wet surfaces. Because of this fact alone, if you can only do little simple things to make your home more accident proof your money is best spent in improving your bathroom and making it more handicapped accessible. Providing a safer bathroom can be simple and completed in a short amount of time. The following are some of the simple things that can be done:
1. Remove loose rugs or at least make sure that any necessary rug has a skid-proof rubber backing to ensure footing. These are especially important in the bathtub and sink areas.
2. The tub or shower should have slip-proof strips installed.
3. Grab bars must be installed in areas where they would be of the most use, such as near and in the tub and beside the toilet. We installed a long horizontal bar in the tub/shower and a shorter vertical bar directly across from the toilet which enables me to hold on while getting on and off the toilet. This same bar coincidently is immediately adjacent to the tub and gives me something to hold on to when stepping in and out.
4. Special portable seats can be had to place in the tub or shower so that the senior can sit down while bathing and not have to sit all the way down in the tub. I have one of these in my bathroom itís easily lifted out (light weight plastic) if someone else needs to bathe.
5. Special toilet seats are available which are much thicker and raise the seat up several inches. These can be awkward for other members of the family and guests who may have to use the same bathroom and they are difficult to keep clean. We opted to replace both toilets with ADA height toilets. These toilets are available at reasonable prices and are an easy DIY project for most anyone.
6. Additional planning for how to handle day to day functions can go a long way towards making the bathroom safer. Unlocked doors with a courtesy knock, someone should know that the senior is going to the bathroom so that he can be checked on in a reasonable amount of time and someone should be at least close by if not in the room with the senior while bathing. A few preventative measures in any home can make it safer for a senior or handicapped family member and allow them to remain at home for a much longer period of time.

In a future blog I plan to discuss the things that you can do to make your bathroom more handicap accessible if you have a better budget.
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  1. Old Comment
    cocobolo's Avatar
    faucetman, a sincere thank you for this writeup. My wife recently injured a ligament in her leg, and only during the past couple of weeks has she been getting much better. It was necessary for her to use special medical equipment for the bath plus the raised toilet seat you speak of. We were able to borrow some of the required items from the Red Cross, and this service is provided without charge. Thank you again.
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    Posted 05-13-2009 at 02:20 PM by cocobolo cocobolo is offline
 



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