Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Safety Issues in the Bathroom

Grab bars in the bathtub or shower can be a life saving piece of equipment. They are available at most large hardware stores such as Home Depot, Lowes and Orchard Hardware (OSH). Many large chain drugstores also carry some and medical supply houses stock them in a variety of lengths.

They can be installed by the average DIY handy person, but they must be installed according to the directions to ensure that they are safe and work as expected. Attaching to a stud is recommended when possible and using toggle bolts or inserts when not. When drilling through tile, special precautions should be taken and a dab of silicon can help to waterproof the screws and holes. Professional grab bar installers may also be consulted.

In most instances, a home safety assessment by a physical therapist from a home health agency would be a covered expense under Medicare if the client meets the homebound criteria. The therapist can consult on the size and placement of the grab bars (but will not install them for you). Once installed, the therapist can make a return visit to instruct you and the client in safe and proper use of the grab bars. The therapist can also assess the entire home and make recommendations for improved safety and other equipment that may be needed. The client's physician must order the assessment.

A bath bench or chair can be a very useful safety device especially if the client gets short of breath or tires easily. A lawn chair can work in a pinch, but it should be used with a non-slip mat to ensure that it doesn't move or slide. It may tip easily too and the client should not use it for security or balance.

Some bath benches or chairs come with a hole to allow for any incontinence and ease of cleaning the client's bottom.

Again, the physical therapist can instruct in the safe use of the bath bench or chair. Or they may refer to an occupational therapist for instruction in bathing and hygiene with the adaptive equipment.

A raised toilet seat may be recommended for those who have difficulty bending to or rising from the toilet. Anyone who has had hip or knee surgery usually has this ordered post operatively. These come with or without safety rails attached. These safety rails are available for the toilet without the elevated seat as well. These can be especially helpful for anyone who needs something to push with to get up or may not be secure sitting on the toilet.

You can view some of my suggestions on the Aging Parents Store at Amazon.com. Thanks!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget 9-11-01

Today, we must take a moment of silence to remember and send our thoughts and prayers to those who lost loved ones in NYC, PA, and Washington DC. Never Forget!!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Problems With Medications

In a recent newsletter from Shelley Webb at The Eldercare Support Group wrote about how to find a compounding pharmacy because her dad is having difficulty swallowing now. This reminded me that so many people don't understand that not all medications can be crushed or chewed safely. In fact, some shouldn't be altered at all. So I wrote this article at Suite101.com about Taking Medications Correctly.

Anyone who is chronically ill, aging or is on hospice care can have great difficulty taking medications. Some may go down easily while others stick or choke. And it's not always the ones you might suspect that cause the trouble. Some people can swallow the horse pills just fine, and have an awful time with the tiny ones. So it's hard to predict.

People with dementia may refuse to take the medications and anyone who is dying may not be conscious or alert enough to swallow them reliably. This presents a dilemma for the caregivers. In some instances, medications can be crushed and put into a small spoonful of pudding, Jello, or applesauce. A little bit of jelly or even peanut butter can work too. But you have to be sure you get all of the medication into the bite and that it is safe to crush this medication. Ask the pharmacist!

Some meds can be dispensed in liquid form. If your mom or dad still refuses it because of dementia, you can add it to a small glass of juice. But not too much because you need to be sure they finish it.

Some medications need to be altered by a special pharmacist known as the compounding pharmacist. Discuss your issues with the physician and have him/her contact a compounding pharmacy. The talk it over with the pharmacist to figure out the best way to administer this medication.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Get RID of the Throw Rugs!

I can almost guarantee you that one of the first things the home health nurse or physical therapist will encounter and discuss with you and or your elders is those throw rugs!

While they can be pretty especially if they are of the expensive persian rug variety; they can be one of the most dangerous hazards in the house. Yes, they cover a variety of mishaps or old and worn carpets, but they can also present a trip waiting to happen and I don't mean a vacation!

Most older people shuffle their feet when they walk. They may have spent a lifetime telling you to "pick up your feet," but now they have the shuffle themselves. This can feel like a safe gait and many times it can be, but it can also cause them to trip over cords, oxygen tubing and throw rugs.

A fall can result in a broken hip, broken wrist, ribs, or even more serious injury such as a head injury from hitting an object or the ground. I don't have the statistics at my fingertips, but hip fractures result in a huge number of deaths each year. This is often as a result of the surgery necessary to repair or replace the hip or from complications afterwards such as pneumonia.

Even a broken wrist which can seem like a much less harmful injury can be devastating for an older person. Just imagine yourself with an arm immobilized. Can you get yourself dressed, groomed, bathed, or even wiped after using the toilet? Compound this with the many other disabilities your elders may have and you can have a real disaster on your hands.

Go through the house with your elders and clear the pathways of clutter, cords, and throw rugs. If they need long extensions of oxygen tubing consult with the respiratory therapist from the vendor company and see what options can be set up. Perhaps some lengths of tubing can be safely placed permanently and quick-connect adapters used as they move about the house as opposed to dragging long lengths of tubing everywhere. There may be some expense ibvolved, but it can be far less costly than dealing with an injury from a fall.

photo: Herman Brinkman/stock.xchng.com