Tools for Safety and Independence at Home

Date:

March 19, 2022
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Making a house safe and comfortable can allow an individual to remain living at home safely as their abilities change. A 2018 AARP survey notes that 76% of Americans age 50 and older would like to “age in place” or remain in their current residence and community as long as possible. 

Independence and safety are high priorities for older adults to live their best life. Knowing about products and services which can help older adults provides options for family caregivers to support their care receiver. The challenges of chronic illness, advancing dementia, and physical limitations can significantly limit the health and well-being of older adults.

A wide variety of of no cost or low cost simple tools, often called “assistive devises” or ADs can help people perform “activities of daily living,” or ADLs. ADLs include personal hygiene of bathing or showering, dressing, transferring from bed to a chair, walking, using the toilet, and eating. Family caregivers are often the ones who suggest devises, explain how they can be helpful, purchase them, and help their care receiver learn how to use the devises.

Home assistive devises

  • Kitchen items include easy-to-grip silverware, high-lipped dishes and plate guards, specialized cutting boards and utensils, self-opening scissors, *reaching tools, jar openers, and smart-phone applications for turning kitchen devices on and off.
  • Bedroom items include bed bars, bedside organizers, reacher/grabber reaching tools, various orthopedic support cushions, hip pads for fall protection, bedside commode, transfer board, night lights, applications that assist with turning lights on and off, and large-numeral alarm clocks.
  • Bathroom items include full-length tub mats, bathtub and shower seats, transfer benches, toilet riser or ADA  type raised toilet, night lights, long-handled scrub brushes, shampoo basins, lotion applicators, colored tape, markers, handheld shower heads, and even smart phone applications for hot water controls.

Personal Care Products

  • Pumps for soap
  • Toothpaste in pump dispensers or simple devises to squeeze toothpaste from the tube
  • No-rinse or dry shampoo
  • Body bath and body wash that does not require rinsing off with water 

Dressing and Grooming

  • Grooming – Long-handled combs, brushes, panty hose, and easy-to-pull socks
  • Adaptive clothing – Zippers with large pull tabs, open-back garments, dresses, shirts, and pants with trademark Velcro,™ closures, and side zippers on pants and skirts.  Many stores now carry reasonably priced clothing brands designed  to use easily and are comfortable.   
  • Shoes – Non-slip shoes, easy on and off shoes, non-tie shoelaces, fasteners like Velcro™, zipper pulls, or magnetic closures, and using long handled shoe horn. Avoiding slip-on shoes and house shoes.

Medication Aids

People with chronic illnesses often take several prescription and/or nonprescription medications daily, for which the following devices can help:

  • Daily or weekly pill organizers ensure that correct dosages of medications are taken each day.
  • Timers and specialized mini-alarms remind your loved one when the next dose is due.
  • Pill crushers and splitters help when swallowing is difficult. 

Medication aids are available in many drugstores and hospital pharmacies. Several pharmacies and online websites now offer pills which are delivered in packs that include the time and date of when to take the medication. 

Incontinence and Toileting Supplies/Aids

Adult protective undergarments can help individuals who have problems with bladder or bowel control. Fortunately, these are now widely available at drug stores under brand names like Depends, Attends, and Dignity.  Avoid the use of the term “diaper.” 

Antiseptic skin lotions and wipes, catheters, portable receptacles and a host of related products for incontinence can make the affected person more comfortable and minimize difficulties for the caregiver.

To order the National Association for Continence resource guide of products and services for incontinence, visit www.nafc.org.

Commodes, toilet seat modifiers, and urinals come in a variety of designs to help someone with incontinence or someone who has difficulty getting to the bathroom. Items include raised (ADA, chair height) and adjustable seats, safety rails, grab bars, and portable commodes.

VIDEO: Toileting & Incontinence

Fall Prevention Aids

Mattress – Plastic fitted sheets or mattress pads repel or absorb urine before damaging the mattress.

Mats and avoiding rugs – Bedside fall mats placed on the floor along the side of the bed reduce the risk of falls. Remove and avoid rugs since they can be a tripping hazard, resulting in falls.

Does Medicare pay for Durable Medical Equipment.  It depends 

Home Modifications

Simple modifications to a care receiver’s home, at relatively little cost and minimal disruption, may help care receivers remain at home longer than if changes were not make. 

For larger modifications, such as widening doorways, lowering counters, remodeling hallways, and installing lifts or elevators, you may need to hire a licensed contractor.

Two useful checklists to determine whether a home needs to undergo some changes to make the house safer and more accessible for an older adult with health and mobility program can be found at the following websites: www.homemods.org and www.rebuildingtogether.org.

These independent living aids are both affordable and easy to install: 

  • Grab bars, bath seats, and transfer benches
  • Handrails for stairways
  • Bathmats and skid-resistant rugs
  • Glow tape for hazardous furniture
  • Attachable grips for turning doorknobs, lamp switches, and faucet handles
  • Lever door handles
  • Tape or markers for high contrast on stairs or in the bathroom

Other useful home modifications include:

Wheelchair and threshold ramps, which come in a variety of pre-designed sizes with pre-drilled slots for easy installation. Lightweight portable wheelchair ramps can be folded or rolled up for easy transport and storage. Permanent ramps are more expensive due to custom fitting and grading and need to be installed by a contractor.

Elevators and lifts need to be installed by a contractor to assure that installations meet code and safety standards. Lifts and elevators are available for most inclined or vertical surfaces, including porches, balconies, and curved or straight stairs. Of course, elevators and lifts are expensive and may be out of reach of most older adults and caregivers.  

Vehicle Modifications and Accessible Vans

Vehicle modifications can help your care recipient continue to drive or be a passenger more easily. Accessory items such as car door openers, transfer handles to assist, tie-down systems for wheelchairs, and portable swivel seats require little or no vehicle modification.

Wheelchair lifts or automatic transfer seats can be installed in minivans, station wagons, and some cars. 

Kneeler systems, which lower one corner of the vehicle for boarding, and driving controls, which mount all the vehicle’s control features onto the steering wheel are examples of more extensive and more expensive vehicle modifications.

For information about adaptive equipment, accessible vehicle dealers, or funding and reimbursement programs, visit The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association website: https://nmeda.com/

Local hospitals and centers for independent living may also have information on how to get a driving evaluation completed by a driving rehab specialist. 

Sources:


We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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