Friday, June 19, 2009

Signs your parent needs "adjustment"

Two main objectives to keeping your Elders at home are enabling them to do as much for themselves as possible and ensuring their safety. Often they will make minor adjustments for themselves to help get things done but we kids and grand kids we also need to OBSERVE and ACT to enable their day to day activities and be safe.

Be patient and prepare to do things like this often or RE-do them often. I see things during every visit that I can change for Mom to help her do things more easily. As she grows weaker, we often address the same problem again and again. When she began to have trouble doing laundry, we got front loading washer & dryer. Six months later stairs were becoming difficult and were impossible with an arm load of clothes, so we did a minor remodel and moved the new machines from basement to the kitchen. Three months after that we had to install a shelf to create storage for the laundry soap and softener at arm height so she didn't have to reach up or bend down to get at it. Within a few more months, she could barely lift wet items from the washer to dryer but she kept at it one garment at a time. She wanted to do it for herself so we enabled that through a lot of work and effort on our part. Remember if you care about your parent, Aunt, uncle or friend, you will help them to help themselves.

Here's a list of things that we did at Mom's that enabled her to do for herself and be safe. Be sure to read later posts with aging in place tags for more ideas:

  • Opening cans of food :
    moderate difficulty: get an electric can opener
    more difficultly: buy foods with flip top lids
  • Soda cans or bottles: Get Open Sesame - a multi-tool for cans and bottles. It works on flip top soda cans, twist off caps and has a magnet for storage on the fridge.
  • Opening jars:
    moderate difficulty: use rubber gloves, one to hold the jar and one to grip the top
    more difficulty: use under the counter mounted devices; these grip the lid while the user turns the jar, using rubber gloves to grip the jar is best. I don't have a specific name or source for these; I've found them in catalogs, dollar stores - I saw them in all kinds of places when I didn't mean to buy one and ordered one online when we did need it.
  • Stairs: often going down is more dangerous than going up - my Mom seemed to have equilibrium problems when looking DOWN and decending at the same time. Ensure that railings are tight and strong enough to hold up under a lot of use and a lot of weight. Can you install railings on BOTH sides of the stairway? Consider a ramp for short rises like from the back door to the yard. The most sure fire safe thing: get your Elder on one level - eating, relaxing, sleeping, bathroom and laundry. There are also more spendy solutions like the lift chairs that ride up and down on a railing; I've seen this only once and it was quite an expensive solution. I'd prefer to sacrifice a formal dining room or living room to get my Mom on one floor.
  • Medications and pills: This is one of the touchier issues with elderly folks. Often Elders underestimate the importance of keeping up with medications for a variety of reasons. This is another key issue to consider whether an Elder can no longer live alone.

    moderate difficulty: make a schedule by time and put it on the fridge, get a pill box labeled by days of the week or even morning, noon and evening. Fill it for them weekly.
    more difficulty: Call them with a reminder or hire an aid to visit regularily and remind them to take their meds. Sometimes aides cannot give meds due to liability but they can check the pill box and the schedule and "help your Elder remember" with gentle words. This person should also report back to the family if the Elder refuses, the pills in the box don't coincide with the schedule or other issues crop up
That's all for now, look for more installments as time permits.