Tag Archives: activities of daily living

Getting By with a Little Help……

735910_64656392Many people benefit from products known as assistive devices in the medical equipment world.  These are products that help people continue to be independent in their activities of daily living.  They allow people with physical limitations to feed, bathe and dress themselves, do things around the house, as well as move from place to place.  All kinds of activities can be maintained through the accommodations made with assistive devices.

We are all familiar with the most obvious ones like canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters.  And many of you may also have seen raised toilet seats and grab bars.  But there are also all kinds of reachers, grabbers, extenders and grippers that can modify activities such as pulling on your socks, reaching your lower legs and feet in the shower, grasping your toothbrush and holding onto your utensils.  These devices not only create a way to complete a task but also, often, a safer way to do them.

Simple things like grab bars, raised toilet seats and shower chairs can make bathroom activities safer and easier to do.  Many items you can find on your own and purchase from a medical supply store.  You’ll even find a basic selection of these types of items in drug stores and the other stores you frequent.

However, if you know that your loved one needs some assistance but are unsure of what would really help the most, you might want to consider asking the physician for an order for a Physical Therapy and/or Occupational Therapy assessment.  The therapist can work with you and your loved one to identify the deficits, maximize their ability and make recommendations about the products that might be helpful as well as work with them on how to use the device!

Also remember that many medical/assistive devices may be covered by Medicare or your insurance (with a script from your physician).  It would be worth asking and investigating the possibilities before making a purchase (look for the Durable Medical Equipment benefit information in your policy).

There are also many little things that you can try based on your own observations!  While my father was still living at home I noticed that he was having a difficult time with the heavy glassware that my mother was using and actually dropped his glass at dinner one evening.  I suggested to my mother that she try using lighter glasses at meals and this really helped!  With the increased number of falls that Dad was having I also encouraged Mom to pull up all the little scatter rugs (tripping hazards along with clutter, electrical cords, poor lighting, and raised doorway thresholds).  Just be observant and try minor adjustments.

For a time, my father was using walking sticks to aid with his balance (something one of his friends suggested to him) and it did seem to work well for him until his dementia advanced and weakness became more prominent.  Then, I came to refer to them as his tripping sticks as he was no longer able to use them in a beneficial way and more often than not they were getting tangled up in his feet rather than aiding him in his balance.  He resisted the change to a walker but when he had to be placed in a facility, the therapist was able to prevail upon him that the walker would be safer and he began to use the walker (though the dementia still affected his safety awareness and judgment when using it).

For optimal mental health and wellbeing, the goal is to stay independent for as long as possible in the safest way!  Seek the help of a physician and/or therapist in helping you to find the devices that might best help you help your loved one remain active!

On the journey with you…….Kathy

For more information about fall prevention check out:  http://www.scdhec.gov/health/chcdp/injury/docs/home%20safety.pdf

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Trying to make a determination about the kind of care your loved one may need is a very personal decision.  Many factors play into that decision:  your parent’s wishes, the financial resources, the support systems available, proximity of family members, the availability and willingness of those family members to help, the living arrangements, your parent’s overall health and mental state, and many more.  Two families with seemingly similar circumstances will likely come to two very different decisions.

One of the biggest decisions comes when it is clear that your loved one needs help.  While you may be able to assist your loved one in some ways, providing day-to-day care can very quickly become an overwhelming task.  Once you make the decision to seek some help, you will need to take some time to sort through the options.

The two most common options that people consider initially when this happens is whether to have home care services provide assistance to your loved one in their home or to consider moving them into a facility.  Both are great options depending on the needs and circumstances.

The availability of services to aid seniors in their homes is remarkable.  Not only can you get caregivers to help with the daily tasks such as bathing and dressing, but there are endless possibilities for other types of assistance as well.

You can get assistance with light housekeeping and meal preparation.  There are services that will deliver groceries to the home as well as programs like Meals on Wheels that provide a hot meal in the middle of the day to seniors that are unable to get out.

There are services to help with bill paying and managing the finances; providers that will supply transportation services to doctors appointments and other places someone might need to go (you can also pay for a companion to accompany them to the appointment). You can find help in setting up the weekly medication box.   Some services provide companions for your family member which is a great way to get a set of eyes in the house routinely if you are becoming concerned about how your parent is getting along.

Another option to be considered is moving your loved one to a Personal Care Home (often called Assisted Living although this is now the designation for a level of care between Personal Care and Skilled Care).  In the Personal Care Home environment you can expect to find a 24 hour supervision situation with somebody in the building to respond to your loved one at any time that they might need assistance.  Meals are provided and laundry and cleaning services are usually included.  Medication Technicians dispense medications as scheduled by the physician which can help with compliance if that is an issue.  Your loved one can receive assistance with bathing, dressing and toileting as they need it.

Most Personal Care facilities also have a variety of daily activities to provide opportunities for socialization with others.  There are frequently in-house activities as well as trips that your loved one can choose to participate in or not!  Many facilities have in-house physicians as well if this eases the issue of medical oversight but you are more than welcome to continue to take them to outside providers.  Some facilities may provide transportation services, others may not.  This is a great option to consider if your loved one is in need of a level of supervision that you can no longer provide yourself.  And, once you use more than about 40 hours of home care per week, this may be a more economical choice as well.

When my father was still home, he got to the point that he needed help with his bathing and dressing.  Being the stubborn person that dementia has turned him into, this was becoming a very heavy burden for my mother!  He would fall sometimes during his routine and find a way to try to blame my mother for the fall.  My mother could not physically help him up so he was left to struggle to get himself back up off of the floor.

When the physical and emotional strain became too much for Mom, we decided to get help in the home 3 days a week to assist my father with his morning routine.  We had the caregiver bathe and dress him each of the days that she was there.  Though my father was grudging about the ‘expense’ of having a caregiver, he did comment to my mother on several occasions that he felt ‘so good’ after his bath when the caregiver gave him a good back scrub!  Having the caregiver eliminated some of the in-fighting that developed between my parents during these types of activities which hopefully was a relief for both of them!  My mother got a break and my dad still got the care he needed.

These are very personal decisions.  Each family will need to become familiar with the options and services available in their local area.  Talking to different home care providers and asking lots of questions is a great way to get a feel for the types of assistance you can find.  These agencies will usually send somebody out to do an evaluation to help you determine what help might be needed.  Your local Office of Aging can also be a resource to you in finding help.  Visit several Personal Care Homes and get a feel for the staff and the type of services they provide.

Learning as much as possible about the options will allow you to make an informed decision when the need for help can no longer be ignored!

On the journey with you…….Kathy