PROVIDENCE – Seventy percent of all Americans will need some form of nursing home, assisted living or home care service in their lifetimes, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
And, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicates that people 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those between the ages of 65 and 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or more.
Here are some simple steps you can take now to help make a senior citizen’s home – or one that he or she visits – safer. With these steps, a senior citizen may be more likely to safely reside in his or her own home.
• Safety first
Improve the lighting in the home. Remove throw rugs. Affix non-slip strips on the bathtub floor. Put all appliances, dishes and silverware within easy reach. Add safety rails in the shower, bathtub and near the toilet. Program telephones with emergency numbers. Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working condition. Remove clutter that could interfere with any movement throughout the home. Avoid stairs as much as possible by having the living space on one level. If this is not possible, add railings to both sides of stairways.
• Schedule regular visits
Regular visits provide a sense of security and relieve many concerns for seniors; for example, a regularly scheduled visitor or aide may be able to help with preparing meals, doing laundry and housecleaning and running errands, etc. Whether you hire outside professionals or perform these chores yourself for your senior citizen family member, make sure that visiting times are set at consistent, regular intervals.
• Improve quality of life
Exercise relieves stress, increases coping abilities, wards off exhaustion and keeps weight consistent. Ideally, exercise for senior citizens will focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance. Drink enough water every day. Encourage creative outlets such as painting, drawing, playing music, writing or recording family history. Go out to dinner with a loved one or have a “cooking date” at home.
• Healthy Communication
Understand your senior citizen-relative’s values. Find humor in any situation if possible. Talk about positive memories and important people from your senior’s life. Listen to his or her deepest thoughts and concerns.
• Skilled Professional Services
Medication management is a key component in improving a senior’s quality of life. Over-medication, a widespread problem, can be displayed in many ways. For example, overly medicated seniors may manifest symptoms of early-onset dementia. Ask your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist to review his or her medications – both prescription and over-the counter – to identify harmful interactions or side effects.
Schedule eye exams at least once a year and update eyeglasses’ prescriptions to maximize vision. Consider getting one pair with single vision lenses for distance and another pair for reading, as the eye muscles in an aging individual are not as strong and take longer to focus.
Geriatric care managers, who provide comprehensive, knowledgeable oversight for seniors and their families, help ensure senior citizens’ safety at home, provide families with an objective viewpoint if conflicts arise, accompany seniors to doctors’ appointments so information is understood and important questions are answered, work in conjunction with lawyers and financial providers to ensure resources are protected and put social and personal care supports in place.
Jane E. Korb, M.A. (787-2881 or email@example.com), works throughout Rhode Island as a geriatric care manager. She holds a master of arts degree in rehabilitation counseling.
This is one of a series of business profiles about local businesses, some of which advertise with The Jewish Voice.