As we age, Canadian’s have a lot of things to consider. One of the most important is where we see ourselves living for the remainder of our lives. For the majority of people that is an easy answer – ‘my own home’! After all, isn’t that where we are the happiest, the most content, orientated? Where every corner holds a memory, the yard our children played in and the neighborhood full of friends….that sounds like home to me!
The fact that we would all like to stay in our own homes goes without saying, however, there are some safeguards that often need to be implemented to ensure our safety and well-being. As we age we experience some physical and psychological changes. Our bones tend to weaken, our muscles lose strength, our gait becomes unsteady, our balance digresses; these are all things that can make us a risk of injury due to falls. We can also go through some cognitive changes that are often hard to recognize in ourselves, but may be easily seen by our family and friends. These changes may include decreasing memory, poor decision making, inability to manage own finances, poor nutrition or failure to turn off the stove. These psychological changes can impact a person’s or a families decision as to whether we can stay in our own homes safely.
I am a firm believer in ‘where there’s a will – there is a way’. I believe every person can remain in their own home if they have insight, or their family does, to their needs and limitations. We accommodate small children’s needs in the homes all the time, whether it is by putting locks on the cabinets, or baby gates on the stairs, the same safety approaches can be taken for the elderly.
Suggestions to promote safety in the home include:
Other things to consider are having your family physician refer you to an Occupational Therapist (OT) to ensure all your mobility and safety needs are being met. An OT may recommend floor to ceiling poles to help you up and down from your bed or chairs. They can also instruct you on the type of raised toilet seats, shower/bath chairs, reaching/grabbing devices, aids to help you dress yourself, walkers, wheelchairs, etc.
Often as we age, we find ourselves no longer able to do everything on our own. Daily tasks like housecleaning, going to the doctor, shopping, and bathing can become bothersome, physically hard, can create a safety risk and sometimes they are easy to forget. Keeping track of our medications, when to take them, with or without food, can also create problems for the elderly. If you find yourself, or your loved ones, in this situation then it is time to look for outside help.
Outside help could come from the RHA Home Care department, or you could call a private home care company that specializes in elder care. A reputable private home care company should have a Nurse at the helm, be able to show you their employee’s credentials (certification, CPR, special training, etc), as well as provide you with several references and their phone numbers. Sometimes private care is thought to be expensive, but the nice thing about it is you get individualized personal care that fits your needs. I firmly believe you get what you pay for. You could hire a company that charges $18/hour or you could hire one that charges $25/hour. They may both claim to provide the same services, however, remember the old adage – ‘you get what you pay for’? The costs associated with a private company may also be covered by your personal health insurance (Blue Cross, Great West Life, Manulife, etc). Other avenues to have it paid for include: Manitoba Public Insurance (if you have been in an accident and they authorize it); Veteran’s Affairs (depending on the type of service you did for our country); or Self/Family Managed Care, which is a program offered by the RHA Home Care department which has eligibility criteria.
If living your life in your own home means making accommodations which take into account your physical surroundings and your personal needs, then I say Go For It! Check out your options, discuss it with your friends and family, consult your family doctor and a home care expert. Take all the necessary steps to ensure many more happy, but safe, years in your home!
By Gail Freeman-Campbell, LPN
CEO, Daughter On Call