The economics of aging-in-place home modifications are compelling, especially in comparison to the cost and trauma of a single fall for an older adult. Aging in place not only offers seniors an improved quality of life, it is fiscally sound as well, saving Americans billions in avoided costs. Empowering individuals to live at home rather than in institutional settings will yield a significant cost savings to Medicaid—and to taxpayers.
It is not just our fiscal responsibility, but our moral responsibility to ensure every American, no matter their age or ability, has the opportunity to live out their later years however they wish—and with the support and dignity they deserve.
Simple home modifications can provide the stability needed to age confidently at home.
Today, many active seniors find it is far more cost-efficient to make home improvements to accommodate the effects of aging rather than seek out a facility that meets all their unique needs.
According to NAHB, moving to a typical assisted living facility can cost upwards of $60,000 per year each year while the cost to widen a bathroom door, put in safety bars and a roll-in shower should typically cost closer to the vicinity of $8,000 — which is a one-time expense instead of a yearly drain on a homeowner’s finances.
Aging-in-place remodeling projects that saw the largest increases over the past five years were additional lighting (also known as “task lighting”), showers without curbs, bathtub grab bars, non-slip floors and widened doorways. The most popular exterior improvements include ramps or “zero step” entrances, package shelves near front doors, handrails installed at existing steps and porch or front door sidelights.
As we go into September, National Falls Prevention Month, we are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic across the US and the world. We have been sheltering in place by mandate or choice. Yet, the risks of falling do not decrease with fewer outings! And the challenges of caregiving have grown as personal visits have not been possible for many families. So there are different ways to approach the risks of falling and possible solutions but, most importantly, we need to have the conversations about falls. Falls Prevention Awareness Week, September 21-25, 2020, is designed to spread this important public health message.
Falls are a leading cause of lost independence and mobility; often leaving seniors unable to fully recover from the trauma. Their overall health declines, and care needs increase significantly. People aged 65 and older have a 25% greater chance of falling. And if someone has fallen once, their chances of falling again doubles. It seems like common sense — everybody falls, no matter what age. However, for many older adults, an unexpected fall can result in a serious and costly injury. The good news is that most falls can be prevented. If you are the caregiver, you have the power to reduce your loved one’s risk of falling, and your own fall risk as well.
The National Council on Aging in partnership with the National Alliance for Caregiving has prepared a Conversation Guide to help caregivers and family members discuss the importance of fall risk reduction. Taking the action and beginning the conversation is the first step. It is not easy to tell a family member or friend that you are concerned about their safety or chances of falling. So, the use of supportive language is a great place to start, perhaps with an offer to follow-up on a wellness appointment so the discussion of fall risks can be part of an overall conversation. As with all conversations, positive tone and body language is vital.
Remember, this conversation may have to happen more than once to gather the full view of the risks and encourage participation. In addition to wellness checks for medication management concerns, the annual eye exam can be crucial. Subtle changes in vision can reduce depth perception, making even stepping out of the house or off a curb more dangerous. If your family member wears transition lenses which change with the ambient light, one strategy may be to simply stop and wait for the time to allow the lenses and, therefore, the vision to adjust before walking further. Extra lighting along outdoor pathways and interior hallways can reduce the chance of not seeing the tripping hazard that may be present.
Doing an evaluation of the home for safety hazards can be done, even with social distancing! As the caregiver, if you look for the tripping hazards or the ways to make every day activities easier; such as a handheld shower or grab bars, it’s a start and part of the safety conversation. The safety of your loved one reduces your stress and worry as the caregiver. You can reach out for a professional to assist you in a comprehensive home safety assessment as well, if you are not near your loved one.
Age Safe® America develops training programs and certifications to empower senior services providers to better help decrease falls and fall-related injuries.
The second week of September each year marks the celebration of National Kinesiotherapy Week. Age Safe® America and its members proudly join the American Kinesiotherapy Association (AKTA) to salute the professionals who provide these services and to call attention to the rehabilitative and fitness needs of the community.
A Kinesiotherapist is a registered allied health professional trained in the use of scientifically based exercise principles to enhance physical and functional capabilities of an individual. Kinesiotherapists are specialists in movement science that develop, monitor and modify exercise routines for individuals to regain strength and function after an injury, illness or prolonged inactivity. Their expertise can encompass a variety of mobility skills other than exercise, such as but not limited to ambulation, driver training, and prosthetic and/or orthotic rehabilitation. It enables military veterans and private citizens who have been seriously injured or suffer from chronic conditions to live healthy, vibrant lives.
Kinesiotherapy (formerly Corrective Therapy) has been an integral part of the Veteran’s Administration’s Rehabilitation Medicine Service since 1941, this rehabilitation discipline was created during WWII to return active duty soldiers to the front lines as quickly and effectively as possible.
Today, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the single largest employer of Kinesiotherapists providing services to Veterans and Servicemembers through a holistic approach to overall patient care emphasizing psychological as well as physical benefits of therapeutic exercise and education within the acute and post-acute rehabilitation process. Over 80% of registered Kinesiotherapist work in VA facilities around the country.
Kinesiotherapists apply specialty training and certifications in their evidence-based practice across the continuum of care for Veterans with a wide spectrum of neurologic, orthopedic, mental health, surgical, and medical conditions, including special populations such as stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury (TBI), amputation, homeless, and geriatric patients.
Adults aged 65 and over are the largest and fastest growing age group in our society. Historically, older members of our society were valued for their vast knowledge and contributions to society. Unfortunately, older adulthood is not universally celebrated and valued here in the US. Ageism (negative attitudes and behavior toward older adults) continues to be a serious national problem. Senior Citizens Day was created as a day to support, honor, and show appreciation to our seniors and to recognize their achievements. President Reagan established this day in 1988 and the Proclamation is still relevant today.
“Throughout our history, older people have achieved much for our families, our communities, and our country. That remains true today, and gives us ample reason this year to reserve a special day in honor of the senior citizens who mean so much to our land.
With improved health care and more years of productivity, older citizens are reinforcing their historical roles as leaders and as links with our patrimony and sense of purpose as individuals and as a Nation. Many older people are embarking on second careers, giving younger Americans a fine example of responsibility, resourcefulness, competence, and determination. And more than 4.5 million senior citizens are serving as volunteers in various programs and projects that benefit every sector of society. Wherever the need exists, older people are making their presence felt — for their own good and that of others.
For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older — places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.”
In honor of this day, call your grandparents, mother, father, brother, sister, or old high school teacher; and tell them that you appreciate everything they have done for you. Today is also a great day to volunteer at a retirement home and visit someone who may not receive many visitors.
Creating a safe home environment for senior citizens starts with the bathroom — the place where, for the elderly, most at-home accidents occur. Whether it’s a slip in the shower or tripping on the way to the restroom at night, falls and injuries are especially common in the bathroom. To improve bathroom safety at home, you need to know how to handle the hazards. Here are some important bathroom safety tips to help keep you or your loved ones safe.
1. INSTALL GRAB BARS Grab bars give you something to hold when you’re getting into and out of the shower. They also offer a way to catch yourself if you’re about to fall. Add grab bars and safety rails to the shower/ tub and near the toilet. Make sure they’re anchored well enough to support an adult’s weight.
2. ADD NON-SKID SURFACES While skid-proof decals are a step in the right direction, they don’t cover the entire bathtub surface, so slips are still possible. Look instead for a mat that covers the surface of the bathtub floor. Likewise, you may want to add a mat with a rubber backing to the bathroom floor.
3. PUT IN NIGHTLIGHTS For those middle-of-the-night trips back and forth to the bathroom, nightlights add illumination that can make all the difference between seeing your way safely to the restroom and tripping on something along the way.
4. LOWER THE WATER TEMPERATURE Set the whole-house water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower so that an elderly person is less likely to get burned.
5. PROVIDE SEATING Extended periods of standing to brush teeth, wash up for bed, etc., can be wearying to an elderly body. Add seating to the bathroom so a person can sit while getting ready. Likewise, consider adding a shower chair with a rigid back that allows for a seated position while showering.
6. RAISE THE TOILET SEAT To prevent overexertion from having to go to the bathroom, add a raised toilet seat that makes sitting down and getting up much easier. For anyone with knee pain, hip pain, joint pain, etc., this can be a great, practical way to improve bathroom safety.
7. HAVE ITEMS WITHIN REACH Whether it’s shampoo and conditioner easily reachable in the shower, or toothpaste and soap easy accessible at the sink, keep items in the places where you use them. This helps eliminate unnecessary reaching, searching and standing — and the potential for accidents that comes with them.
8. PROVIDE SUPERVISION In some cases, the best and most important way to protect a senior citizen in the bathroom is through the care of a loved one. Whether it’s a relative, friend or home health aide, having someone nearby greatly reduces the chance of serious injury.
Being diagnosed with dementia is life altering, not only for the one who has the disease, but also their friends and family. Most people are overwhelmed with all the new precautions and information they are given at diagnosis. We’ve done the research for you to help make this difficult time just a bit easier. Here are tips for caring for loved ones with dementia, and memory care activities for seniors.
Try to Ease Frustrations
One of the side effects that is common with dementia is increased agitation and frustration. Mayo Clinic gives essential tips on how to help alleviate these side effects.
Make a daily routine- By maintaining a daily routine such as waking up and going to bed around the same time, this can help limit confusion among your loved one. Also, notice when your loved one is most alert and try to schedule doctors appointments or bathing during those times.
Be patient- Simple tasks may become longer than they used so make extra time when scheduling out your loved one’s day. And always try to be patient, you have to remember this is a difficult time for your loved one as well.
Give independence- Try to allow your loved one to do daily activities or tasks by themselves, or with little assistance, if they are able to. This can be done simply by laying out their clothes and having them dress themselves. This will help bring some normalcy to a difficult time.
Avoid napping- Your loved one may often be exhausted and want to lay down for a midday nap. Do not let them do this. This will disrupt their sleep cycle and leave them feeling restless at night. Perhaps try to recommend doing activities, such as going for a walk instead of taking a nap.
Give choices- Allow your loved one to make some of their own choices, however, be supervised by you. For example, give them two choices of outfits and they can choose one they want to wear. Or you can have them choose between going for a walk or playing a board game.
Seniors with dementia may often forget about activities they once used to love. As a caregiver, try your best to incorporate those activities back into their everyday life, as they can help stimulate their memory and emotional connections. Here are some activities your loved one can do:
Read Books, Newspapers, Magazines
Arts and Crafts
Take long walks
Sing and Dance
Make their environment as safe as possible
Dementia also affects one’s ability to make judgements and their problem solving skills. These losses can often lead to an increased chance in one being harmed if precautions aren’t taken. Mayo Clinic provides some guidelines to help ensure your loved one is protected while at home.
Try to prevent falls- Loss of stability can be common in dementia, therefore making extra precautions to avoid falls is highly recommended. Put handrails and grab bars in areas where your loved one may be prone to fall i.e. the bathroom, shower. Check out these home safety tips for seniors from Age Safe® America.
Install locks- Place locks on doors leading outside. This will help prevent your loved one from wandering off when you are not home or when you are in a different room. It is also important to place locks onto cabinets that contain items such as sharp utensils, alcohol, or medicine, that can cause harm to your loved one.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
It is very important to not neglect yourself while caring for a loved one with dementia. HelpGuide notes to create a personal support plan so you don’t neglect your own health while caring for someone with dementia.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help- Reach out to family and friends if you are needing some help or simply just need a break. Try to schedule breaks throughout the day for time for yourself. Incorporate hobbies and activities that you enjoy into your daily routine to help boost your mood and health. It is also important to remember that you are not neglecting your loved one by taking care of yourself. You need to take care of yourself to better take care of your loved one.
Join a support group- It is integral to remember that you are not alone during this time. There are other caregivers out there who are willing to help and give tips and advice on caring for a loved one with dementia.
Plan your life outside of caregiving- Schedule time for your family. It can be easy to forget to spend time with family and friends while you are caring for a loved one with dementia. Make time and plan activities with your friends and family outside of caregiving to maintain your health.
Exercise- Try to exercise at least 30 minutes each day. Exercising can help increase endorphins, thus boost your mood throughout the day.
Relieve stress- Don’t bottle up all your stress. Talk to someone about what you are going through. This could be a friend, family member or a therapist.
Caring for a loved one with dementia can be scary and uncertain. But there are tips out there to help you alleviate some of the stress that comes along with being a caregiver, as well as help your loved one with their cognitive skills. Make sure to take extra precautions and to always make some time for yourself.
Melissa Andrews is the Content Marketing Strategist for Paradise Living Centers, an assisted living center for seniors with locations in Paradise Valley and Phoenix, Arizona. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and going on hiking trips with her siblings and c