The population is growing older and invariably not everyone will stay in optimum health. Here in Cayman most people will remain in their own homes as they grow older. If you are elderly or someone who cares for the elderly there are things that can be done to make life easier and take some of the worry away from some of the physical problems that can develop as we age.
The first thing to consider is how to arrange and make changes to the home to take into account elderly needs. Sometimes older people will not do this themselves as they are embarrassed or don’t want to be a nuisance, so if you are family or a friend take a look around a home and see what can be done to make life more comfortable for an older person. Changes do not have to be a huge undertaking; it can be a case of rearranging the home and making a few adjustments.
The first thing to look at is furniture and its lay out.
If you are not as flexible as you used to be it can be a struggle to get in and out of chairs, especially if they are low and you sink into them. Look for chairs that are firmer with arms and seats that are high enough to ease sitting down and getting up.
If you are using a wheelchair it makes sense to arrange furniture so that it gives you a wide enough space to manoeuvre easily. You also might have to consider widening doorways by removing mouldings.
Walkers are good if an elderly person is a bit unsteady on their feet and will give them a sense of security. A walker needs to be lightweight but obviously not light enough that it will tip over.
Rugs on the floor are not a good idea to have around as it is easy to trip on them and will get in the way if you have a wheelchair or stroller.
In kitchens make sure that all the things needed are in the lower shelves and cabinets for easy access.
Holding things can get more difficult as you get older so cutlery should have handles which can be easily gripped and don’t slip out of the grasp.
Round handles on doors can also present difficulties for elderly hands but they can be easily replaced with lever type handles. Similarly round taps in kitchen and bathrooms can also be replaced with lever style taps.
Toilet seats can be difficult to get up and down from. A raised toilet seat is the answer but make sure it is fitted properly so that it does not come loose. Showers should be easy to get in and out of and a shower chair and hand rails to help them get up easily as many elderly people get extremely nervous of slipping in the shower.
Replacing a fixed shower heads with a flexible hand-held shower head also makes bathing much easier.
In bedrooms install slide-out shelving, adjustable rods, baskets and other closet organisers.
A commode (portable toilet) in the bedroom is useful if someone has problems getting to the toilet especially at night.
There may come a stage where the elderly person in your care cannot use the toilet at all. There are ways to help them feel more comfortable at the same time as protecting items such as clothes and bedding. There are various products available to deal with incontinence in particular incontinence pads and pants. Pads are a bit like nappies and can be worn day and night, or during the night only. They will keep the elderly person’s skin dry, but they are also highly absorbent. You need to watch for chaffing and change the pads regularly.
Beds and bedding
If it gets to the point someone is bedridden and needs constant care, a hospital bed can be moved easily and makes life much easier for the carer.
Special under sheets are available for beds and chair beds which enable an elderly person to lie or sit on a dry surface.
Mattresses are difficult to clean at the best of times, but you can protect the mattress with a waterproof cover. You can also buy protective duvet covers and pillowcases. You should make sure that the elderly person’s skin does not come in contact with the mattress protector as this can cause sores.