When you enter your house hopefully you have a closet where you can hang up your coats and put away your other outer wear. Make sure the floor area doesn’t contain any lose rugs or obstructions so that you can both pass through safely. If you do have a welcome mat make sure it is a heavy durable kind not prone to slipping. Consider no skid adhesive strips at this location if it is slippery when wet. A motion sensor light is convenient as well as a good security precaution. Consider changing the average doorknob to a lever handle type. These are very convenient especially if you have your hands full as you enter.
Security is a major concern in this area. There should be no windows in the door that could be broken to reach the door handle. A steel door will offer better protection than a wood door. You should have a deadbolt as well as a doorknob. You need to install a bell on the top corner of the door so you will hear the door ring when opened. This will deter criminals as well as alert you if your elder is trying to step out without you. There are some who suggest a double-keyed deadbolt lock on the exit door. I would advise against that. For one, I would feel like I was in jail as an elder. You want your elder to be completely comfortable. If there was a fire or you needed to exit the house quickly a keyed lock from the inside could cause problems.
Keep your elder home by offering her so much love and care she wouldn’t want to be any place else. Is the door way 36” and wide enough for a wheel chair? If you decide to upgrade this area for security reasons you want to also consider handicap options at that time. Place a big sign on the inside of the door with the word STOP on it. This helps elders with Alzheimer’s have a second thought before opening the door. On the outside of the door keep your “Anti Germ Community” as well as a, “No Soliciting” sign. View your house from the street and look for your address numbers on your house. Do they stand out and are they big enough to be easily recognized by emergency vehicles? If not consider buying new large numbers and make sure they are easy to see. Make sure no bushes or tree limbs block the view. If you have a mailbox on the road make sure the numbers are big and possibly reflective. Walk around your home in the evening at dark and see if there is any areas that need a motion sensor light to deter criminals. These are great crime deterrents.
You can buy a 911 emergency light switch for your front light fixture. It is simple to install and a big help to emergency vehicles trying to locate your house. It is a 3 way switch; on, off, and blinking. When you have an emergency simply flip the switch to the middle position to add precious seconds for a rescue team to locate you.
Be sure there is sufficient lighting. As people get older, they require twice the amount of light they needed when they were younger. For safety reasons it is important to have enough light, but not too much light that would hurt your eyes. Only buy energy star rated light bulbs. Light bulbs really use very little electricity compared to every other item in your home. Compact florescent light bulbs are energy efficient, and put out a fair amount of light.
The Patio & Fresh Air
You will both be spending many hours together indoors. Occasionally you need to slide out the door and breathe some fresh air. Wave to the mailman and watch people drive by. The fresh air and sun is healthy. Make sure you put some mosquito repellent on you both so you won’t have any critters nibbling on you and spoiling your fun. I’d put my Aunt on a padded lawn chair and after we chatted awhile and she was comfortable I’d tell her I was going to do some chores. Make sure you and your elder both have a cold drink on a hot day. I’d pick weeds, pick up twigs, and even mow the yard while she enjoyed the outside. I’d wave to her as I drove by on the mower. If you have to cut your grass you need to be careful nothing shoots out of the mower injuring your elder. I would always make sure the shoot was pointed the other direction. Another thing is you have to keep an eye on them the whole time. That concrete is not soft and they may have a quick urge to get to the bathroom. It only takes them a few seconds to be gone. The mower is so loud it wouldn’t do her any good to yell for your assistance. So I would mow the small front yard in a hurry and keep a close eye on her while we were outside. Then when she was napping in her chair I would mow the back yard constantly riding by the scenic window to make sure she was where she was supposed to be and safe.
The reason I was always so cautious about my Aunt strolling around by herself versus with my assistance is because if an elderly person falls and breaks a bone such as a hip – it is all-downhill from there. As you mature your skin gets more sensitive and can tear easily. Your bones become fragile and can break far to easy. I wasn’t going to take any chances.
To make watering the yard a little more simple and fun you can buy decorative water sprayers that roll across your yard so you don’t have to move it. My Aunt would enjoy watching the little tractor sprinkler we had strut across the yard.
Use of mosquito repellents can irritate your elder. Mosquito’s carrying deadly diseases for elders such as West Nile disease is something to take very serious for the elderly. There is a product called “mosquito barrier” that uses the natural smell of Garlic to drive mosquitoes, fleas, & ticks, away from your yard. If you have pets you don’t want to have a flea problem. They use this product for golf courses. You simply spray the product on your yard and it repels insects for months. I would use an Avon product called Skin so Soft. It works & smells good.
This is the most dangerous room and needs to be given extra attention. The sheet vinyl floor when wet and barefoot is dangerous even for a physically capable person. If this floor gets wet you want to dry it up immediately. Putting rugs on this floor could be unsafe as well. What if your relative wakes up in the middle of the night, barefoot, and doesn’t make it to the bathroom in time. She makes it to the toilet, does her business and then on her way back to bed she slips on the wet floor and hits her head on the porcelain tub? This is a terrible thought, but a mental exercise that you are going to have to practice. Your job is to keep her safe. If something bad happens to her, forget about what other siblings are going to think, just focus on how bad you are going to feel. Luckily neither my Aunt nor I ever had a spill. We almost did. Had I not been in great physical condition we would have had a bad fall. I hope you and your loved one never have a dangerous fall either. You should change the doorknob on the bathroom and replace it with a lock that can’t be locked. Your elder could lock it and not be able to get out. Do not keep cleaning products in the bathroom and be sure to lock up any medications. A night-light is good for midnight visits.
If you have a regular problem of the floor being wet you may want to consider putting some sand paper strips on the floor or a thin exterior wall-to-wall carpet. I believe in respecting privacy but you are going to have to use situational ethics. Once I peaked in the bathroom door and my Aunt had my toothbrush and it looked like she was going to put it down her pants. I don’t know if she had an itch or if she was retaliating against me for some reason, but I’m sure glad I poked my head in the room. Secure the toothbrushes.
Keep the floor dry
Exchange doorknob for closet lock
Remove medications and cleaning items from reach
Place a clock in bathroom to closely monitor and time visits
Install an arm rail close to toilet for assistance standing
This is definitely one room that you want to keep your eyeballs pealed on your relative at all times. You don’t want her fooling with her medicine; sharp objects and you sure don’t want to make her mad if there is an iron skillet near her.
Their chair should be the easiest chair to get to as soon as she enters the kitchen. That’s her spot. Make sure the chair is comfortable with some kind of cushion – not all wood. You also want to make sure she can maneuver the chair around and it might be best if the chair had arms for her comfort.
I’d advise against having a tablecloth because this could cause a dangerous situation. Consider using decorative place mats on the table. I used a farm scenery place mat with cows, chickens and a barn. These can be a lot of fun. I’d say, “mooooo” in the morning and tell her it was the cow on the place mat. She would smile and point at the different animals.
When you arrive at the table she is going to be thirsty so water and coffee is the first order of business along with some personal chat. If she has a stuffy nose give her a Kleenex. Make sure she is fully awake and comfortable before you give her the meds. You take your vitamins as she swallows her pills so she doesn’t feel alone. Make sure she gets a vitamin too. Try to find a small multi vitamin for her. Your doctor may be able to help you with this. If she has meds that are to be taken after the meal, set it to the side where you can see it and then bring her breakfast. Monitor her closely at all meals so she doesn’t choke. Sometimes the mind and the mouth motor skills skip a beat. Constantly tell her to chew her food well. Eat beside her and tell her that Betty Crocker doesn’t have anything on you; your breakfast is the best there is. SMILE and enjoy your meal.
Throw away any chipped or broken dishes because of bacteria & cuts
Use a dishwasher because it sterilizes dishes & makes life easier. The extra cost of the electric bill doesn’t compare to the peace of mind of clean dishes.
Put a slice of bread in Tupperware container with cookies to keep them soft
When you crush pills & add to applesauce add a little sugar to cover the taste
Keep a fire extinguisher and first aid kit easy to reach
If they don’t like veggies such as corn add a teaspoon of
sugar to sweeten it. Be careful of corn & heat thoroughly
because it is easy to catch botulism from it
Keep a bottle of limejuice in the kitchen. If you or your loved one gets the hiccups take one good swallow of lime juice and if the first swallow doesn’t stop them, the second swallow will. It doesn’t taste bad at all.
The first step is to choose which bedroom your relative gets. Your best bet is to give her a room either with a bathroom or directly across the hall. If you think your brain is foggy when you get up, try adding another 20-40 years on top of it.
There is a new kind of waterless toilet available now called a compost toilet. Many people don’t realize it but water shortages across the world are becoming more common. They are used in basements or in the wilderness where water is not available. They are easy to install and can be put anywhere. I’ll include more info in the basement section but it occurred to me that it might be convenient to place one of these in the bedroom.
● During the winter you may want to use 2 blankets or 1 heavy quilt to be sure to keep them warm.
● Use a night-light.
● Use egg crate on her bed to avoid pressure sores.
● Consider an intercom system to monitor her from your bedroom.
● Install illuminated light switches to help her locate it.
● Don’t have any lose rugs.
● Remove casters from bed to make it safe & sturdy – use blocks to elevate if needed.
● Place extra pair of footsies in her night stand drawer.
● Place her nightgowns and dresses in her closet that are easy to reach for her and you.
● Make sure to remove her hearing aid every night.
● Use a humidifier if she gets sick.
● Put talcum powder on her sheets to keep skin dry
Ergonomics, also known as human factors engineering; the science of designing machines, systems and products, to maximize the, comfort, safety and efficiency of the people who use them. Ergonomics is used to study how to design an area to be more efficient and use less movement and energy. You need to apply this science to every room and every chore you do. Stop and try to focus on using less energy. Ask advice from lazy people because they are natural experts in this field. Set up each area to use less energy and movement. Think about what you can buy that will improve your life and make things easier. Where is your clock located and how far do you need to crane your neck to see it? If you increase the size of both you and your elders drinking glasses you can eliminate many trips to the kitchen. Where can you place the trashcan to eliminate steps, or buy another trashcan? Every movement you make uses energy and you should try to minimize your motions. It is hard enough to take care of us, let alone another person. So use your energy wisely, and be gentle with your body.
It is important to note that moving hospital patients in and out of beds, is one of the leading causes of work-related back injuries. Consider all of the additional demands on your body as you transfer them between bed and chair, reposition them in bed, or lifting them out of the tub. Study this area carefully and try to minimize the effort needed by using items or others to assist you. There are hydraulic chairs available that raise up and make it easier for elders to get to the standing position. You can buy seats that are placed in the bathtub to ease your lifting load. You only get one back and as a caregiver you can’t afford to injure it.
Ergonomics is mostly designed for work and the interaction between man and machine so not much study has been done for the caregiver in the home environment. So do your own research and ask your nurse or doctor for any tips in reference to ergonomics.
You will both be spending most of your time in this room so you will want to make it as comfortable as possible. Hopefully you have a decent size picture window or sliding glass doors so you can both enjoy the scenic views outside. This will create so much fun and opportunities for humorous chat.
I arranged our living room with a small table between two comfy recliners. I used this table to place our drinks. The table was only 14” wide so I could hold her hand in the evenings when she would get nervous, or be able to reach her if needed. I had a footstool that I would place her feet on that was more comfy and easier on her heart. I always had a throw to cover her with to keep her warm. She thanked me every time I put it on her so I believe your elder would appreciate it also. We had a clear walkway from the entrance to our chairs. The TV was in the corner beside the sliding glass door. So we had the option of watching outdoors or the television. For her enjoyment I placed two Shepard hooks outside so she could view the birds. I planted perennial flowers and she would help me water them and watch them grow. The local squirrels saw the bird feeders and made a point to come visit us as well. Each time an animal comes you can share an excited experience with your relative.
Once to liven things up a bit the squirrels and I had a disagreement. They would eat all of the birds’ food and I told my Aunt that I would fix them. I took some water based KY jelly in a paper towel and I lubed the Sheppard’s pole real good. So it wasn’t long before the squirrel came to take the birds food and he some how made it ¾ of the way up the pole but that was as far as he got. You should have saw the look on that squirrels face as he slowly slid down the pole. Then you should have saw the laughter and huge smile on my Aunt’s face. (There were 31 trees in our yard and that squirrel had plenty of nuts, he didn’t need to be taking food from the birds.) The eye catches things that move. It keeps you alert and your minds active as well as giving you something to share together. A scenic room is a must
You will be doing a lot of laundry and you need to make sure you design this area of your home ergonomically. Ideally, you would want a closet area where you can hang up clothes as soon as they pop out of the dryer. This is much easier and less time consuming then folding clothes, besides that, it creates less wrinkles and you and your elder will look better.
Make sure the poisonous detergents are unreachable.
Copyright 2006 by Dale B. Adams
All rights reserved