How to live independently for longer, and do so more safely
The goal for most of us is to be able to stay in our homes and apartments, living independently, for as long as possible.
There are resources available to help make this goal more achievable, even as we age and we face increased mobility and other physical challenges.
Most falls happen in the bathroom so it is important to make this room as safe a place as possible. Consider adding grab bars for the bath, shower and toilet areas. These can either be permanently affixed to the wall or some models latch onto the walls with suction cups rather than being drilled. Grab bars don’t take up much space and can be added to almost every bathroom layout and design.
Grip mats for in and out of the bath are an affordable way to help prevent slips due to the bathtub surface being slippery or the mat itself sliding on the floor. Also, there are many models of shower chairs for sitting in the bath and transfer benches to help you get in and out of the tub available. These options cost much less than a more major bathroom retro fit and allow for greater accessibility. Be sure to know the measurements of both the room and the tub before making any chair or bench purchases.
Some other safety devices that are available include “reachers” – pincher like long sticks for grabbing items without having to bend down - as well as any number of styles of canes and walkers to help get around. Be sure that you select one with rubber tips for greater stability
It is also a good idea to keep a list of emergency contact numbers by your telephone. Even if it is the number of a friend or loved one you call all the time, it is easy to forget things when stressed or upset. Consider using the speaker or hands-free setting on your telephone so you do not have to hold the phone as you walk. This keeps your hands free and helps prevent tripping over phone cords.
There are also many different companies offering Emergency Response Systems (ERS) that will automatically call for help at the push of a button. A fall or other medical emergency is not likely to happen next to the telephone and these systems – worn around the neck or wrist – ensure that help is always at hand.
Here are some tips for selecting the ERS that is best for you. Pick a system that will dial for help even when the phone is off the hook or engaged. This is called “seizing the line”. Make sure you find the button easy to push and the system comfortable to use – and make sure it is waterproof! The system should monitor 24/7 as a fall or other situation could happen at any time of the day or night. Some systems are portable and so will monitor even outside the home. This might be of interest to you, though it may also increase the cost.
Which of course leads to the price. The majority of companies charge a monthly fee for service. However, they should not charge for rental of the equipment required to run the monitor and you want to know upfront whether your monthly fee will ever increase. Be sure to read the contract carefully so you know the terms of cancelling the agreement. Also repairs of the system should be included in the monthly service charge.
An ERS can put your mind at ease and help you feel more secure staying in your home. But be sure to do some research before signing with any company.