Caring for the elderly in their own home is a challenge faced by many families. As we age, daily life can become difficult, yet many elderly people choose to live in their own homes rather than move to residential care. Older people often prefer to stay in their familiar surroundings where they feel comfortable, safe and near to family and friends.
However, this brings its own issues, particularly those related to health and mobility difficulties. For families with elderly loved ones living in their own homes, mobility and safety can become a source of stress and anxiety. Daily activities and tasks such as getting out of bed, using the bathroom, or preparing a hot drink can lead to falls and injuries. At this time of year, cold snaps become more common, these sudden falls and temperatures can only complicate matters further
Keeping Yourself Safe When Caring for Elderly in Their Own Home
There’s no doubt that caring for someone at home can be very rewarding, but it can also take its toll on family members, both physically and emotionally. At O’Flynn Medical, we supply a range of products, such as hoists and hospital-style beds, to make caring for the elderly in their own home easier and safer. This equipment can help the elderly have more independence and reduce your risk of injury coming from heavy lifting.
When caring for an older person with mobility problems, an adjustable hospital bed is an indispensable piece of equipment. Profiling hospital beds reduce the risk of falls and optimise comfort and safety for both the user and carers.
When a person spends long periods in bed and cannot move around much, they risk developing pressure ulcers. A medical air mattress creates movement underneath a patient who has low mobility thus helping to prevent pressure ulcers from forming or treating existing pressure ulcers.
Person hoists and standing aids can be invaluable in assisting people with mobility issues to get in and out of bed or to transfer from an armchair to a wheelchair, for example. There are many types of hoists designed to help with specific client requirements. For example, the Verteo sit-to-stand lift is designed for people who find it difficult to stand from a sitting position. Grip handles make it easy to maneuver while transferring someone between seats, and the sling attachment is designed for maximum user comfort and safety. The design also features an emergency stop and remote control.
A wheelchair is often essential for anyone with mobility issues, allowing them to easily get active or move from room to room. There are wheelchairs to suit all requirements, including self-propelled wheelchairs, reclining wheelchairs, and lightweight folding wheelchairs that are easy to stow in the car boot.
Ensure your loved one is sitting comfortably with a rise and recliner, comfort or high-back chair.
A lift chair such as the Vermeiren Rise’n’Recline chair allows you to relax while watching TV or lie back and take a nap at the touch of a button. It also tilts in such a way that will assist you to a standing position.
Can you rent medical equipment when caring for the elderly in their own home?
Medical equipment can be costly, so people sometimes rent for a short-term period. Renting medical equipment is a very convenient option if you have a family member coming to stay for a holiday or recuperate after a fall or post-surgery. Having the correct equipment in place allows the person to retain their independence and makes it easier for a carer to help them transfer safely from bed to chair, for example.
At O’Flynn Medical, most of our medical equipment is available for rent and fully decontaminated.
See some of our options below:
How to Keep Elderly Safe in Their Own Home
Caring for the elderly in their own home can be a hugely daunting task. Here are some points to bear in mind:
- As a first step, find out how much help your loved one really needs. Write a list of tasks they need help with and work out how you can support them.
- Remove or minimise trip hazards to reduce the risk of falls. Ensure that stairs and steps are well-lit, remove loose rugs and keep the floor clutter-free. Make sure slippers fit well and don’t fall off. For more help on this topic, check out our previous blog post on Elderly Fall Prevention – The Best Practices and Guidelines
- Fit grab rails or handles where necessary, for example, beside the bath, toilet or next to a step.
- Encourage daily gentle exercise to maintain strength and mobility.
- Store things where the person can reach them – avoid using high cupboards where steps are required to reach them.
- Install lighting outside the front and back doors, especially where there are steps. If the person has poor vision, adding strips of visibility tape to the edge of steps and where there is a change of floor level can be helpful.
- Ensure that the person eats a nutritious diet. Look out for local services providing hot meals or consider ready meals that can be quickly heated in the microwave.
- Keep the house warm, avoiding extremes of cold and providing plenty of hot drinks and regular hot meals.
Here’s what the experts have to say –
“First and foremost, it is important to have a good understanding of the resident’s basic mobility, their needs, and their disease process at a base level. This helps us track any change in their overall health due to the cold weather and work towards correcting any concerns that may arise. Once we have a true understanding of those factors, we can focus on how to help our elderly population fight through the winter months.” – Zehra Dhanani, Director of Client Care Services, Legacy Homecare
“Help the elderly with shopping and some errands. With the wintry weather and shorter days, it can be hard for them to get active and stay warm. Offer help in picking up groceries, collecting prescriptions, or posting mail. Equip the home for the chilly days. Make sure the heating is working properly. If not, get it fixed and prepare blankets and warm clothing. Also, assess hazardous areas. Winter weather can create hazards like slippery sidewalks and icy front door stairs. Check these areas for any potential risks and fix or remove them. Stay connected. The winter months can be isolating, especially for elderly or vulnerable people who may not get out much. Help them stay connected by checking in on them regularly and visiting them, especially if they live alone. A simple phone call can also make a difference. Lastly, frostbite and hypothermia can be serious health risks in cold weather, so if you have an elderly person who is at risk, keep an eye out for signs such as pale skin, numbness in extremities, or shivering. If you are concerned, seek medical advice immediately.” – Dr Michael May, MD at Wimpole Clinic.
“The elderly are particularly vulnerable to viral, bacterial, and fungal infections if they also have associated comorbidities. With aging, the body’s ability to adapt to lower temperatures and the cold also reduces. Therefore, when it comes to eldercare during the winter, it’s important to have a healthy body and suitable temperature in the home. During these months, it’s also crucial to make sure those most vulnerable eat warm, nutrient-rich meals. Ensure they are dressed warmly. Long-term exposure to colder temperatures can cause the heart rate to slow down, raising the risk of hypothermia, heart attacks, and stroke.” – Brian Clark, BSN, MSNA, Founder @ United Medical Education
Lastly, if there are other family members or neighbours nearby who can help, delegate some tasks to spread the burden. This could involve a specific task such as collecting medications, shopping and taking the older person for a walk or to an appointment or moving in for a few days to give the primary carer a break.