- Karen McPhail, RN, BSN, MSN, CCM, CDP
Taking Advantage of Opportunities to Better Support Holistic Health
Spring is just around the corner! Most of us are looking forward to warmer weather and additional safe, opportunities for socialization, recreation, and dining! Along these lines, it is also a terrific time to take advantage of opportunities to better support holistic health!
Throughout our life we want to maintain our health and minimize risks for injury. During these times of Covid-19, health maintenance and prevention has come to the forefront and is clearly a huge focus for all! This is especially important when one has a chronic condition and of course as we grow older. Across our life span these aspects tend to become a balancing act in terms of decision making and choices. Along the way, people sometimes become frustrated and resistant to change and do not want to adapt their lifestyle or home environment, even when shown to be beneficial or even essential.
So, how do you have a home that you still love while providing for health, safety, comfort, and in minimizing risks as one grows older? Here are a few simple suggestions:
1. Take note of more than just your basic surroundings, examine your daily habits and routines. How do you or your family members manage your lifestyle and tasks? People often continue to do things the same way over the years not realizing that common tasks present a risk for falls and injury. Think about the tasks that are performed daily and try to ensure that routines are still realistic for you and if not adapt them realistically to avoid risk. An Aging Life Care Manager can assist with this!
2. Older adults are at a higher risk for falls for a variety of reasons. Play it safe by focusing on the following:
Remove small area rugs, especially with fringe as they can be a tripping hazard. Secure, tape down larger rugs along edges to minimize risk.
Inspect any flooring for cracks, sharp edges, loose boards, loose or rippling carpet, and arrange to have repaired / replaced.
Watch for any exposed cords as they also present a tripping hazard.
Declutter and organize living spaces as less is more! More congestion means more chances for tripping and injury!
Wear nonslip footwear and proper fitting clothing! Long pants, socks without treads, and slippers without the backs all present a problem and can be a recipe for injury.
Widen and ensure proper lighting in walking paths and high traffic areas especially to bathrooms to avoid falls, skin tears, and tripping hazards. This is especially important if using a walker or cane.
Examine closely your kitchen, bathroom, medicine cabinet, vanity and shower areas for any sharp cores that may present a hazard.
Consider adaptive equipment such as a walker, cane, bedside commode, elevated toilet seat, grab bars, or hand rails if balance is a concern.
Stair lift chairs can also be a cost effective way to age in place safety and minimize risk for falls and injury!
Put night lights in hallways and bathrooms. Ensure visibility to avoid injury!
Put items on lower shelves and within reach for easy access. Avoid the use of step stools as they can lead to injury and falls! Alter kitchen, bath, and dressing areas to have items at an easy to reach height. Ease of use is always best!
Encourage or consider the use of a walk in shower if possible. Avoid stepping over and into a tub. Use non-slip shower treads and secured bathmats to avoid slipping.
Look at your outdoor areas to ensure that plants are not overgrown, pathways do not have cracks or uneven areas, areas are well lit and not presenting a potential hazard. Have a plan for in climate weather in place at all times.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you are having problems with strength, balance, flexibility, or overall mobility. Often times having physical therapy and at times also occupational therapy for a period of time and being provided with a daily exercise regime to continue, will assist in maintaining strength, mobility, lessen risk of injury, and support overall safety.
3. Finally, work with an Aging Life Care specialist (Care Manager / Care Advisor) closely to complete:
Holistic long term care planning. Ensure that your expressed wishes are noted clearly and planned for!
Form an emergency plan as a part of holistic long term care planning.
Aging in place or planning considerations for relocation to a best fit care community.
Assess cognition and mood to examine and understand potential impacts, considerations, and opportunities for brain rehab work.
Review medications, potential medication side effects and interactions.
Assess vision, hearing, nutrition, mobility, home safety, and overall health as ALL these areas and others can all impact your safety and quality of life.
An RN Aging Life Care Manager can help to assess, prioritize, and even identify risks that have gone unnoticed. A positive plan can then be put in place valuing safety, preferences, and expressed wishes!
Most long term care insurance plans will cover our care management services.
If you take the time to make some simple changes, you will thank yourself later!