YOU and Your Doctor Are Your Medical Team – October 2022

Part of my nursing career  experience  included  making  home visits of clients  to check for  hazards and improve  home  safety, specially for people who  lived alone  and / or was a senior. As I was the primary caregiver for my Mom, I thought I would do the same ‘evaluation’ for my Mom’s house. This was during a time period when many ‘things’ that existed several years later, were not available at that time— like a push button like: “I fell and can’t get up,” or cell phones. With a trip to Radio Shake I got phone wire and phone jacks, and installed additional phones:  in the bathroom, next to my Moms bed [with a flash light], and one in the kitchen in addition to the ‘normal’ one in the living room. 

“Adaptive’ [safety] equipment was put in place. Things added to the bathroom were: a raised toilet seat with arms, a shower bench that sat partially inside the  shower and outside on the bathroom floor to make transfers in and out easier and safe than a shower chair  [there was  a 2  foot ‘wall’ to climb over into the tub]  a hand- held shower hose and grab bars on two different walls to help with getting up and down inside the shower. Then extra lighting was added [bright automatic night lights] especially for ‘pathways’ that Mom would use at night time— like hallway from her bedroom to the bathroom.

My Mom was a smart woman- she put safety before “pride” – she had been using  a  walker for several months. Using the walker also reminded her dog not to walk too close to her and maybe bump her causing a fall. She had no ‘throw rugs’  so  that was  one hazard we did not have to remove. 

In the kitchen things were rearranged, putting the most used every day items, i.e.  glassware and dishes on lower shelves for easier access. As my Mom’s hands  were  not as strong as they used to be due to her Arthritis  she was worried about dropping  glasses and dishes. I bought  some very  pretty plastic glasses and dishes that were  lighter in weight, easy to handle, and not a problem if dropped. I also  got  Mom’s  dog “ Thunder” [a rescue Dobe] new plastic bowls for her food and water, making it easier for Mom to handle.

Things had gone smoothly for many months  until  something happened  that I had not anticipated. My Mom fell in the bathroom when I was visiting. Her  bathroom  was small, she could reach the phone—but there was a different problem. She fell right behind the door and the wall with her walker, could not get up, the door could not be opened from the outside, and the door hinges were on the inside. We talked briefly—she said she was OK but was wedged in this position. Mom  was  mainly embarrassed this  was her first fall. I had  to do some quick thinking—how to   get her out. I called my husband to come help, and then I got a ladder from the garage; positioned it on the wall near the high bathroom window for entry. Being younger, thinner and more agile  then, I dropped down into the bathtub through this  window. Got Mom up and we walked out of the bathroom together. When my husband arrived, I had him take  the  door  off  its  hinges, stored the door, put up a curtain rod and hung a curtain at the bathroom door entrance —privacy and more safety. Lesson: you have to look for all possible hazards.

Although  this  home safety check was done years before some items like cell phones existed, the safety check principles and solutions are applicable  today. Check your house.

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Jackie Kellum

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