Assistance may mean adjustments

FAIRMONT – It is possible for the elderly to continue living at home, with the assistance of long-term, live-in help provided by agencies like Baywood Home Care.

But change is inevitable.

One of Baywood Home Care’s local clients is turning 98 this year, and he lives in the farmhouse where he grew up, thanks to assistance from live-in home health aides.

“It means a lot to him that he can stay at home. That was his ultimate goal,” said Jackie Eisenmenger, an R.N. care manager for Baywood.

Life, however, is not exactly as he knew it. For instance, his bedroom was moved to the first floor, to avoid the risks of navigating a stairway in an older home.

When Baywood takes on new clients through its Sherburn office, Eisenmenger and fellow R.N. care manager Tosha Grossman complete a walk-through of the home to assess safety risks.

“One of the biggest risks to the elderly are throw rugs,” Grossman said.

Other hazards are dimly lit hallways. She encourages families to add nightlights, or motion-sensor lights, not only to hallways but also bathrooms – the No. 1 place where falls occur.

Other changes to consider in the bathroom are replacing towel bars with the sturdier grab bars and providing shower chairs for safer bathing.

Stairways should be well lit, with secure railings on both sides when possible. A chair lift is an option to consider when stairs are no longer safe.

In the kitchen, keep the items frequently used on the counter for easy access. With live-in care, a senior citizen is accompanied throughout the day, but for some vulnerable clients receiving hourly care, Baywood recommends precautions like unplugging the stove and choosing microwave-friendly meals. In the refrigerator and pantry, check for expired foods, since those dates can be hard for seniors to read.

Easy means of communication is also important for seniors. Consider services such as Lifeline, and look for speaker phones and/or phones with large numbers for easy dialing. Pre-program numbers into the phone, and have the person carry it with them in a pocket or on a cord around the neck.

Even with 24-hour live-in care provided by a professional or family member, seniors with dementia might need special door locks and/or an alarm system. Baby monitors can help keep track of someone who has a tendency to wander at night.