Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Years Resolutions for Caregivers

A very Happy New Year to all! I have been off the grid for a while - again 'life' happened and I was side-tracked. One of my New Year Resolutions is to get back to posting. Thanks to all who seem to continue checking in with the blogs and thanks to some new people who joined/decided to follow. While we all make personal resolutions, which is a good thing, one thing to think about is making caregiving ones too. Whether it is to check on some family member or friend more often, pitch in some more to help, make changes to a home to make it safer for an elderly parent(s), now is a good time to start thinking.
Right now my husband and his brother and sisters are working to help their parents stay at home one way by trying to get them more organized: from a large desk sized calender to use for any appointments or calls to be made, to seeing if there is a way to get an apartment sized washer/dryer on their first floor, and hiring someone to do a 'cut out' in their bathtub, to make it more of a walk-in shower. This we did for my mother in her place. It was less expensive and invasive than taking out her tub/shower and putting in a walk-in. While we can all include grab bars and mats and ramps in our lists, suggests 7 designs to help people 'live in their house forever'. They talk about 'universal design', products and features for use of anyone regardless of their physical limits. These came from the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University which is a resource for useful designs for anyone of any age or ability or disability.
* Design that is equally appealing to all users: "wherever possible, universal design creates spaces that can be used by everyone equally and that are appealing to all. UD doesn't stigmatize any one group of users -- like those obvious wheelchair ramps tacked onto the fronts of older homes."
For example - a no-step entry, a lever-handed front door (no knob), mirrors placed where you can be seen in them sitting or standing, no changes in floor levels.
* Flexible use: accomodates for left and right handed people and a variety of uses. Have at least one bedroom and one bathroom on the main floor (even if it starts out as a playroom or storage room), possibly a laundry area too. Use paddle handled handles in the sinks, a small rolling cart to use, pull out boards in different spots in the kitchen to help with cutting (if possible put them at different heights to accomodate someone standing or sitting), pocket doors to use less space.
* Simple and intuitive use: things that are easy to figure out. D-shaped drawers, smart shower handles, install lazy susans in areas that are hard to reach, use adjustable shelving.
* Presents essential information clearly: information can be easily received through sensory, tactile, or pictoral means. Keyless locks that use a remote control or pad, appliance controls that use words as well a pictures (like blue for cold, red for hot), a circuit breaker on the main floor that is clearly marked, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms should verbalize the situation as well a show an alarm.
*Allow for user errors: install grab bars, handrails, there are also curbless showers, floors made of non-slip materials, rugs that are low-pile and tightly woven like Berber, spring loaded switch for garbage disposals that has to be held so no hands or forks get in there, contrasting edge on counters for those with visual problems - these corners should also be rounded.
* Requires low physical effort: you should not have to contort yourself or use alot of effort. Use a rocket panel light switch, switches and controls are placed at easy to reach heights like 42 - 48 inches from the floor, thermostats should be installed 48 inches from the floor, electrical outlets and phone jacks - 18 to 24 inches off the floor, mount kitchen outlets and garbage disposal controls on the counters, use raised front loading washers and dryers.
* Appropriate size and space use regardless of body size or mobility. No matter what your size or posture or mobility or intellect you should be able to use the area and equipment. Open floor plan with 5 1/2 foot halls, a variety of work surface heights, fold back doors under a cooking island for those in a wheelchair or step stool, wall mounted sink (drain at the back) with open space below for those in wheelchairs, raised or adjustable toilet seats, a moulded seat in the shower stall.
I am sure if you go through someone's house you can come up with different ideas to make the space more useful to those inside. Get creative.

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