Most people live their lives day to day not thinking about what is to come after retirement or, heaven forbid we or a loved one has an accident limiting our mobility. For most of us cooking our favorite meals, taking family walks or walks with a significant other, playing with our children or grandkids and bathing in our home without the fear of falling and/or injury is not something we typically think of until there is a reason to. If that reason arises prematurely or when we reach that point in our lives that we just aren’t as strong or mobile as we once were, are you prepared? Have you planned for that eventuality? We often like to think we are invincible and the realities of aging are a long, long way off. The reality is much more immediate than that. After all, it was just last week we were in our twenties or graduating from college. Life moves much faster than we realize and making small, but necessary preparations can not only save you hard earned money in the future, it can also safe you painful, costly and sometimes life-threatening slips and falls one day.
By: Alyssa Jirkovsky
AGING IN PLACE
“Occupational therapy is the only profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations)”. Occupational therapy practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or
live better with—injury, illness, or disability. “ (What is Occupational) Ways an occupational therapy practitioner can offer assistance is by conducting an evaluation in the home to assess the abilities, skills and safety of the client and their surroundings. Upon completion of that evaluation, occupational therapy practitioners can make recommendations to meet the needs of the occupant that will ensure a safe and functional home to make aging in place possible.
Falls can lead to broken bones, concussions, torn ligaments and severely bruised body parts that can lead to more permanent disabilities, surgeries and long hospital stays that can eventually lead to long term rehabilitation facilities. It is not just money that such a fall can cost you, it can also cost you your independence and your sense of self- worth. Sometimes, in more severe instances it can cost you your life. Falls are the leading causes of fatal injuries among older adults. 80% of those falls occur in the bathroom. (CareGivers, 2019) Getting in and out of the tub is something that we take for granted. One day this simple task becomes a hazardous task. It is not for lack of caution or recklessness. As we age, we become less active. Our bodies have begun to deteriorate and weaken. Our eyes are less focused. Our agility and dexterity decreases. We have become our grandparents seemingly overnight. Those preparations we will get to one day? Those now need to be done sooner rather than later.
Many maturing homeowners would prefer to stay in their homes where they feel safe and have more freedoms than they would living in an assisted living facility. This is why planning ahead and preparing your home for this eventuality is so important to our aging population. Dated showers with more than a three-inch curb can be a life-threatening obstacle for our parents and grandparents. Most of us do not think about balance either. Slippery tile on shower floors or in bathtubs can cause even the most agile young person to slip and fall, risking injury or worse.
Many people think that to renovate a bathroom to accommodate our elderly or disabled they have to sacrifice style and elegance. This is simply not true. Bathroom remodelers like Clear Choice Bath have embraced this concept and developed cultured marble and granite shower and tub surround materials that do not compromise on style or elegance in the least. The shower bases are made with a slip resistant floor to help guard against slips on smooth floors but are comfortable to the bottoms of your feet. The cultured marble and granite shower and tub surrounds are installed to accommodate grab bars. Most of us think of hospitals or assisted living facilities when we think of grab bars, sanitized ugly and bulky hunks of metal sticking out of the wall. Not something we want in our homes, right? Fortunately, industries today have recognized the growing need for safer bathroom environments and have brought a nice selection of grab bars that are both stylish and ergonomic. (Clear Choice, 2020)
Shower curtains offer no support at all during a fall. Many elderlies are found wrapped in a curtain after a fall or have fallen through the weak glass of a shower door after tripping over the tub or shower curb that is too tall. Some have reported stubbing their toes on the track from the shower doors causing them to lose their balance and fall. With the advances in glass technology and need for safer showers, most shower doors are made with safety glass and some with stronger, sturdier glass that can support a grab bar. Additionally, many shower doors no longer need a track to operate eliminating the troublesome trip hazard of that bottom track.
Occupational therapy practitioners can make major adjustments that will help you age in place longer. Removing throw rugs to help reduce the risk of falling, and removing clutter or cords in walkways to eliminate trip hazards are a must. Ensuring that all outlets are well grounded and they have a universal design to improve the ease of use. (Remaining in, 2011) Some may say that anyone can make these recommendations and adjustments, but it takes someone with real commitment and passion to understand and ensure another person’s needs are met.
So, as we prepare for our home improvements, eventual retirement and desire to live our full lives as independently as possible as we age, making our homes and specifically our bathrooms a safer environment will definitely help increase our quality of life as we transition into our golden years. Allowing an occupational therapy practitioner into your home to help you make simple changes can ensure your family’s safety and peace of mind knowing that the right changes were made.
CareGivers, P. (2019, February 26). 4 Surprising bathroom hazards for the elderly. Retrieved from https://www..homewatchcaregivers.com/care-community-blog/2019/february/the-4-most-surprising-bathroom-hazards-for-the-e/
Clear Choice Baths [Telephone interview]. (2020, November 08).
Remaining in your home as you age. (2011). Retrieved 2020, from A. (n.d.). What is Occupational Therapy? Retrieved from https://www.aota.org/Conference-Events/OTMonth/what-is-OT.aspx
What is Occupational Therapy? (n.d.). Retrieved 2020, from https://www.aota.org/Conference-Events/OTMonth/what-is-OT.aspx
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