One of the biggest safety risks in our homes as we age is falling down. We can trip over items, lose balance and the ability to be mobile.
A serious fall can mean temporary and even permanent loss of mobility.
Jody Schwalk-Burke of Mobility Access Options NW recommends removing items such as papers, books, clothes and shoes from stairs and places you walk.
“Remove small rugs or secure them to the floor,” she says.
Schwallk-Burke also recommends using a cane or walker in the home to get around, as well as keeping door thresh holds level.
“Even an inch in height on a doorway is a significant trip hazard for anyone,” she says, “from your front door, to inside your home, to the back porch, it’s unlikely that every part of your home is on the same level.”
To reduce the risk of tripping and making it easier to move through doorways and entry ramps, place a mat or plate at the thresh hold to provide a smoother transition.
Additionally, fix any loose steps and stairway handles, or put in new ones. “Make sure the rails are on both sides of the stairs, and are as long as the stairs,” Schwalk-Burke says.
There are also modern mobility solutions that help you enjoy the lifestyle you had before physical limitations made it hard to get around. Even more, mobility devices provide more safety and protection in the home, because individuals don’t need to rely on brute strength to help.
Mobility equipment helps everybody so the spouse or family can travel the way they used to and the person with difficulty can keep up with them — or even move faster.
Paul Robin, vice president of All in One Mobility, Inc., is in the business of helping the vulnerable among us get through the day with more ease.
“If husband or wife cannot move quickly or can only walk small distances before becoming fatigued, it limits the other spouse’s life,” he says. “If a family member cannot move you from the bed to the bath to the living room, both of you share the problem.”
Robin’s large showroom features the latest of everything, from elevators and ceiling lifts, to step-in baths, lifting chairs that even lay flat, wheelchair lifts, stair lifts and walkers. His company sells devices to protect you from falls that can hasten your decline.
“There is a lot of resistance to using mobility devices,” he says. “People find it hard to accept for many emotional reasons.”
But think of a scooter as a golf cart, Robin says. With them, you can move around, get outside, visit museums and other attractions you couldn’t do before.
“It opens up your life in many ways,” he says. “Advances in all of them offer more options, like electric buttons and many conveniences that weren’t available even five years ago. They are always being improved and are more user-friendly than ever before.”
New walkers have better options because they can handle up to 450 pounds. Much of the equipment is easy to fold and unfold.
When it comes to baths and showers, adaptive equipment is built low so there are no barriers to entry.
“The problem with bathtubs is not getting in, it’s getting out,” Robin says.
Schwalk-Burke says one of the best products for maintaining independence is a stairlift — a device that takes you comfortably and conveniently up and down a flight of stairs.
“A stairlift can mean the difference between staying safe and giving up your home completely,” she says.
The lift has two components: a track, and a chair with a motor at its base that propels itself up and down the stairway by moving along the track surface.
“Most stairlifts include a basic set of features to help ensure the user’s safety,” Schwalk-Burke says.
All stairlifts have seat belts and some feature easy-to-use belts for those with medical issues such as arthritis.
“Most stairlift models also detect objects on the stairs and will stop the chair,” she says.
She also recommends a security pole-and-curve grab bar, which is a transfer pole with a pivoting curve grab bar that locks every 45 degrees. It can be installed anywhere in the home without additional tools and works as a bathroom grab bar, chair standing aid or bedside support.
Don’t let budget, specific concerns or mobility issues hold you back from investigating your options, both companies say. Knowing the options you have will improve your mobility and your quality of life. ☸