Thursday, June 21, 2007

Temporary solutions can help caregivers

When I did my bathroom options post awhile back, I didn't include a practical option for shorter term needs. We frequently get calls from families providing care for a loved one who, realistically, is in the final stages of being in the family residence or nearing the end of their life. A full bathroom remodel may not be needed or would create too much disruption. There are portable and temporary shower units available that can make life easier for a family in this situation or for someone who is recuperating from an injury or illness and needs a shorter term solution.

I've used portable showers out camping, but those aren't a solution in the home. But there are new solutions being designed that can make it practical.

FAWSsit is folding shower with an electric pump that can be set up in a room where there is sufficient space and an available source of heated water and a drain (sink, toilet, floor drain, etc) Laundry rooms and kitchens are obvious options. Since it can easily be folded and stored away, you don't need a dedicated space, making it possible to provide a shower to someone with greater ease and less stress on everyone.

Another resource is Shower Anywhere. These are more what I would call temporary rather than permanent shower solutions, so they require some dedicated space, but are an option when remodeling is not practical or in the long term interests of the homeowner.

Neither of these would be a great long term solution--having a home designed to have an accessible bath and bedroom on the ground floor is still the best precaution, but when that is not the case, a solution like these can certainly make life easier.

As we age one thing we can look forward to is more technology and non-traditional solutions like these to help us navigate this journey.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

I've seen some interesting data lately about strength and safety in later life. One was this article about strength training--actually making muscles "younger."

And there is this bit out of London saying that older adults are net contributors to society, not the drain they are commonly portrayed as:

The future ... is not penury or dependence," said Clive Bannister, managing director of HSBC Insurance, which asked the institute to conduct the study on the elderly so it could learn about consumer behavior. "They have become turbos rather than the brakes of our community."

Researchers interviewed more than 21,000 people between the ages of 40 and 79 in more than 20 countries for the largest study of its kind. The aim was to explore attitudes about retirement and the sunset years.

Contrary to the commonly held belief that older people are draining state resources, the study indicates they are more independent and active in social and economic life than previously thought. (

These are just a few of the items that paint a much more positive picture of aging. But then today I see this from an AP story showing that falls and safety concerns for older adults are are the increase. And this story only deals the the injury and death rate--just as concerning is how expensive and life changing a non-fatal fall related injury is
The rate of deaths from falls for people 65 and older rose 31 percent from 1999 to 2003, the council reported, which means that deaths from falls are increasing faster than the older population is increasing. A death within one year after a fall can be attributed to the fall. "We tend to see our home as our safe haven. The data tell us it's not," McMillan said, adding that families can take steps to protect the elderly from falls by removing hazards and installing stair rails and grab bars.

Deaths from falls climbed from 16,257 in 2002 to 17,229 in 2003, the most recent year for which data are available. The rate also went up, from 5.6 deaths to 5.9 deaths per 100,000 people.
My thought. We always say staying fit is your best fall prevention strategy. No amount of adaptation will prevent a fall for someone who is frail. But since we have this potential to stay stronger, more active and vital, shouldn't we consider proactive modifications to our home that will improve safety, or allow easier rehabilitation at home should we be unlucky? Research has shown that those who benefit the most from supportive adaptations are those who are still relatively fit. And my designing our environment to support us more completely, we can ensure that the changes are pleasing, not ugly stop gaps, and keep home a place we love being. Proactively designing a home environment for our later years is one of the things we can do ensure we stay active, stimulated, safe and comfortable and make the most of a positive future. When you envision your future, re-envision your environment!