Category Archives: Aging at Home

Heart Healthy: Tips for Maintaining a Strong Heart

Preventing heart disease in the elderly

Cardiovascular disease is the largest cause of death across the world, and on World Heart Day on September 29, many people around the world work to promote heart disease awareness, risks, prevention measures, and more. In honor of World Heart Day, here are tips for maintaining a healthy heart as you age:

  • Start with your grocery list. Preventing heart disease starts with a healthy diet that limits saturated fats, salt, and foods containing high cholesterol. To ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet, revamp your grocery list to include more colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, high-fiber foods, and frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Permanently cross off items like high fat dairy or meat and butter, and keep your alcohol intake low.
  • Be active. Although the days of running an easy five miles may be over, you can still be active as you age by taking regular walks, biking, hiking, swimming, or attending aerobics classes. Check with a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease; to that end, eating well and staying active are essential to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your risk for heart disease.
  • Get regular check-ups. Go to the doctor regularly to monitor your health and anything that could affect your heart, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. If necessary, take medication to help control these issues.
  • Get enough sleep. Research shows a correlation between sleep and increased risk of coronary heart disease, especially when people are sleeping less than five hours per night. Try to sleep between 7-8 hours per night; to ensure that you can fall asleep easily, limit caffeine intake and stop consumption by 2pm. You should also keep a regular sleep schedule, exercise in the morning or mid-day, and avoid electronics within an hour of bedtime.
  • Minimize stress and keep your heart happy. Stress can exacerbate many heart disease risks. Find ways to relieve your stress, whether it’s going for a walk, socializing with family and friends, or attending church or volunteering regularly. In that same vein, research has shown that gratitude, laughter, and forging social connections can be healthy for your heart.

Heart disease may be widespread, but you can take measures to prevent heart disease in yourself and in your aging parents. By following these heart healthy guidelines, you and your parents can age comfortably at home for years to come.

Work-Life Balance: How to Care for Your Parents and Yourself

When people talk about balancing working and parents, they typically mean being working parents and balancing their home life with their family life. However, as American continues to age, the phrase “working parents” can also be twisted to apply to balancing a full-time job and caring for your aging parents at home. Although juggling the two can be stressful, there are ways to maintain a healthy work-life balance while caring for your elderly parents. In honor of Working Parents Day on September 16, here are some guidelines for balancing your job with caring for your parents.

Tips for working while caring for aging parents

First, talk to your boss. Although it may be an uncomfortable situation to let your boss know what issues you’re dealing with, it’s important to be clear and upfront about what’s going on. Now, this doesn’t mean spilling every last detail about your parents’ health, but a general overview while emphasizing your commitment to work will get the job done. In many cases, your boss may even be sympathetic from having dealt with the situation themselves. Your boss will be able to lay out your options for you regarding medical leave, flex time, or working from home.

Next, research programs and assistance that will help you care for your parents. For example, the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows covered employees up to three months of unpaid leave for care for a family member with a serious health condition. You may also be entitled to other assistance from other government programs and services; these can provide benefits to lessen your financial burden. The government-hosted benefits site Govebenefits.gov has more information.

Also, make sure that you’re adjusting your budget and financial plans if you’re having to take unpaid time off of work. Plan ahead of time where you can make some sacrifices so that you’re not caught unaware when it’s time to pay bills. It’s also important to keep in mind that while quitting your job may seem like the best solution so that you can be fully present, you need to keep your own retirement in financial future a priority.

Finally, reach out to family and friends for support. Although it may fall on you to be the primary caretaker for your parents, friends and family can help fill in the gaps when you need a break, or can provide indirect support by running errands, assisting with paperwork, and more. You don’t have to take care of your parents all by yourself; there are plenty of people willing and able to help you out.

Caring for your aging parents is one of the most important things you’ll ever do, and although it can get overwhelming, you can balance caring for your parents with working at your job. By staying organized, communicating openly with your colleagues, and asking for help when you need it, you can help your parents age comfortably at home.

How to Help Your Aging Parent Recover from Surgery

Use these tips to help your aging parent recover from surgery

In the event that your aging parent has to undergo surgery, planning for recovery will help you feel in control and help your parent transition smoothly from the hospital to being back at home. After following a pre-surgery checklist, help your parent recover from surgery by following these tips:

  • Ask your parent’s doctor questions about the surgery. Make sure you know the procedure, what kind of anesthesia will be used, how long your parent will need to recover in the hospital, how much pain he’ll be in and whether he needs pain meds, what the recovery timeline looks like, and anything else you think you need to know.
  • Follow the doctor’s directions once your parent is home. This includes making sure all medications are taken on time and in correct dosages, helping your parent follow any special dietary needs or restrictions, and ensuring that they follow all directions related to bed rest and moving around the house.
  • Accompany your parent to post-operative checkups and follow-up appointments. Many times, a patient may forget what the doctor says or what questions to ask. By going to appointments with your parent, you can take notes, ask questions, and act on behalf of your parent. The more you understand about your parent’s medical state, the more you can help.
  • Make sure that your parent’s home has been modified for post-surgery recovery. Although you should modify your parent’s home before the surgery, you may need to make adjustments after the surgery as you know more about your parent’s condition and abilities. For example, if your parent is getting a hip replacement surgery and won’t be able to move easily, you may need to install home access products like a stair lift or a bathtub lift, or help them choose a power scooter to get around easily.
  • Rally friends and family to help. Even if you’re the primary caretaker of your parent, you’ll need help from friends and family so that you don’t feel overburdened by caring for your parent around the clock. Reach out to your community of support for extra help so that you can take a break every now and then and make sure that you’re taking care of yourself as well.
  • Be patient and keep an open line of communication. After a difficult surgery, your parent may have a hard time sleeping, eating, and taking care of himself- all things that may make your parents irritable, stressed, anxious, and/or emotional in general. Be patient, ask how you can help, and if they seem depressed for a prolonged amount of time, encourage them to talk to a therapist.

Helping your parent recover from surgery can be a difficult time, but with patience and empathy, you can help your parent on the road to recovery and health.

It Takes a Village: Building a Community to Help Aging Parents

How to get help from family and a supportive community when helping your parents age at home

As an adult caring for your aging parents, it’s inevitable that you’ll get worn out and will need help caring for your parents. Caregiving can be emotionally and physically exhausting, and as the saying goes, you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. To avoid burnout, build a community of support to help care for your parents by reaching out to the following people and groups:

  • Siblings and family members: Even if you’re the primary caregiver for your parents, your siblings can help out by caring for your parents on evenings or weekends. If they don’t live in the same area, siblings can provide indirect support by helping manage paperwork and finances. Keep your siblings in the loop by maintaining open lines of communication about what you need and what would help you.
  • Long time friends and neighbors: These community members may be able to notice when something is off with your parents’ attitude, behavior, or routine, and they can act as unofficial watchdogs and caretakers when you can’t be everywhere.
  • Medical personnel: Your parents’ primary physician, a physical therapist, nurses, social workers, hospital patient advocates, or hospice caregivers can all supplement your hard work with their years of experience and wise advice they can offer.
  • Other caregivers: Sometimes, it’s helpful just to talk to other people in similar situations as you. To that end, reaching out to other caregivers for advice and venting sessions can do wonders for your mental state. You can find fellow caregivers in support meetings, hospitals, or even in online care forums.

If you ever need a respite for caring for your aging parents, you can use a variety of services to get a brief break. Some senior living centers offer temporary stays for if you’re going out of town or if your loved one is recovering from a hospitalization or illness. There are also adult day cares, home care services, senior centers, and sitter-companion services. Finally, you can get help from a variety of web and government resources, such as Children of Aging Parents, the Health and Human Services Department, Public Health Department, Social Security Administration, and more.

You may feel as if the responsibility of caring for your aging parents falls sorely on your shoulders, but there’s no need for you to take on this difficult task all by yourself. By reaching out to trusted friends and helpful community groups and resources, you can help your parents age comfortably at home while still taking care of yourself as well.

How to Choose the Right Stair Lift

How to choose a stair lift

At first, choosing a stair lift for your home may seem like a difficult task. With so many makes and models out there, how do you know which stair lift is right for you? Consider these factors to make sure you’re choosing the right option for you:

First, make sure you have the correct measurements for your staircase. You can easily measure your stairs to help choose a stair lift.

  1. The most important measurement is the overall length of your staircase, which is determined by standing at the top of your stairs, extending the tape measure so that it’s laying on all the stair treads and the end of the tape measure is touching the landing at the bottom of the stairs.
  2. Next, measure from the edge of the top step to the edge of the bottom step. Then, measure the width of your staircase, as well as the length from the bottom step to a wall or door at the bottom of the steps if you have one.
  3. Finally, measure the rise of one step, the tread of one step, and the diagonal of one step so that we can preset the seat angle of your stair lift at the factory. For more information on measurements and visual guidelines, check out our stair lift measuring guide.

When considering the measurements of your stair lift, make sure you take into account the weight capacity of the stair lift chair in relation to how much the user weighs. Home Access Products currently has stair lift chairs with weight capacities of 250, 300, 375, 400, and 500 pounds.

If your stairs have a turn or a landing in the middle of two staircases, you can still buy and install a stair lift. For a completely curved stair lift that travels continuously around corners, your stair lift installation may require a custom job. If your stairs have a turn, you may be able to install two separate straight star lifts that break where the middle landing is- a home project that may seem daunting but that can be done in eight easy steps with a few hours of work and a few simple tools. If you’re uncomfortable installing a stair lift on your own, we are also available for a home stair lift installation.

The Difference Between AC and DC Stair Lifts

One aspect of stair lift chairs that you may be unclear on is the difference between Alternating Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC) stair lifts. AC stair lifts are powered by the house’s electric current; once they’re plugged in, they’re ready for usage. While they are usually a little louder than DC models and have tracks that take up more space, AC lift models are ideal for places like churches or offices that may get a lot of use in short periods of time.

DC stair lift models, on the other hand, have a pair of 12 volt batteries that power the stair lift as moves up and down the stairs. The parking areas at the top and bottom of the stairs have recharge points to keep the batteries powered. DC models are generally quieter and smoother than AC models, with thinner tracks that blend in well with the household décor.

Aging at home becomes a lot easier with a stair lift in your loved one’s home, allowing them to stay in the same home they currently live in without worrying about moving from one floor to the other. These guidelines will help you choose the right stair lift for your home. Have more questions? Give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer them for you and help you find the right stair lift for aging at home.

Five Ways to Plan for Aging at Home

Five steps to help you plan for aging at home

According to a 2010 survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), nearly 75% of respondents (all of whom were aged 45 and older) strongly agreed with the statement “what I’d really like to do is stay in my current residence for as long as possible.” But in order for your loved ones to age at home comfortably, planning ahead is a must. Here are five steps to plan for your parents aging at home:

1. Have a frank talk with your parents. Although it may be uncomfortable, take time to sit down with your parents and have an open, honest discussion about how they want to approach aging. Being on the same page will make the planning process easier, and it will help you avoid uncertainty and even tougher decisions later on. Make sure you cover topics such as whether your parents have a will, what they would like to do if they can’t live on their own, who their doctors are and how to reach them, and how much money they can allocate to aging comfortably. The hardest part is broaching the subject, but doing so will make both you and your parents feel better afterwards.

2.  Evaluate the home. Is your parents’ home currently safe for aging at home? For example, are all bedrooms and bathrooms on an upper level of the house? Are countertops at normal height, or are they lowered so that someone in a wheelchair can reach them? Are all areas of the house well-lit? Are hallways and doorways wide enough for power wheelchairs and walkers? Refer to our Blueprint for a Wheelchair Accessible Home for recommended dimensions for doorways, hallways, and even kitchen table specs.

Examining the house with a fine-tooth comb will make planning for aging at home a much more manageable job. For help with the planning and home modification process, consider enlisting the help of a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), a home builder who’s specially trained to analyze a homeowner’s needs and plan for modifications that are both functional and attractive.
 
3. Consider your support system and the surrounding community. Will you be assuming primary care for your aging parents, or do you have siblings and other family members nearby who are able to pitch in? Does your family belong to a religious center or other community program that will help with meals, transportation, and other caregiving? Are your parents’ doctors and pharmacies nearby? While you may initially be confident in your ability to care for your parents single-handedly, having others to rely on will help you fight stress if other areas of your life (such as your job or your own family) start to require more time and attention.
 
Your aging parents will also benefit from being part of a local community, whether it’s a book club or a light aerobics class at a nearby YMCA. Choosing to age at home shouldn’t mean that they’re isolated, and helping facilitate social interactions will help improve your parents’ morale.
 
4. Make a budget. Having a financial plan for aging at home can diffuse stress and conflicts before they even start to arise. Outline a realistic plan for how much home modifications, in-home care, and more will cost, and stick to the budget so that everyone involved is comfortable with the amount of money being spent on aging at home. Make sure to check and see if your parents are eligible for any benefits; while Medicare doesn’t cover many aging at home modifications, some programs may be able to help in different areas.
 
5. Purchase any aging at home devices and make home modifications. From stair lifts to bathtub lifts, mobility scooters to portable ramps, there are aging at home products to help with anything you may need so that your parents can age at home comfortably. Also, making home modifications before you actually need them- for example, installing a stair lift before your parent is unable to move between floors- will ensure that you’re prepared for your parents’ future.
Above all, make sure to maintain an open dialogue between you and your parents to facilitate the aging at home process. While it’s an uncomfortable topic to discuss, planning ahead will reassure both you and your parents, and you’ll all feel more prepared for the future by planning smartly. If you have further questions, call us today and we’ll help you devise a strategy for helping your parents age at home comfortably.

How to Choose the Right Bath Lift

How to choose a bathtub lift

When your loved one is aging at home, one of the most important areas to modify is the bathroom. Aging adults will want to maintain their privacy and independence in this area of the home, and buying and installing a bath lift can make this possible.

If this is your first time buying a bathtub lift, you may have some questions about the process. Here’s how to choose the right bathtub lift for aging at home.

1. Measure your bathtub to determine what size lift you should buy. Measure the bathtub’s depth, width, and length to determine which size of bathtub lift will fit in your bathtub. Take into consideration the user’s weight and make sure that the bathtub lift you order will accommodate the needed capacity.

2. Think about what kind of installation you’ll be able to complete. Some bathtub lifts may require a professional installation; the bathtub lifts from Home Access Products can be assembled and installed in less than ten minutes and without any tools. Furthermore, they use suction cup attachments to hold the lift in place while in use; therefore, make sure that the surface of your bathtub is compatible with suction cups. Some textured surfaces may not be compatible with a suction cup; the surface must be flat and non-porous.

3. Consider how you want your bathtub lift to be powered. Bathtub lifts are either water powered or battery powered; water powered bath lifts raise the bather by filling and draining water in a bladder under the seat portion of the lift, while battery powered bathtub lifts use rechargeable batteries to lift and lower the seat. Most battery powered bathtub lifts will not lower unless they have enough battery power to raise up again, so regular charging is recommended for reliable use. Some, such as the Bathmaster Deltis Bath Lift with Blue Cover and Premium Charger, allow approximately six lifts from one full charge and can be fully recharged in just one hour.

4. Think about whether you’ll need any additional accessories for your bathtub lift. For example, will the bather need a transfer device to get to the middle of the bathtub lift seat? Does your bathtub lift have a padded backrest and seat? Will you need any extra batteries or a headrest? Consider these extras before you make your final decision about which bathtub lift to purchase.

One thing you may be curious about is the difference between bathtub lifts and walk-in bathtubs. At Home Access Products, we recommend bathtub lifts instead of walk-in bathtubs for several reasons:

1. Bathtub lifts are much cheaper than walk-in bathtubs- a bathtub lift will start at around $350, while a walk-in bathtub can cost around $2,200- which doesn’t even include any of the necessary bathroom remodel costs.

2. Bathtub lifts are more convenient because the bather is able to get into a bathtub full of warm water, rather than having to get in, wait for the tub to fill up, bathe, and then wait for the water to drain before exiting.

3. Bathtub lifts are also portable (you can bring them when traveling or when staying with friends and family), and if you plan on eventually selling your home, you’ll be able to easily remove the bathtub lift for showings, whereas a walk-in bathtub may be a deterrent to potential home buyers.

Whether you have a parent aging at home or recovering from a surgery, a bathtub lift will make life much easier by allowing them to bathe independently. If you have more questions about how to buy and install a bathtub lift, we’re happy to talk with you at any time!

Blueprint for a Wheelchair Accessible Home [INFOGRAPHIC]

When planning for aging at home, one of the most important factors to consider is whether or not your home is wheelchair accessible; everyday activities that were previously simple, such as entering and exiting your home, opening cabinets, or using the bathroom can become difficult and even frustrating.

Luckily, you can plan ahead for home modifications either on your own or by consulting with a CAPS home builder. To plan a home care solution for a loved one with limited mobility, take a close look at each room in the house and visualize which home health care products could improve accessibility:

An infographic describing a Blueprint of Wheelchair Accessible Home

  • Bedroom: Include a phone or alert system near the bed and an overhang lift or manual trapeze to help with getting in and out of bed.
  • Bathroom: Consider installing a phone or alert system near the toilet and shower, a bathtub lift (such as the Minivator Bath Bliss 311 Bath Lift) with a bottom between 13-30 inches, a toilet seat lift, and grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or bathtub.
  • Kitchen: Make sure that countertops and cabinet heights are within arms’ reach from a wheelchair, and give table height at least 27” of knee clearance between the floor and the table underside, and clear a floor area of 30”x48” at each seat.
  • Entryways: Door widths throughout the house should be at least 32” so that power chairs, electric wheelchairs, and mobility scooters can easily fit through, and stair lifts or wheelchair ramps should be installed in garages or other entryways to the home.
  • Stairways: A stair lift, such as the Summit Indoor Stair Lift from Harmar, can help residents easily access a basement or second floor.

In general, to improve home accessibility, all pathways should be wide enough to accommodate mobility scooters and wheelchairs (generally 36” for hallways and 32” for doorways, with the minimum clear space for a turn being 36” in all directions). Your home should be well-lit for visibility at any time of day or night, and light controls should be at a height that’s easily accessible for someone in a wheelchair. Finally, multiple phone and alert systems throughout the house will provide quick help in case of an emergency or a sudden need for help.

While making a house accessible for aging at home may seem like a daunting task, planning ahead for aging at home is easier the earlier you start. If you have questions about what products you need to help a loved one age at home or how to make your home more accessible, give us a call and we’ll be glad to answer any of your questions!

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Blueprint for a Wheelchair Accessible Home

Pre-Surgery Checklist for Adult Children to Help Parents Aging at Home

pre-surgery checklist for adult children to help with aging at home

You have a million thoughts going through your mind before your aging parent enters a knee or hip surgery, and in the midst of getting ready for the surgery, you may forget to prepare your home or your parent’s home for when they return from a successful surgery. Here’s a checklist of things to help prepare your or your parent’s home for a smooth, post-surgery recovery: 

  • Install grab bars in the bathroom, ramps over the outside steps, and potentially a stair lift if the house has multiple levels.
  • Clear away any clutter that would be easy for your parent to trip over, as well as any throw rugs, electrical cords, or other hazards that could lead to a trip.
  • Elevate seats and beds. After a hip replacement, your parent may not be able to bend the new joint very much until it heals.
  • Adjust living arrangements. If the master bedroom is on the second floor, it may be less painful for your parent to sleep on the main floor as they recover. If that’s not possible, the home should be rearranged so that the recovering patient only has to make one trip down in the morning and one trip up at night.
  • Add nightlights to increase visibility and reduce the risk of falling in case your parent has to get up in the middle of the night.
  • Create a convenient living space. Make sure any important and often-used items are easily accessible- dishware and silverware, the television remote, etc.
  • Prepare the bathroom. After a hip replacement, your parent will require an elevated toilet seat that can be placed over the normal toilet. You’ll also need to examine the shower and bath area; a shower seat and a handheld shower head will be the least painful option between standing for a shower and sitting in a tub.
  • Think about mobility. Will your parent require a walker, a wheelchair or a power scooter to get around the home?
  • Prepare freezer meals that your parent can easily heat for lunch or dinner without worrying about navigating many pots and pans around the kitchen.

By preparing the home for after your parent’s knee or hip surgery, you’ll reduce any stress your parent may encounter during recovery at home. Planning ahead and getting everything ready will be a great help to your parents, and it will help you and them both feel calm and ready to face surgery head-on. 

Increased Disease Risks of Aging in a Nursing Home

When your parents begin to age, you and your family are faced with the difficult decision of whether to help your parents age in a nursing home or in the comfort of their own home. While you will consider factors such as cost, comfort, socializing, and more, you will also want to consider disease risk,

increased disease risk in nursing homes

As our bodies age, we become more susceptible to getting sick because our immune system changes and doesn’t function as well. Your immune system becomes slower to respond, and the healing process also slows down significantly. Thanks to these changes, you become more likely to get sick as you age. You can decrease age-related disease risks by getting vaccinated, exercising, eating healthy foods, and not smoking or drinking.

For your aging parents, it becomes even more important for them to have a clean home that will lower their risk of getting sick. In their or your home, it’s easy to make cleanliness and frequent hand-washing a habit among caretakers and visitors.

However, in a nursing home, you don’t have as much control over the environment, which can increase your loved one’s chances of getting sick. A New York Times article found that the percentage of nursing homes cited for deficiencies in “hand hygiene” has been rising recently, with inspectors finding deficiencies in close to 12% of nursing homes in 2009. While most facilities understand the importance of hand washing, it’s difficult to ensure that the staff and caretakers are adhering to high cleanliness standards.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, one third of all deaths in seniors over 65 results from infectious diseases, with the leading infections including bacterial pneumonia and influenza. Community settings such as nursing homes increase exposure to the disease, while influenza (the “flu”) is easily transmitted by coughing and sneezing, making the risk of infection especially high in closed environments like nursing homes.

Aging at home is one of the best ways to prevent your loved one from contracting a dangerous infectious disease. Caregivers should learn about the most common infections and their symptoms, while also making sure that everyone in the household washes their hands frequently. Visitors should not come if they are sick or getting over an illness, and children especially should be helped with frequent hand-washing. By taking these kinds of preventative measures, you can greatly decrease the chances that your aging parents will contract an infectious disease.