Bathroom Helpers: Making Life Easier For Seniors

It’s a matter of pride. Even as children, we’d rather take care of going to the bathroom all by ourselves. As we age, however, it can become difficult for many of us to perform everyday bathroom tasks like using the toilet, washing hands, and even bathing.

Few of us want assistance with these things. We want to do it ourselves if we can. Here are some helpful bathroom helpers for seniors to help them keep their independence.

Making it Easier to Wash Your Hands

Let’s face it, the average bathroom faucet designer did not have seniors in mind as the target audience when they created their sleek, low-profile look. They do look beautiful, but practicality – especially for seniors – leaves a lot to be desired.

Consider replacing the bathroom faucet with one that reaches farther upward and outward. It allows seniors to wash their hands without needing to bend or reach forward. If replacing the faucet is out of the question, you can purchase a faucet extender for about $10. It attaches to the existing faucet and reduces the need for bending or leaning forward.

Liquid dispensers are much easier to deal with than bars of soap. Add one of these to the counter. Many are disposable. Or, upgrade a bit and get one that operates on batteries and automatically dispenses just the right amount of soap with a motion sensor. This can be extremely helpful for seniors who are living with arthritis.

Better Aim

Here’s the thing about most toilets. They’re white. Here’s the thing about most bathrooms. They’re white or light colored, too. So, if you’re an older gentleman who might be struggling with poor vision, there’s a higher chance that you might, well, have a bad aim.

It’s embarrassing enough to miss. It’s also not easy to clean up if you’re a senior who might also be experiencing mobility problems. There’s an easy and inexpensive way to help both the men, and their caregivers – and it’s a simple fix. A growing number of manufacturers offer toilet target aids for the home market. It’s a decal that applies to the inside of the bowl, and it helps men clearly see for a better and less embarrassing aim.

A Little Help Down There

Bending down to reach behind and wipe after going to the bathroom is often difficult for elderly people with limited mobility. It’s seldom a matter of neglect, and more a problem of just not being able to do a thorough job. And, who wants to ask for help with that?

As our general population ages, a growing number of companies are creating ingenious new aids to help seniors with daily personal tasks like this. These curved wand-like aids allow seniors to use regular toilet tissue or more convenient and hygienic moist wipes for a better job of cleaning themselves after going to the bathroom. We’re also seeing more bidet attachments that can be inexpensively put in place of the toilet seat.

We’d rather take care of bathroom matters alone, and at just about any age. These mostly inexpensive and simple upgrades can help seniors retain their independence, and dignity.

More Than Memory Care

Until recently, Grace Homes specialized in memory care. It’s a distinct form of assisted living care that specifically caters to people living with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other types of memory problems. Our group of residences and staff were geared to focus on this area.

But the world of residential senior care homes is changing. The transformation comes in response to the way society views assisted living today – which is no longer only for the elderly. Today, Grace Homes is proud to be able to provide a living environment capable of caring for all types of health conditions, as well as a wider age range for residents.

Healthy Connections

There’s growing research showing the physical and emotional benefits of intergenerational living. Studies by the national Institute on Aging indicate that older adults who experience social isolation experience a variety of mental and physical disorders

Both large senior care organizations, as well as smaller residential senior care homes such as those operated by Grace Homes, are seeing the benefits of welcoming new residents who are sometimes only in their 30s to 50s. To do this, we must expand the type of care we offer.

That’s precisely what we’ve done. Today, Grace Homes is able to provide for all types of chronic illnesses and disabilities, instead of specializing only in memory care. New residents living with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, and other disabilities can be accommodated. As a result of this greatly expanded type of care, the existing residents are being joined by new – and sometimes younger – ones.

Residents and their visitors, as well as caretakers, have noticed a growing change. It was always comforting and welcoming. Residents developed deep bonds and friendships. The intergenerational camaraderie has created an even deeper sense of family in the homes.

A Growing Trend

Grace Homes is not alone in moving in this direction. Already there are hundreds of intergenerational day care facilities which have opened for business throughout the United States. There’s also a growing movement by retirement communities and organizations to forge ties with nearby preschools, high schools, or colleges. The connections encourage regular exchanges between people of different ages.

The trend goes beyond America. Similar programs have already been set up in the Netherlands and France.

Recognized by the State of Minnesota

Grace Homes now participates with the elderly waiver program administered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which is for people over the age of 65. The trio of care homes also participates with the Minnesota’s Community Access for Disability Inclusion (CADI) program, which is for people who are under the age of 65.

It started with memory care, but the future for Grace Homes is simply care.

Heart Attacks And Strokes: A Sensible Approach To Prevention

Heart disease is so common that it’s the cause of one out of every four deaths in the United States – and that’s regardless of age. It is true, however, that the probability of complications by heart disease increase as we age.

We can and must do more to prevent heart attacks and strokes in seniors, and it starts with a preventative approach. It’s not an easy approach because neither our caregivers nor the seniors they look after are cardiologists. Even so, there are some best practices.

CACS Scan

Would you invest about $80 to find out if your heart’s arteries are getting blocked? That’s the average cost of a coronary artery calcium scan (CACS). Without this preventative scan, you may have no warning about blockage – and it’s a leading cause of fatalities.

The CACS scan is widely available, uses no dye, takes only about a minute, and is more accurate than a stress test.

Seniors Should Skip the Urgent Care Clinics

Older adults experiencing chest pain, pressure, or tightness and squeezing sensation should be taken directly to an emergency room, and not an urgent care clinic. This does not mean the care available at urgent care clinics are lower in quality – but these organizations are less likely to do more than a basic evaluation.

Someone who goes to an emergency room will undergo a thorough evaluation that’ll include multiple cardiac enzyme and ECG tests, as well as a definitive test before discharge. These “before and after” tests ensure that additional medical care and follow-ups are done.

Ask About These Advanced Lab Tests

If they’re covered by medical insurance, these advanced tests can help answer many questions raised by a cardiac episode in seniors.

  1. Advanced Lipid Profile: This advanced test measures LDL particle number and size, which are more predictive of future heart and stroke events.
  2. Homocysteine: This substance found in our bodies is important for artery and brain health. If levels are elevated, it can be treated to return them to normal.
  3. Lipoprotein A: It’s rarely used, but hundreds of research studies indicate that if it’s high, the risk of heart attack and stroke dramatically increase.
  4. TMAO: A new marker of heart and kidney health that’s been shown to cause heart and kidney damage and is associated with worsened prognosis

There’s much to be said for taking an “as long as we’re here” approach to medical attention. The more you know about potential cardiac problems, that more you can help to find treatment and solutions.

Podcasts for Seniors

They’re not just for computer geeks anymore. Last year, more than 112 million Americans said they listen to podcasts, and that was an increase of 11% over the previous year. Podcast Insights reports that nearly 44% of us have listened to at least one podcast, and nearly half of us do so at home.

As we age, many of us experience problems with vision. Reading is something we sadly have to give up. A growing number of seniors are discovering they can still keep up with what’s going on in the world by listening to podcasts. The main benefit is that these audio recordings can be stopped and started, repeated – and even slowed down.

Why podcasts appeal to seniors

Podcasting has many benefits, including psychological ones that are fine tuned for older adults. A recent Atlantic article explains that there’s an emotional appeal to listening. Older adults listening to podcasts are able to create their own versions of what they hear in these stories. Their brains become more active because information is processed at the pace it’s played.

Unlike books or television, podcasts are not visual. So our brains are engaged differently. These different areas of the brain help seniors with cognitive health. The best part about podcasts is that nearly all of them are free. FastCompany recently estimated that there are over half a million podcast shows, which have generated over 18.5 million episodes.

Amazing variety

Here’s a list of podcasts that have become popular with older adults:

Good Job, Brain! Seniors enjoy this podcast because it’s filled with trivia and includes an interactive quiz show.

Lux Radio Theater. Some older adults may recognize this title as a radio show that was produced in the 1930s through the 1950s. The original radio show adapted state plays and films for radio, and they included big name actors from Judy Garland to John Wayne. The podcast is available on iTunes, and it’s just as good as the original.

Planet Money. Some people think the name alone is a big yawn – but most listeners get hooked after just a single podcast. It’s produced by NPR, and each episode is humorous. You’ll laugh out loud as you learn what’s going on with the economy.

This American Life. Nearly 3 million people listen to this podcast weekly. It’s been running since 1995, so there are plenty of past podcast episodes.

All you need to listen to a podcast is an internet connection!

Bed And Seating Aids

You don’t have to be a senior citizen to experience difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. An exercise injury can reward you with a stiff joint, giving you a taste of what might be waiting for you as you get older.

Bed and seating aids help older adults remain independent with daily activities like getting in or out of bed, or sitting in a chair. They make these everyday actions easier and safer.

Useful and Easy

Aging and living with chronic conditions can increase the amount of time we spend at home, which makes it important to make that environment comfortable and safe. Mobility aids, especially in the bedroom, living room, and bathroom, make it easier for older adults to get around independently.

On an average, we spend a third of our lives sleeping. We spend so much time there that it’s important to focus on the needs of older adults for assistance in mobility. Bedroom aids such as a bed rope ladder or a fitted bed rail help older adults rise to a seated position when they awaken. These aids provide safe support with getting on or off the bed.

Bed rails can be easily installed and safely secured. Some can slide out of the way when not in use, while others also act as a protective guard to prevent falling out of bed during sleep. See the FDA Guide on Bedrail safety to help find the most appropriate device for your needs. https://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/HomeHealthandConsumer/ConsumerProducts/BedRailSafety/ucm20038764.htm

For those with greatly reduced body strength, there are also electric profiling beds that greatly reduce the effort. An overbed table might be the solution for those who prefer to read or do other activities in bed.

Help with Sitting and Standing

While there are plenty of aids to help an older adult get in and out of a chair, often one of the most simple and effective solutions is a quality chair cushion. It raises the overall height of the seat, so older adults don’t have as far to lower themselves when sitting – or to rise when standing.

Risers that attach to the legs of furniture are another inexpensive way to adjust the height of a sofa or chair, making it easier for an older adult to be seated or stand. They are typically sold in packages that offer the ability to raise a piece of furniture three to four inches. The bottoms have non-skid pads to protect flooring.

It doesn’t take much to return a sense of independence with these bed and seating aids, and many are relatively inexpensive purchases.

What To Wear…Helping Older Adults With Clothing

Much of life goes in circles. We hated getting dressed when we were kids, and some of us end up not appreciating it all that much as seniors, either. When we were young, it just got in the way of more interesting things. As we age it sometimes becomes a challenge we’d rather just skip.

That challenge can be physical, like raising your arms up to slide into a sweater, or getting close enough to our feet to slip into a pair of socks. Or, the obstacle can be cognitive. A stroke or Alzheimer’s disease may have turned decision-making into an unpleasant chore.

The Importance of Getting Dressed

At any age, it’s often not practical – nor is it good hygiene – to lounge all day in pajamas or bedclothes. The majority of us prefer to change into daytime clothes, and that holds true for older adults, as well. It adds to our psychological wellbeing and helps to create a sense of belonging.

So, it may be something that an older adult truly wants to do, but it can be physically challenging – or even mentally exhausting. After all some of today’s most famous leaders remove what’s known as “decision fatigue” by wearing the same thing every day. Made famous by Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, more current examples range from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to former US president Barack Obama.

Remove the Rush

One of the most effective ways to sidestep any stress associated with dressing – or undressing for bed – is to slow down the process and remove any feeling as if there’s a time limit. Rushing to dress or undress is unwise if you’re an older adult or a caregiver because it increases the chances of injury. This is an especially important consideration if you are recovering from surgery or an injury.

An older adult may prefer to do it all themselves, and that’ll take more time if they’ve lost flexibility or mobility. What’s the rush? If you are a caregiver with a set schedule, you’ll want to allot more time for the process.

Streamline the Decision-Making

If it works for Zuckerberg and Obama, it can certainly work for you. Whether you’re a caregiver or an older adult, look for ways to simplify the choices you have to make. Exactly the same thing every day might not work for you. It does sound a bit boring and you’re probably not the billionaire CEO of a startup – but choosing from a smaller selection of options that you know are comfortable and easy to put on can help make dressing less stressful and easier to accomplish.

Life for everyone might be easier if we paid less attention to fashion trends. Getting dressed daily, however, is important to our self-esteem and helps us with sociability. We can keep this habit – whether we’re an older adult or a caregiver – when we adapt it to work for the limitations and challenges that can appear with age.