Split Safety & Wellness Responsibilities for Aging Parents

Julie Fries, RN, In Home Care

Every family member has a special talent. You might be the handyman (or woman); some of us have a gift for interior decorating, while others are really good at wrangling schedules and paperwork into perfectly organized files arranged by date. As our parents age, it’s time to step up and split up some very important duties to help keep them safe and healthy at home. Show how you care for your parents—and for one another—by sharing family responsibilities:

For the Handyman/Home Depot Shopper:

Install a grab handle between the storm door and the exterior door to help an older person boost up and over the threshold of his or her house. Buy several nightlights and plug them in all along the route to your person’s bathroom. (A while ago, maybe one would suffice, but aging people need a better lit pathway.) Find a shower seat with a notch to hold a handheld shower nozzle so your parents don’t have to reach up and wrestle with an unwieldy hose connected to the showerhead. Install a high-rise toilet seat so it’s easier and safer for mom and dad to sit down and get up.

For the Interior Decorator/Efficiency Expert:

Work with your parents to rearrange often-used items so they are more accessible. However, remember to make these changes as a team. Rearranging personal items can cause anxiety if your parents can’t find something you put in a “better” place. The goal is to store food, dishes, clothing, and other everyday items within easy reach and prevent a fall that might come from standing on a stool or chair.

Walk through the house with an eye toward trip hazards. Remove area rugs from all but the most essential places, like entry doors, and safely move electrical cords out of walkways.

Arrange furniture to allow plenty of room to walk freely and remove items that tend to collect on stairs or in hallways, especially those things that are halfway to their destinations, like piles of papers (that can be recycled), garbage bags (on their way out to the trash can), or laundry baskets (on their way to or from the laundry room). Is there a better system for these things, like a new location for the garbage and recycling, or a hamper-on-wheels for laundry?

For the Organizer Extraordinaire:

If you like to bring order and predictability to the world, then you will be almost giddy when you discover how easy it is to have your parents’ prescriptions safely organized in bubble packs and set to auto-refill.

Set an appointment for an Options & Solutions visit from Valley VNA nurses, and bring your questions and a notebook. We come to your parents’ ho

use for a 60-90 minute appointment to talk about helpful services that are available when the time is right. Learn about new ideas together, and give your parents time to think about when and if they might like to use them, including: Meals-on-Wheels hot meal deliveries; foot care clinics that include a foot soak, nail trim, filing, and foot massage; blood pressure clinics; flu shot clinics; Health Chats, a health talk presented by a nurse; cleaning services through the VNA’s Home Maids division, and in-home respite care for caregivers.

Together, we can all do our share. Not only will it lighten your load, everyone has a chance to share their own special kind of love. To learn more about any of these services, or to schedule a no-cost Options and Solutions visit, call (920) 727-5555 or visit www.valleyvna.org.