Walk, don’t Fall! How to Buy Medical Equipment

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How to buy medical equipment for seniors at home by francy Dickinson

Say NO to using surfaces as Table Top walking...

Say NO to using surfaces as Table Top walking…

Dear Francy: Mother will not use her cane…she falls…I know because she has bruises – but her pride is over the moon and she will not use them. She is also having night problems with her bladder…I have to change the bed each time I visit…but no mention of it from her. How can I get over this pride issue and keep her safe and clean and feeling good about herself?

TALK ! There comes a time when seniors have to sit down and listen to their children. It is a hard thing for both fathers and mothers to do- but the transition from being their ‘little girl’ to their care giver simply has to happen. I get it. I have talked about medical equipment and how to acquire it and when to use it before…but just when I think everyone knows…I get four emails in a row about problems with seniors and a need for help. So, I am going to review the different things you need to use as a senior progresses in their life’s journey.

Use a gel cushion in the car and on your favorite TV chair…save that bottom and your back…it feels great!

Start with a gel cushion: When you age, your bottom and your feet start to change and you need to use a little gel cushioning. I am in my early sixties and I have both gel in soles in my shoes and a get cushion on my bottom when I rest…I am a happy girl…get one and enjoy pain free life again!

Age and how a senior feels and their personal challenges are always different. That is why its good to know what is out there for you to help anyone that has ups and downs in their health. Heart problems can come and go and so can arthritis–so if you have some of these helpful tools on hand. You can use them when needed.

Toilet Support Rails r easy to install

Toilet Support Rails are easy to install

This unit simply screws on to any toilet under the seat..then you screw the seat on top of it…it gives you adjustable handles. This has helped George so much…but guess what? After my car accident I had great pain in my foot..and this helped me too! I will not be taking it off when George leaves the house…it is now something I count on myself 😉

To carry this idea out…we need to talk about a commode. These are like portable toilets. When a man is up 2-3-4-5 times a night with prostate issues…or when Parkinson’s has you extremely unsteady…a portable toilet, called a commode, is the ticket to ease of use and relaxed worries of accidents and falls. This commode has a bucket you fill with a bit of water and I hit it with a small amount of Pinesol type product. Then you keep it by the bed…so it is just a few feet away. I put a plastic sheet (black bag) down under it and have toilet paper ready. It is used at night..then during the day you take out the bucket and dump it in the toilet and put the unit over the toilet in the bathroom so the senior can use it with it’s handles for sturdy up and downs. REMEMBER:You always have to ask your doctor for the different products to help you. The doctor will write a prescription for the item and the medical rental house will get your product ready and it will then be able to be all or partially covered by Medicare/Supplement. If you are lucky, like we are, and have Veteran’s…they will give you a review and provide the equipment. If you do not have coverage and need medical products…then it’s time to check out local charities and ask them for help. They often are giving things after someone passes. They clean it up and get it ready for you to use without a big investment. Be creative…do not be embarrassed to ask for help from friends and local charities…they are working hard to provide things for your use…use them.

–> NOTE:Women need to use pad or pants that are designed for urinary problems. Not pads for menstruation. This is very important because the wrong pad for the wrong situation can lead to nasty UrinaryTrackInfections. UTI’s are one the main health risks of both men and women when they begin to lose their strength. UTI’s can take a senior down and change their future living alone abilities… in no time. We can not stress enough to “talk” to your senior about their bathroom issues. Then talk to the doctor. Stool problems can lead to real problems; and the use of stool softeners and/or Imodium products to harden stools can reduce those terrible battles in the bathroom.Medications has nasty side effects for all of us…but especially seniors find them embarrassing and often to do not mention the problems.  Men have to relax and let a pad or “Depend”  under short type product reduce their need to hurry to the bathroom everywhere they go. Doctors can and will give you a prescription for urinary pills that will reduce the ‘urge’ feeling that requires so many bathroom visits. This ‘hurry up’ is the cause of many seniors falling in the middle of the night. A good mattress cover is required. Most seniors need to update their bedding after years of use anyway. So, get a new mattress cover that will protect the mattress and give a little cushion to the older bed. Add two new sets of easy to wash sheets and pillow cases so they can be easily washed and changed. Most seniors like the feel of flannel sheets almost all year round…so keep that in mind when you are buying the new bedding. Update the pillows so the senior has two new pillows for head. Use the older pillows and put one for between their legs to cushion the legs and one to tuck under their upper arm to put them into a womb-curling posture as they sleep. This wrapping them in comfort will allow them to sleep soundly. Adding a night-pad or Depends type of pant…will let them know they are OK, if they have an accident. Then adding in the commode or toilet handles will be a winning ticket for seniors with night time worries and accidents.

—-> Tip//how a lady wipes her bottom after a bowel movement — is going to stop a lot of UTI infections. I had mother re-learn this process…she also used a femine wipe..or child’s diaper cleaning wipe and put it into the special (with swinging lid) trash bin…not down the toilet. These products will clog your sewer system! So teach them to have a trash bin close to the toilet to use for the wipes and a place to put their Depends type products. Then you line the trash bin with a light plastic liner and empty it twice a week to keep the smell out of the bathroom. I use a disinfectant spray inside the trash bin and then re-line it with another tall plastic bin bag. (I get mine at the dollar store) This makes this whole process easy for the senior and the care giver to use and keep really clean. I also have a container of cleaner-wipes (w bleach) under the sink and I use them to wipe off the toilet area and the sink and other handles and light switches- each time I clean the bathroom. This keeps down the germs and the odor. Seniors often lose their sense of smell so you have to help them keeping clean.

I have never been so proud that I could not use a cane with my back. I have had a bad back long before I became a senior. The pain was too much to worry about pride. Even as a younger woman, I had a cane hanging in the closet. It helped me through the three days of pain until the back would relax and let me go back to my regular walking.

Cane and Handle helps George w balance

Cane and Handle helps George w balance.

Just as you prep your house for little children or dogs…its time to do it for seniors that will be aging into health challenges. The senior may only need a few of these items as they move downhill in their health. But actually, at the first signs of stability problems, its time to make changes. Stair lifts are such a lovely thing for those that can afford them. They allow the senior to stay in their two story home, so much longer. And electric chairs are great too. But they are for seniors that have all their thought processes working. Since my George suffers with his Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s he is unable to remember how to use the electric chair or cart.

This new small wheelchair is proving to be a hit with us

This new small wheelchair is proving to be a hit with us

George started using his walker quite a while ago. But it only worked as a walker. It did have a seat for him to use when he got tired…but now he has days that he is too weak to walk at all. So, what to do? We asked for a Physical Therapy appointment and the PT gave us a very small, light weight, wheel chair with small wheels. It now is used as a walker for George when he is feeling strong. The chair is light and easy for me to fold and put into my smaller car. (not everyone uses an SUV) and it works well when George walks. I am going to look around for a larger bag that can hang off the back of the chair so he can grab a few things to take from room to room. I also have to figure out how he can have his cane on the back of it too…so maybe a velcro connection there??

Walking w his legs instead of me pushing is Great!

Walking w his legs instead of me pushing is Great!

The new wheelchair also allows him to sit and walk with his own legs. The older walker was not designed for this move. Now, George is able to move around on his own with his own leg power, without me pushing him all the time. NICE – he is able to walk it out to the front porch where we have a container garden and he helps me water the tomatoes and catches some sun rays each morning.

Now what do you do when you wake up and your spouse is not able to even get out of bed to begin their day? You learn how to use a ‘gait belt’ – the Physical Therapist will show you how to use this. Its an easy tool…you put it around the mid section of the senior and then you can help guide him up and walk with him supporting his legs from the middle of his body.

Example of Bed Rail

Example of Bed Rail

Or you can add a support bar for the side of your bed and the senior can use it to get up on their own. It will depend on if the senior has strong arms and is able to use them.

That is why I keep George exercising three times a week. I have a routine I put him through to keep those legs strong enough for him to make transitions and get up and down from chairs and bed. As he goes up and down in his abilities…we stay with exercise. I use the elastic exercise bands to give him some pressure to stretch and keep his arms strong. Look for them at the sports department or ask the PT the next time you go.

Thank you for all you are doing for your senior…you have no idea how kind and dear it is for you to give your time and love to another and let them age with grace. I have been giving George more and more of my time each day as his Parkinson’s is taking over…poor guy is losing his abilities so fast. So, what I try to do is take each day as a new day. If a day is bad…we work through it. But the next day we start a new…so if his strength is better he does more. If you start to put the senior into a pattern of you doing more and more for them and never checking if they can do some of those things on their own…its just a downhill slide for both of you.

Enjoy the fall…no more hot hot days…things will cool down. George has already asked for Pumpkin pie or pumpkin cream in his coffee…so he gets what time of year it is. I also make sure I change the decor and the calendar in the house. Seniors have no daily change of pace…so pointing out the seasonal changes makes their days into days…not endless time with no change. Quality of care, depends on you as a care giver…so make fall a good time for you…and it will translate onto the senior you are caring for.

Blessings…francy
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