As one ages, staying in your own private home can become more difficult. Maintaining one’s independence while balancing the need for safety can present some challenges. Today, technology and innovation can help seniors age in place longer. A bevy of products and services now exist that provide greater safety, more independence, convenience and, most of all, peace of mind.
Medical alarms, or medical alert devices, are small personal emergency alarms worn as pendants, watches, key chains or medic alert bracelets that are monitored 24-hours per day. Medical alarms are wireless and small enough to be conveniently carried on your person. These devices allow seniors to live independently, while offering security and quick emergency response at the press of a button. Medical alarms allow you to go about your daily activities without fear that you may be unable to summon help should you need it. Not only can a medical alarm provide you with a feeling of security, but it gives loved ones peace of mind knowing that you can get help even if no one else is around.
The press of the button activates your base unit, installed in your home, which, in many units, automatically calls a response centre. Responding personnel usually call your home first to see what kind of help you need. If they are unable to reach you, they will call an ambulance as well as the people you have chosen to be called in an emergency - this is usually a neighbour, friend or relative living nearby who has access to your home. Medical alert devices usually have the capacity to function outside your home, like in the front yard, backyard, and even down the street a short way.
The danger of a fall is probably one of the biggest reasons why seniors purchase medical alarms. Statistics show that more than one-third of adults 65 years or older fall each year. About 25 per cent of those end up being hospitalized with fractures to the vertebrae, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm or hand.
Getting help immediately reduces the trauma and often results in shorter recovery times. A medical alarm is a proactive measure that should be given careful consideration, especially if you are the sole occupant of the residence, or are alone for periods.
Aids to Daily Living
“Aids to Daily Living” (ADLs) are devices that help people with disabilities function at their highest possible level and enjoy the best possible quality of life. ADLs are also referred to as “assistive devices,” or “adaptive technology.”
Both government and non-profit organizations provide funding to people with disabilities for ADLs. Whether or not you’re eligible for funding can be based on a number of factors, such as the type and cost of the device you need, your household income, the province (and in some cases, city) of residence, and the nature of your disability.
The provincially funded Aids to Independent Living program in British Columbia loans medical equipment, free of charge. Many seniors coping with long-term illness and injury do not have the financial resources required to purchase or rent medical equipment. Clients must be referred by an occupational therapist, home care nurse, physiotherapist, or other health unit staff and must undergo a financial eligibility test.
For those who do not qualify for funding or need devices not funded by the program, a variety of ADL products can be purchased through medical supply companies – in stores and online. These stores carry hundreds of products such as canes, walkers, scooters, special chairs, grab bars and poles, stairlifts, health monitors, transfer devices, bathing apparatus, grooming and eating utensils, therapeutic beds and pillows, exercise equipment, ramps, and more.
You may also wish to contact the Red Cross Medical Loans Program. They offer a variety of equipment on loan - often cheaper than purchasing the item, especially if it’s expensive, or needed only temporarily.
A variety of home lifts are available to aid mobility around one’s home, specifically in homes that have two or more levels. From basic stairlifts to metal and glass elevator lifts (both interior and exterior) – there’s an application for every need and decor requirement. Stairlifts are the most economical and easiest to install, but elevator lifts can actually be the showpiece of your home. The space requirements can be found in most homes. If you require only temporary use of a stairlift, (e.g. while recovering from surgery), some companies can even provide rentals that they will install and remove when it is no longer needed.
Home Care Services
If you see a consistent leaning toward the need for additional help, it may be time to consider acquiring some kind of home support service to assist in the areas of greatest concern. Often people avoid asking for help until they are in crisis. Be proactive about getting the help you need to relieve anxiety and possibly prolong the amount of time you can remain independent. No doubt about it, growing old demands courage, which includes the courage to ask for help when you need it.
Home care services cover a broad spectrum. The services you can purchase range from hiring a single care worker to do light housekeeping, prepare meals, or take you to appointments, to 24-hour live-in care, to hiring a team of care workers that can provide extensive palliative nursing care. You can get almost any type of help you want.
Home care services can be purchased privately or through an agency. Some home care services you must pay for yourself, while in other cases, funding may be available to cover some or all of the home care expenses. If your care is paid for with government funding, the type of services and number of hours allowed is assessed by the provincial Health Authority.
Request an assessment by contacting the Home & Community Care office in your area. A case manager will arrange a visit to discuss your particular situation, assess your health-care needs, the support you are receiving from family and friends, and determine your eligibility for service. Some services they will not cover - those you may need to purchase privately (yard maintenance, for example).
The Home & Community Care office toll-free number is 1-888-533-2273. Ask to be connected to the office in your municipality.
For a list of the types of home care services, as well as contact information for the Aids to Independent Living program and the Red Cross Medical Equipment Loans Program, visit the Senior Living website at www.seniorlivingmag.com/articles/stay-in-your-home-longer
Also, see “How to Choose a Home Care Agency” at www.seniorlivingmag.com/articles/choosing-a-home-care-agency
To order Senior Living’s 132-page book ‘To Move Or Not To Move?” which includes a questionnaire “Do You Need Home Care Service?” go to www.seniorlivingmag.com/bookstore Cost: $9.95 plus tax and S&H.
FEBRUARY 2012 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND
FEBRUARY 2012 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND