101-year-old: The Right Cane–Mobility and Aging in Place–4 years after Broken Hip Surgery 1

USING AND CHOOSING CANES WISELY

Because of R’s strong desire to remain in her home of over 65 years and live independently, alone–she may have put more thought into cane selection than many.

IMG_3693The cane she eventually purchased, she first used in rehab. While she used many canes in rehab, this one felt best to her, because of its handle, which is broad. Her palm rests on it, instead of fingers wrapping the usual more rounded handle. Thus, it felt like added support.

To backtrack a bit–

Shortly before her release from rehab a cane salesman visited her in her room. (Don’t know if this is true of most rehab centers.) I happened to be there.

He brought a good supply of canes, but none with the handle R swears by for stability and confidence. She told him what she wanted, which he didn’t have. (No one said she had to purchase his canes…I think it was a “service.”)

The day she signed out of rehab, they let her borrow the cane she liked  best. She took it to the surgical supply store. Not a stock item, It needed to be ordered and would take 2 weeks. R. was eager to get started with it. My husband ordered it through Amazon, where itt was less expensive and arrived at R’s home in 3 days. I can’t remember if Medicare covered it.

A year or so later R saw and ordered the HurryCane. One of its attributes–advertised on TV– was that it stood up by itself. R’s home is carpeted. It did not stand up on carpet. She phoned the company and spoke to “a very nice man” who said she could return it and get full credit (which she did). Although that cane didn’t work for her, she appreciated the ease of return.

She then tried a little rubber gadget that would attach to the bottom of her cane so it would stand up by itself.  But first the existing rubber tip needed to be removed. The rubber gadget didn’t work and R says the original tip could not be put back on her cane–necessitating another purchase of the original cane –with the broad handle.

When R bought the replacement cane, she went back to her rehab place to have them fit the cane so the handle was at the proper height for her. She was told when she left rehab 4 years ago how important it is that the cane is fit properly by someone knowledgeable. She’s convinced that’s why some people who, don’t stand up straight and walk properly with their cane, have problems.

R has always been creative in solving her problems. That’s undoubtedly one reason she has been able to remain independent for so long. Currently her walker, which she loves, provides a place to rest her cane in the standing position.  It’s sort of hooked to one side (see photo). It stands up and ready–always in the kitchen. And when she’s walking to other parts of her one-story home, she can lay the cane on a bed, chair, etc. where it’s easily accessible.

As parents age, inevitable problems arise. Loss of almost all vision in R’s left eye and macular degeneration in her other eye are her current concerns. Mobility isn’t one of them thanks to her cane and a walker (next post).

 
Related: Tips for Choosing and Using Canes Mayo Clinic Slide Presentation

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

Aging Parents: 101-Year-Old, 4 Years After Broken Hip Surgery, Still Mobile and Living Alone

To begin the New Year, a happy follow-up–on Sr. Advisor R’s once broken hip.

Four years ago this month R left the rehab center after spending 4 months there. At the time Medicare only covered 3 months. Fortunately R had a secondary policy that helped with the 4th month. Don’t know what Medicare covers today. Do know that getting all information about insurance coverage, in advance, makes sense. It provides a framework for decision-making. That’s always helpful.

Today, at 101, R is completely mobile. She now walks with a cane when she goes out (which she didn’t do before she broke her femur). She uses her cane at home when she “feels unsure.”

While “feeling unsure” isn’t something younger people normally experience when walking or driving a car, it seems to be a feeling older people are attuned to. For example, I remember Edie (a Woman’s Club member in her late 90’s who aged well) saying something like “On days I don’t feel sure of myself, I don’t drive.”  “Know Thyself” seems important for aging well independently.

What has changed since R’s surgery:

R says she has no mobility problem–gets around fine, however–

The leg affected by her broken hip has never been as limber or as strong as it was before the surgery and is weaker than her other leg. Exercise is a must.

The muscles are weaker (even though she has religiously done the exercises learned in rehab since returning home). That leg also has less range of motion. For example, she says “I can’t just raise that leg (while sitting down) to put on a sock without help from my hand to rest my leg on a stool that I put in front of me. Then I can put the sock on.”

“If you don’t exercise that leg you’ll have trouble walking. So many just sit in a chair and don’t bother to do the exercises and pretty soon that leg doesn’t work so they walk less and sit more,” says R. “Many people just give up. I don’t want that to happen. I’m either going to be out of here (dead)–or I’m going to continue doing what I have to do. If you want your independence, you have to keep doing–your exercises and everything else.”

R credits the right cane (see next post) for giving her ease of mobility. She’s certain that the cane she’s now using is a big reason she’s been able to continue to go out with friends and live independently, alone. It was an important purchase that has helped her age well.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

Family: Making Room–with Aging Parents Living Beside You

Mansion, the Saturday real estate section of The Wall Street Journal, ran a cover story:
Make Room For the In-Laws.
“…Why space for aging parents is a hot real-estate amenity now.”

Put away the snarky in-law jokes,” we read. “For both domestic and foreign buyers, the hottest amenity in real estate these days is an in-law unit, an apartment carved out of an existing home or a stand-alone dwelling built on the homeowners’ property. While adult children get the peace of mind of having mom and dad nearby, real-estate agents say the in-law accommodations are adding value to their homes.” WSJ 11/7/14

We learn:

  • Homes with in-law units (technical name:accessory dwelling units, ADU’s) are priced about 60% higher than those without.
  • We learn almost a third (32%) of the 550 respondents, who had one or more aging parents, said they expected to have a relative live with them in the future, according to a 2012 survey by PulteGroup (one of the US’s largest homebuilders).
  • We learn in the Southwest Pulte “rolled out casitas,” stand-alone in-law units.” Personal note: “Casitas” are not a new concept for Pulte, although an interior design that’s adult friendly (if it is) would be new. Pulte has, for many years, built casitas in Arizona for use as guest houses, even/especially for home owners of normal-size homes, who like having guests or grandchildren.
  • We learn in the Southeast Pulte has introduced “Multi-Gen dwellings” that are built into the main house.
  • We learn that in 2011 Lennar (Miami-based) introduced “NextGen dwellings.” They are part of the main house, but have a separate entrance–and their sales grew 27%.

I wonder: “Which Comes First, the Chicken or the Egg?” Are economics driving this? or Are adult children caring more about their aging parents?

Two aging mothers, mentioned in the article, say that having their adult children living only steps away eases the transition; and knowing their children are right next door keeps them from feeling lonely.

For aging parents who can still “do,” this living plan has the potential to work well. Everyone is more or less independent; everyone still has his and/or her own life; and while health problems probably exist, they are no doubt manageable. Connections, stimulation, and feelings of security for aging parents exist and are all factors in helping parents age well. And they can extend aging parents’ ability to continue to do.

For adult children, there’s a sense of control and the peace of mind that comes from knowing they can come to the rescue sooner, rather than later should parents need them. And the additional expense of providing an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)–to their home (or to their parents’ home if they decide to move into that home, which some children decide to do) has no doubt increased the home’s value.

When aging parents begin having health issues that require caregiving, adult children will need to rethink sharing responsibilities with siblings and making decisions with their parents. This should NOT come as a surprise. In the meantime, adult children can take heart in the fact they’re doing their best to help parents age well. And shouldn’t that instill confidence in their future decision-making ability ……as they help parents age well until the end.

Related: Click “Make Room for In-Laws” link at top below picture.

Note: Newsworthy (right sidebar). Links to current research and information from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical and spirit-lifting ideas, to help parents age well.

Aging Parents: Designer Safety in the Bathroom

Attractively-designed bathroom products that are ADA compliant and can support 500 pounds are now on the market from American Standard. While pricey, their design is stylish, comparable to “normal” designer bathroom accessories. They don’t resemble those clunky, utilitarian products that look like they belong in a hospital bathroom.

I must admit, when we remodeled bathrooms after moving to our NY apartment I couldn’t bring myself to put in one of those ugly grab bars. We aren’t psychologically ready for those yet, although it would have been more practical financially to install it then. A soap dish-grab ring photo by the manufacturer caught my eye this month as I was looking at the National Association of Home Builders blog.

Something attractive makes a difference psychologically–we feel good using it on a daily basis.  It’s not necessary to have a fancy bathroom. On the other hand, something that’s a daily reminder that we’re old and need equipment that looks like it’s for a patient in a hospital or care center, does not lift spirits (that’s the nicest way I can say it).

I’m guessing these products will eventually come down in price. On the other hand, if I knew the soap dish or towel bar would help an aging parent feel better about needing a grab bar and had the proper space, I would  enlist other family members’ contributions and give it as a gift. It would be another way to help elders feel good; and doesn’t that contribute to their aging well….

………an after-thought: If Tiffany could incorporate an alert pendant’s technology into a necklaces and bracelest, do we think elders would be more inclined to wear them?

Related:
http://www.americanstandard-us.com/safe-and-accessible/safe-and-accessible-products/accessories/

3/26/14 Help! Aging Parents has been nominated for 2014 “Best Blogs by Individuals” recognition and we would appreciate your vote by 4/28 if you’re on Facebook. We were honored to be judged part of a 3-way tie for first runner-up last year thanks to your votes which took us to the judging round. Click top badge at right to view a universe of helpful aging blogs and resources, even if you can’t vote on Facebook.

Changing often: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Timely links to research and information from top universities, plus some fun stuff to help parents age well.

HOLIDAY GIFTS GUARANTEED TO PLEASE AGING PARENTS: THINKING AHEAD

Gifts We Can Be Certain Elders Want

IMG_2319MEMORY TEST: Have your aging parents or grandparents–or great-uncles or aunts– ever mentioned off-handedly or in conjunction with other thoughts, something they need, want or would love to have? And you file it in your memory as a gift idea for later on?

I’ve flunked that. Perhaps I’m not alone. Sunday I was reading posts in my archives and unearthed something I’d forgotten. Sr. Advisor, R, mentioned the retrofitted shower’s hand spray device was big and heavy for her 99-year-old hands according to that post. I had purchased a smallish, relatively light weight one when we remodeled our apartment’s bathroom. Its spray could be adjusted to pretty powerful if necessary. I knew it would be perfect–a needed gift.

To back up: R (who has aged in place in her home of 60+ years) had her shower retrofitted before her return from rehab following her broken hip surgery. She didn’t mention the hand spray until last March when I asked if I could write about her shower redo. That’s when I learned about the hand shower spray. How could I forget between March and November?!

Kohler K-8487Now that I’ve remembered, I will go to the Kohler website and show her the hand spray photo on my iPhone. (She is much less flexible, at age 100, with anything involving change; we try to be sensitive to that). Who knows, in the last 7+ months she may have become accustomed to that big, heavy hand spray! Since we have no tools and aren’t handy, a plumber would need to be part of the hand-spray gift. Considering the total cost, we want to avoid a mistake.

We’ll be with her at Thanksgiving and I know I’ll find a reason to casually bring up the subject. Since my iPhone is never far from me, showing her the photo will be simple. If she still has interest, a gift guaranteed to please will be coming her way at holiday time.

We know our parents pretty well.  Nevertheless, aging does bring changes. I think we all want to give gifts that add to older people’s lives, not give them clutter or something that causes problems. That’s why–from now on–when, especially, an older family member mentions something that is broken, not working, not right, has been lost etc. etc., I’m going to keep a list and pull it out well in advance of a gift-giving occasion. As we try to help parents age well, doesn’t that make sense?

Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

Help Parents Age Well and in Place: Old Bathrooms. Old Parents. New Shower Fittings for a 97-year-old Woman–Update: Now 100, Still in Her Home

IMG_0971Search engines connect to countless websites offering renovations to help aging parents and others remain in their homes when muscles, joints, and limbs become “ify.” Mobility problems may instantly flash “candidate for assisted living” in the minds of many and rightly so.

The flip side for others, however, is the cost (literally and emotionally) of moving vs. remaining in one’s home. Clearly, if mental capacity has become impaired, remaining at home is risky. When aging parents still have a “good head on their shoulders” and are adamant about remaining in their home, values and a philosophy of life come into play. And so it was for Sr. Advisor R, now 99.

Readers know she still lives, without daily help or a companion, in the 1-story home she and her husband built in the mid-1940’s. From the minute she left the hospital after surgery for a broken hip two years ago (she lost her balance and fell after making a quick turn to straighten out a picture her cleaning woman had turned around), going home was her only goal. After 4 months “of very hard work” (she’ll tell you) in a rehab center, she went home alone, refusing all offers of anyone’s staying there with her. But she couldn’t go home without a physical therapist visiting her home and making specific recommendation to make her home as accident proof as possible.

R is smart, reads widely, orders through catalogs, and had already taken the initiative to have some of the usual grab bars, easier-to-grip handles for faucets etc. installed well before breaking her hip. She was limber enough before her fall to get in and out of a bath tub with help from the grab bars. But after hip surgery a shower became an easier option. That entailed updating her previously not-often-used shower.

IMG_0964The shower is about 4′ x 6′ and grab bars were installed on 3 walls: 2 horizontal and 1 vertical.  Looking in one sees a high step up. A vertical grab bar is unseen on the right wall, just as you step in (or out) and a left horizontal bar above the bench is easily grabbed when stepping into the shower. The 2nd horizontal bar plus a soap dish are within easy reach. Turning the corner, the shower control comes into view. The tile floor is from the ’40’s and would not be recommended today because of its somewhat slippery finish. R is very careful. Doesn’t stand to shower and doesn’t do much walking in the small confines.

Next, the shower control (on the wall opposite the bench) and the long metal shower hose hanging down for the hand-held sprayer attachment (there’s no shower head–only a vertical bar the sprayer could be attached to if used as a shower head, which it isn’t). The sprayer faces the shower controls but actually fastens into a holder on the 4th wall abutting the shower door and near grab bar.  R. says the sprayer attachment is heavier than she would have liked but, she says, “I wasn’t consulted.”

I have a Kohler spray attachment that I love. (Check it out, [e-faucets was least expensive a year ago]); I researched well before getting it. It’s as powerful as the big ones–good for a female, someone with small hands, or someone who wants/needs something relatively light and small. No doubt we’ll make that a gift (Mother’s Day will be here before we know it), but we will check with R first to make certain she’d like it.

The 4th wall, to which the sprayer head is attached, has the vertical grab bar that’s unseen in the photo.

Having a small bathroom and small shower made this “update” simple, but “expensive–around $1,000″–according to R. Moving to assisted or independent living would have been quite expensive. Much more money for much less space. Plus, she’d be leaving a home and neighbors that have been–and are–an important part of her life.

As long as R’s mind continues to be good, she will call the shots (and enjoy her refurbished shower). To do otherwise would be to undermine all that she has done to remain independent. As we try to help parents age well, we stop and ask ourselves: Is it easier/better for us or easier or better for them?”

Related: Bathroom Safety Checklist: http://afriendlyhouse.com/17/Safety-checklist–Bathroom/  I found this article several months after writing this post. R’s hands have no problem with the dial shower control mechanism.

Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

HBO Documentary “King’s Point” tonight 3/11 at 9PM*: Subject-Retired Seniors

Tonight, MONDAY, MARCH 11, watching the Oscar-nominated documentary, KING’S POINT (9 PM ET/PT*), may be something we don’t want to miss as we continue to gain more knowledge about aging.  According to the email Help! Aging Parents received, Director and Producer, Sari Gilman, tells the stories of five seniors living in a typical American retirement resort – men and women who came to Florida decades ago with their spouses by their sides and their health intact, and now find themselves grappling with love, loss, and the universal desire for human connection.

The email continues: KING’S POINT is a film that breaks through the denial of aging and death that is so pervasive in our culture to unerringly steer us down a road of honest reflection.  Shot over the course of 10 years, Kings Point is a bittersweet look at our national obsession with self-reliance, exploring the dynamic tension between living and aging while underscoring society’s powerful ambivalence toward growing older.

I obviously haven’t seen it yet, but looking at “our national obsession with self-reliance” and “society’s powerful ambivalence toward growing older” has certainly captured my interest.

Here’s the link to the trailer: http://kingspoint.bltoutreach.com/trailer/

*Do check your local listings to be certain of the time tonight. (2 broadcast times are listed in the email: the other time is 7:30-8:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO).