Your loved one suddenly seems less steady on his feet. His doctor suggests he start using a walker and shows him how to use it. When you get home you realize the house has narrow halls, or the chair sticks out too far. Home furnishings that once felt cozy now clearly look like trip hazards.
You notice how impossible a wheelchair will be to get up and down the steps. Your eye for ADA access and walker safety has suddenly come into focus and you plan to work with your father to make the home safer, but where do you start?
Clear a Path
While it might seem like a no brainer, sometimes in the fight for safety, aesthetic wins out. Tables and buffets that have held a special place over the span of 40 years feel permanent and important. Asking a loved one to use a new tool he doesn’t love, and move a piece of furniture he does love might be enough to start world war III. Often clearing pathways is more about gentle conversation than physically moving objects.
Sometimes it helps to have a professional suggest changes in the home. Your loved one may feel more receptive if difficult suggestions come from a stranger. Home health and home care organizations often have managers who will make home safety suggestions.
Walker Glides Make Moving Walkers Easier
You have seen walkers with the fluffy yellow balls attached to the legs. There are better versions of these walker accessories called walker glides. Walker glides protect the included rubber stops on the bottom of the walker, and they help make walking across carpeted surfaces easier.
For people who struggle to manage the weight of the walker friction reducing accessories make a big difference. Well worn walkers can scratch floors and make noise as the components wear out. Glides offer another layer of protection.
Different Walkers for Different Places
There are several types of walkers. Some walkers have no wheels, some have two, and some have four. Walkers are not expensive tools, so it makes sense to try different models for different activities. For outdoor use walkers with two wheels offer stability but move over uneven ground more easily. Rollators or walkers with four wheels make faster walking possible but require the user feel comfortable with using a brake.
Consider having different walkers for different levels of the house. You certainly don’t want your loved one navigating stairways will trying to carry a walker up and down. Some people keep a fold up walker in the trunk to minimize lifting and improve walker safety.
Remove Rugs, Cords, and Trip Hazards
Walkers offer stability but pathways must be clear to prevent trip incidents. Look for cords and rugs that are loose and could catch the foot of a walker. Talk to your loved one about the importance of fall prevention. Walkers help with balance issues, but falls can still happen if feet get tripped up. Rugs may seem heavy and secure where they lay, but corners and edges may lift just enough to catch a toe. Walker safety includes making sure trip hazards are out of the way.
Keep the Walker Somewhere Handy
Walkers do no good when stored in the garage, but without practice and urging that is where they can end up. Make sure walkers are in easy reach of your loved one. Keep a walker beside the bed, or in a bathroom. If there are door size issues keep one in an often used room so your loved one doesn’t need to try to fit it through the door.
Getting used to a walker may take your loved one a little practice. Encourage the use of the walker by making it accessible, and easy to reach. Have walkers on different levels of a multi story homes and remove rugs and trip hazards from walkways. If your loved one doesn’t love a particular walker style, try a different one. There are lots of walker features including wheels, brakes and seats. Find the design that meets your loved one’s needs best.
If your loved one needs more encouragement using the walker when you aren’t around, or would benefit from meal preparation and light house keeping contact us for a free assessment.