Stay at Home Solutions
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Blog, News, & Resources

Stay at Home Solutions blogs on topics such as aging in place, universal design, adaptive equipment, home modifications, accessibility, durable medical equipment, legislation, and caregiving.

Am I Really A Caregiver?

Foreword: I originally published this article in July and thought that it needed another go round on the blog. If you help out a family member, read below and see if you qualify as a caregiver. (More than likely, you probably do!) I want you to know that there are resources available to help you!

Recently, a therapist friend of mine brought up the fact that caregivers do not realize they are caregivers. My mind was blown! She was totally right. It reminded me how I used to not see myself as a caregiver to my grandparents. On a professional level, I have worked with family members in nursing homes who did not see themselves as caregivers. Lots of people do not perceive themselves as caregivers!

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It seems like when people think about caregiving they imagine a kind nurse helping a sick, frail patient with some sort of self care task, like getting dressed or taking medicine. Or people think that a caregiver is a parent raising a child. Both thoughts about caregivers are correct, but let me tell you, the definition of a caregiver expands way past physically helping a person with the intimate parts of everyday life.

I talk about caregivers all the time in my blog, videos, and with clients and their families. It is long overdue for me to break down what a caregiver actually does!

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A caregiver is a family member, friend, or paid professional that helps a person with activities of daily living. I understand that is a broad definition, but let me explain. Activities of daily living refer not only to self care tasks like toileting, bathing, grooming, etc., but they also refer to taking care of the home, finances, transportation, community errands, using a telephone, and so on and so on.

If you just sit for a minute and actually think about all of the seemingly small things you do a day, than you will realize that some people need help with all of those things you take for granted. Let me tell you about my first hour of a normal day. I get out of bed, put on my glasses, make the bed, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, let the dog out, make breakfast, eat breakfast, and walk the dog. For each one of those tasks, I could go into even more detail about what I do.

There are some people who need help with every single one of those things that I do in the first hour of the day! My first hour of the day consists of my personal needs and taking care of my dog. If someone helped me with any of those things, they would be my caregiver. Is your mind blown yet?

My personal experience as a caregiver started many years ago with my wonderful grandparents. My grandmother, Granny, would ask me to help out with tasks around the house like changing the light bulbs, taking down the attic fan cover, and carrying the laundry basket up from the basement for her. (By the way, all of those things are caregiving activities!) I did not see myself as a caregiver. I saw myself as helping Granny out! I actually cherished going to my grandparent’s house and reading my list of to do’s. In my mind, that’s what you do for your family: you help your family whenever they need something.

Over time, my grandparents asked for more help around the house and going out in the community. I loved our new weekly ritual of picking them up and driving to the grocery store. Granny would chit chat with the store employees at the front of the store and at checkout. We would take our time walking the aisles while Granny asked me to reach for the products she wanted. I would push the cart and Grandpa helped me load and unload the groceries into the car and house. All of us worked at a furious pace to put the groceries away, “Hurry! The ice cream will melt!”  We ended our grocery run at the dining room table eating donuts and drinking coffee or cappuccino and catching up with each other over the past week. I had no idea that my role as a caregiver would continue to grow.

Eventually, my caregiving responsibilities included managing my grandparent’s medication and finances. I used to work as a pharmacy technician while in school, so it seemed a natural fit for me to make sure their medications were refilled and placed in their weekly medication organizer. Granny trusted me with balancing her checkbook every week and Grandpa knew I would pay the bills as soon as they came in the mail. I always made sure to do the bills and medication how they wanted to give them peace of mind.

The increase in caregiving tasks came with more time spent with my grandparents at their house. My mother and I split caregiving duties to even the load and allow us to attend to other parts of our lives, like work and school. Mom would take my grandparents to doctor’s appointments, the nail salon, the hair salon, and other errands. My grandparents were lucky enough to qualify for a personal care attendant through one of the county’s senior services programs who helped with laundry, cooking, and cleaning the house. We were fortunate to have a team of caregivers for Granny and Grandpa!

Towards the end of Granny’s life, she was able to do many of her self care tasks such as dressing, toileting, bathing, brushing teeth. Sometimes Mom helped Granny put her curlers in her hair in the evening before bed due to Granny’s arthritis in her shoulders. Granny called us when she felt sick and we would give her medicine and contact her doctor. When she passed suddenly in 2016, I felt my world shift. Of course, I missed my role as a granddaughter to Granny, but I also missed my role as a caregiver to her. I loved how Granny was my caregiver when I was a child, and I was able to be a caregiver to her in the last part of her life.

In a way, my role as a caregiver to Grandpa has greatly reduced as well. After Granny passed, Grandpa needed physical help with self care tasks in addition to taking care of the house. Grandpa now requires at least two people to help with sitting and standing during his activities of daily living 24 hours a day. Because of Grandpa’s needs for more help, he now lives in a long term care facility where the nursing staff provides the care he needs. Now, my role is back to being his granddaughter. We still continue our tradition of cappuccino and donuts every Sunday while we visit together.

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I hope my personal experience as a caregiver allows you to see your role as a caregiver to others. Do you take out your neighbor’s trash? Do you mow your uncle’s lawn? Do you show your grandma how to take a selfie or post on Facebook? Do you take down your mom’s curtains to be washed? Guess what? You’re a caregiver.

As a fellow caregiver, I salute you. Caregiving is an unpaid, invisible, incredibly important job that almost all of us do and are not recognized. Caregiving is one of the hardest experiences we encounter as human beings. It demands patience and dedication to our loved ones or people we provide services to. I would like to end this article giving you a few resources because I want to make your life easier, friend!

Here are a couple of short videos to brighten your day and show you some caregiving tips: 3 Free Tips for Millennial Caregivers, How to Install a Motion Sensor Light.

Click on these links to learn how to help yourself as a caregiver: Alzheimer's Association, AARP, Caregiver Action Network, and National Alliance for Caregiving

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day! Time is precious when you help a loved one! Please comment down below with any caregiving tips you would like to share!

Seven Tips to Make Your Home Friendly for the Holidays!
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During this time of the month, most people are starting to plan for Thanksgiving. Do you find yourself with the luxury (or the curse) of hosting the Thanksgiving meal?

Whatever your perspective, there’s no doubt there’s excitement over the holiday!  

We all spend time with our loved ones. The people who bring meaning to our lives. It may be family and friends gathering in our homes or families of choice.

The point is this: whoever’s coming over probably means a great deal to you.

So in addition to putting up pretty fall decorations and dreaming about cooking and baking, I need to bring up an important factor for consideration in your holiday bliss. Older adults often have a difficult time moving around in other people’s houses.

Sad, but true.

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I’m sure you’ve seen Grandma struggle to step up the two stairs into your front door. Great Uncle Tito tripped on your hallway rug and accidentally kicked your Maltese who happens to look like he blends into the carpet.

We don’t want our loved ones to encounter holiday hazards in our home! The idea of someone needing medical attention on Thanksgiving may strike fear deep into the heart of every host or hostess! Unfortunately, I have worked with quite a few clients who became injured while visiting their relative’s house.

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When I worked in nursing homes as an occupational therapist, I remember one particular client. She visited her granddaughter’s house for Thanksgiving and had a lovely evening with the family. As she went down the stairs from the front door to the driveway, she tripped and fell down the stairs resulting in a broken hip. This client rehabilitated in my facility and returned home. Astonishingly, this same client ended up coming back to rehabilitation because of an infection in the new hardware in her hip. She celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Day in rehab instead of at home with her family.

What can be done to prevent ruining this joyous time of year?! I’ve got seven simple tips to make your holidays visitor friendly for everyone!

1) Install more lighting at your main entrance. No matter what time you end up having Thanksgiving dinner, double check your lighting by your main entryway. My main entrance is the back door. We have motion sensor lights that easily light up our stoop, sidewalk, and driveway. Everyone can see!

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Take a look at your main entryway. What lighting do you currently have? Are there spots that seem darker than others? Are the stairs well lit? If it’s dark while you’re reading this article, go outside right now! Take note of how comfortable you feel moving around the entryway with the current lighting situation. If you’re not comfortable, then something needs to be adjusted before your family comes on Thanksgiving!

Bonus tip: If you wanted to go above and beyond, install handrails on the right and left of stairs to help your family members feel confident in their balance.

2) No slipping on ice! Who knows what the weather will be like on Thanksgiving! If there is ice, take care of it right away with ice melt or kitty litter! Don’t let Aunt Rita skate into the house. She was never gifted in the sport of ice dancing to begin with.

3) Allow family members to wear their shoes inside the house for extra support and balance. Don’t be that person. You know, the one who thinks they have the cleanest carpets on the planet and absolutely cannot have people keep their shoes on. Thanksgiving is the day you let your older adult relatives wear their shoes while they teeter around in your house. Let it go! Your carpet can be cleaned and has no feelings if it’s injured!

4) Keep an armchair handy. Your squishy couch feels amazing. You sink into it at the end of a long, hard day. It’s so squishy you practically have to roll out of it!

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Well guess what Grandpa has to do to stand up from your squishy couch? He has to roll off of it too, but crawling on his hands and knees kills his joints! Offer your older adult relatives a firm armchair to easily sit down and stand up. You are maintaining their dignity and saving their arthritic joints!

5) Bathroom Tips! Hopefully, you have at least a half bathroom on the main floor. If not, give me a call. But at the very least please clear clutter on the bathroom floor. You don’t need to have a bathroom scale out (It’s Thanksgiving for Pete’s sake!). You don’t need a magazine rack. You don’t need a decorative pot in every corner. Please give your relatives room to safely maneuver while using the toilet!

Also, put toilet paper in reach (and extra on hand) so they don’t have the risk of falling off the john. Do you really want to go in the bathroom and rescue Nana from the floor?

6) Remove rugs in the house. I understand that you may need a rug for people to clean off their shoes. But do you REALLY need other rugs in the house? You’re the only person who knows where all of the rugs are. I can’t tell you how many rugs I’ve tripped on in other people’s houses because I was distracted! I’m not the only one!

7) Move Fido or Fluffy into a closed off part of the house. Although animals are a huge part of the family, they may be hard for your older relatives to notice.

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Help your relatives feel confident about coming to your house for Thanksgiving. It’s worth it to include these tips to prepare your home for guests to celebrate. This will make the visit more enjoyable for everyone! I am thankful every year for everyone gathering and leaving completely intact and non-injured.

If you have any questions on how to make your home visitable for your family, contact me. Please comment below on how you make it easy for your relatives to come visit during this special time of year!

How to Pay for Home Modifications or Repairs
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Hello, my dearest friends! Let’s talk about the biggest hurdle to overcome when you’re thinking about home modifications or repairs to your home: money.

Many people I talk to say, “I don’t know if I can afford you.” I completely understand the dilemma. You want to make changes in your home, but your bank account isn’t too sure you can handle that. You know home modifications can help you stay safe and independent in your comfortable abode.

You’re right, home modifications are a key ingredient to keeping yourself OUT of a nursing home. But paying for them can be tricky!

I am a firm believer in thinking you don’t need to spend a ton of money to make your home safer! Unfortunately, I do run into certain problems that require more extensive home modifications as part of the solution. A common example of this predicament is when people need to use a wheelchair or power wheelchair and they cannot fit through the bathroom door.

The truth is that home modifications are an investment for you and your lifestyle. And like any investment, you need to buckle down and think about your options before making a decision.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.

-Benjamin Franklin

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To help you make the best financial decision, I created a page devoted to financial resources on my website. This page is specific to the Kansas City area; although a lot of resources pertain to residents statewide in Missouri and Kansas.

My biggest passion is to help you live at home for a lifetime. I am a huge advocate of looking into every possibility for people to remain at home if that is their wish. Click here to see how happy Mrs. B is with her home modifications!

My zest + the power of research = Home Modification Financial Resource

I am excited to have this resource available for you because it can be confusing to figure out what financial supports exist! If you want to learn more about a particular resource, just click on the link highlighted in red. Or you can contact me to answer your questions!

I covered financial supports like: Medicaid, grants, loans, tax credits, long term care insurance, life insurance loans, resources for veterans, and Kansas City area community organizations. The focus is on financial assistance for home modifications. Please note that home modifications include home repair, household items, and equipment in addition to structural changes to the home, like building a ramp.

People ask me often if Medicare will pay for home modifications. The answer is “No”. Medicare will help pay for medical equipment with a doctor’s order, like a hospital bed. You have to pay a twenty percent copay for the medical equipment.

As of right now, there is legislation for the Medicare Advantage plans to cover simple home modifications in 2019, like grab bars and shower chairs. If it goes into effect, many people will benefit from simple fixes to their bathroom or main entryway at home.

If this legislation passes, please ask an occupational therapist on where the best placement is for grab bars in your home!!! Occupational therapists have the medical training to look at your overall needs compared to a contractor or handyman’s skills to install your equipment. Your home modifications will go smoothly if you have a team that includes an occupational therapist and a contractor!

The worst anecdote that comes to mind is of a woman, Betty, I met in a nursing home. (Names have been changed.) Betty started to notice how difficult it was to step out of the tub shower in her bathroom. She felt like her foot slipped on the floor of the tub while she picked up her other foot to step over the ledge. Betty would reach out her strong left hand to hold on to anything to steady herself. She knew it wasn’t safe to hold onto the jiggly towel rack, but she didn’t have any other choice.

Betty didn’t want to fall, especially in the bathroom! So she called a handyman to come over and put in a grab bar to feel more steady. She paid the handyman with her own funds and no financial support. With the grab bar in place, Betty felt more comfortable with taking a shower again.

 Maybe Betty could’ve benefited from this? Photo by Pexels

Maybe Betty could’ve benefited from this? Photo by Pexels

When Betty was stepping out of the shower, she felt her foot slip again. She quickly reached across her body for the grab bar with her strong left hand, but it wasn’t enough. Betty slipped and fell over the tub ledge onto the bathroom floor and broke her hip.

It’s awful when home modifications, like putting in grab bars, doesn’t work out well for people like Betty. The effort and money she put in to install the grab bar to provide her safety did not turn out as planned. If she had an occupational therapist on her team, her money would not have been wasted. An occupational therapist would have helped Betty create a solution customized to her needs.

Don’t be like Betty. Be informed about making the best financial investment for you and your home! Look through this list of financial resources for home modifications. Find an occupational therapist to help you in deciding what home modifications are going to be right for you! Talk to friends and family about contractors they have hired in the past. Read this article on how to find the right contractor.

In the story above, Betty tried to prevent getting injured in her bathroom. She did a great job being proactive and recognizing she needed help. But Betty didn’t realize she needed an occupational therapist to look at the big picture for her tub shower.

I am happy to assist you in creating a team that is committed to help you stay at home! Planning home modifications in advance is much better than needing them right after an injury or illness. You need to do it before you need it!

If you know of a financial resource for home modifications that I did not list, please contact me! I would love to add it!

Eight Steps to Find the Right Contractor!

[This post is written by Sharon Ugochukwu, a occupational therapy assistant student at National American University.]

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Now you’re home after a stay in rehab after breaking your leg. You realize how hard it is to get around the home. A friend recommended you have an occupational therapy evaluation to make it easier to do what you need to do. The occupational therapist listened to your needs and gave great ideas for home modifications (i.e. changes in the home). You are excited to turn those ideas into reality.

Now, all you have to do is find the right contractor for the job. It’s important for the occupational therapist and contractor to work together to make the changes that are customized to you. Although the occupational therapist knows contractors to work on your home, you want to find one.

Even when you decide you want to find a contractor on your own, the thought of doing this can be overwhelming. Leon Harper of AARP states, "While there's a growing need [for home modifications], there's also been a growing fear, as a result of the unfortunate work of a few unscrupulous contractors.” People choose to scrap the plans for home modifications because of this fear.

For instance, you heard Susie’s story of the contractor who took her money and was never seen again. Uncle Bill’s contractor left a huge hole in the roof and a toilet that fell through the floor. No one wants to have these experiences! So how do you wade through the sea of contractors to find one who is honest, trustworthy, and does quality work? In this blog, we will give you eight steps to do just that!

1) Organize your project on paper. First, make a list of what you want done. Be specific regarding what changes you want in which rooms. What materials are you interested in using? List them by priority to you. This will help keep you focused and determine what kind of contractors you need.

2) Compile a list of contractors. Next, ask friends or relatives for their recommendations on contractors. Talk to employees at a lumber yard or hardware store if they know of anyone reputable. Ask a trusted realtor who they call first to fix homes. Social service agencies often partner with reputable contractors. Contact a few and get recommendations. In the Kansas City area, call up Rebuilding Together and United Way.

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Rebuilding Together works with these Kansas City contractors:

Always Plumbing
Bart’s Electric
Billings Construction
Climate Control Heating & Cooling
Clinton County Trailer Sales
C. M. Mose & Son
Full Nelson Plumbing
Geiger Ready-Mix
Homes By Chris
Jamison Plumbing
L&M Electric
Larry Brown Excavating
Liberty & Northland Plumbing
Moffett Electric
Owen Homes
Paul’s Heating & Cooling
Professional Pest Solutions
Richard Huber Plumbing
Rite-Way Gutters
Western Specialty Contractors

3) Choose contractors willing to work with your occupational therapist throughout the entire process. Research shows that occupational therapists are the most effective at home modifications for you in your home because of their medical training (Stark, Keglovits, Arbesman, & Lieberman, 2017). Occupational therapists work with you on your priorities. We are a client-centered profession! Not to mention, clients report more satisfaction with home modifications if an occupational therapist is involved.


Contractors + occupational therapists = SUPER TEAM! Together, these professionals can help you live safely in your home!

Bonus tip: Some contractors receive specialized training for remodeling a home to fit different needs and stages of life. These contractors are called certified aging in place specialists also known as CAPS. Several websites where you can find them are listed below:

National Association of the Remodeling Industry

Find remodelers in Missouri

Find remodelers in Kansas

Certified Aging In Place Program (CAPS) members can be found here:

Missouri

Kansas

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4) Don’t allow yourself to be pressured by family members. Ah, families! Do you have a cousin, Mike, who tells you, “I do great work and can beat anybody’s price out there,” but really doesn’t? Yeah, that’s a difficult spot to be in. It can be hard to turn them down. But after all, you are paying money for your home modifications and want to stay safe in your home. Let’s not compromise the work in any way! You can just say, “Thank you, Mike, for offering your services. I want to check with a couple more contractors. I will get back with you” or, “I appreciate your offer, but I prefer not to do business with family” and leave it at that.

5) Make some calls. Once you have assembled a list, make a quick call to each of your prospective contractors and ask them some quick questions (Tom Silva, 2018):

• Do they take on projects of your size?

• Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers or banks? (Here you want to find out if they paid their suppliers on time and if they are maintaining a bank account in good standing. This will give you clues on their business, money management, and an idea how they will handle what you are paying them.)

• Can they give you a list of previous clients?

• How many other projects would they have going at the same time?

• How long have they worked with their subcontractors?

Per Tom Silva, “The answers to these questions reveals the contractor’s availability, reliability, how much attention they'll be able to give your project, and how smoothly the work will go.” If a contractor seems defensive or does not want to answer these simple questions, they are probably not a contractor you want to work with.

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6) Narrow your list. From that list, pick at least three contractors you liked. You will invite these contractors to your home to ask more questions such as:

  1. How long have you been in business?

  2. Do you have experience in doing home remodels for people who want to stay in their home as they age?

  3. Are you licensed, bonded, and have worker’s compensation insurance? Check for proof.  

  4. Get a written bid from each contractor.

7) Call the references! Ask previous clients what their experience was like with the contractor. Some questions to ask include:

1) What were the contractors work habits on your job?

2) Did he/she stick to the contract?

3) Did your project stay on budget, or at least close to budget?

4) Did anything go wrong?

5) What was the working relationship like between the contractor and any subcontractors?


8) Compare. Now compare the responses, provided references, and bids of these contractors. You should be able to decide on the contractor to work in your home!

Some final words:

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  • Expect the good contractors to be busy and not immediately available. Good contractors are the busy ones!

  • Avoid contractors who just show up at your door offering services at an unbelievably low rate. A common ploy is for contractors to come to your house and say they just finished a job down the street. They have some leftover supplies and wanted to offer you a great deal! More than likely it is not trustworthy. These people are often scammers.

  • Do not work with a contractor who asks for the entire cost or even half of the cost up front. They could end up taking your money and disappearing. Experts recommend you pay no more than 10% of the cost up front (Tom Silva, 2018). Scheduled payments should be made at particular points along the home modification process.

  • Do not make a final payment unless the job is 100% complete and you approved the work. Contractors have been known to leave the final touches unfinished after a final payment.

  • You can’t depend solely on online reviews to choose a good contractor. Some companies pay people to post a positive review. This should not be a substitute for checking references!

  • Likewise, you cannot depend on the online referral lists, such as Angie’s List.  Companies are supposed to be listed on this site according to their performance. However, Consumer Reports wrote that a contractor can move up the list of preferred contractors by paying an advertising fee (McGrath, 2013).


While nothing is guaranteed, these steps will help you choose a trustworthy contractor with the skills you need for your home modifications. Rest assured you will be confident while choosing the right team to make your home beautiful and accessible. Tell us about your experiences with contractors! What tips do you have to add?

References:

McGrath, M. (2013, September 19). Why Consumer Reports Says You Can't Trust Angie's List. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2013/09/18/why-consumer-reports-says-you-cant-trust-angies-list/#920de771bfa7

Stark, S., Keglovits, M., Arbesman, M., & Lieberman, D. (2017, March 01). Effect of Home Modification Interventions on the Participation of Community-Dwelling Adults With Health Conditions: A Systematic Review. Retrieved from https://ajot.aota.org/article.aspx?articleid=2601471

Top 8 Pro Tips on How to Hire a Contractor. (2018, January 06). Retrieved from https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/top-8-pro-tips-how-to-hire-contractor

Hello, Shoe Lovers!

Do you identify yourself as a shoe lover? Look in your closet. Count your shoes. How many pairs do you have? New Dream reports in the U.S. the average man owns 12 pairs of shoes and the average woman owns 27 pairs.

Whoa! But I completely believe it!

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Americans buy shoes for different purposes and occasions; and maybe several types of shoes for the same occasion! We can’t get enough of shoes. We buy them even if we don’t need them. Shoes may have an interesting, cool design that speaks to us and helps us express ourselves.

Do I NEED glittery tennis shoes?

No.

But does the glitter on the shoes represent my inner sparkle in a way that I don’t feel like I can effectively do on my own?

Absolutely, yes!

Now, what if I were to tell you that shoes are a form of home modifications (a.k.a. changes you make in your home)?

(Gasp)

I know. Yes, it’s true! Shoes can affect your ability to do what you need and want to do inside the home!

Shoes are like friends, they can support you, or take you down.

-Anonymous

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Last week, I talked about how footwear can help you prevent falling outside of your home on wet leaves. This week I am focusing on shoes again because they are just that important!

Lately, I have worked with people who are falling inside their home because of their shoes! I will tell you what happened to my poor friend, Rita (names have been changed to protect the innocent).

Rita enjoys wearing slippers. They are easy for her to put on in the morning and take off at night. Slippers keep Rita’s feet warm and feel so comfortable! She only leaves the house once or twice a week, so Rita doesn’t worry about putting on shoes for outside purposes.

A couple of weeks ago, Rita’s darling son and daughter bought her a brand new recliner. The new chair had a button to put her feet up and down. Surprisingly, the chair could also lift Rita to stand up! She could fully recline in the chair to take a nap during the day! Rita couldn’t wait to live her best life in that chair!

After her son and daughter left, Rita heard the doorbell and tried to stand up to answer it when something unimaginable happened. Rita put her feet on the ground, but felt her feet keep slipping out from underneath her! She dug her slippers into the carpet to try and regain her balance, but it didn’t work. Rita slid out of her brand new chair onto the ground in shock. Her visitor came in through the door and found Rita. “I’m down here!”

Luckily, Rita was not physically injured, but her pride was in bad shape. She thought, “I can’t stand up anymore. I’m scared of that chair.” Rita blamed the chair, but the chair wasn’t the problem. It was her slippers!

When I visited Rita, I asked her how often she wore her slippers, “All the time!” I looked at the bottom of the soles and felt it with my hand: the surface of the sole was completely slick. No ridges. No grooves. Nothing to help Rita stop from sliding on her carpet.

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I told Rita, “Your slippers are too slick against the carpet. Do you have other shoes you would like to wear?” Rita said ‘yes’ and directed me to her closet. Together, we found a pair of comfortable shoes that gave Rita more stability and balance when she sits down and stands up from her new reclining chair.

Rita feels more confidant in her home again. She can easily get up from the chair and answer the door. Rita freely takes naps in her recliner and watches Family Feud with no concern that she will slid out of her chair again!

Although Rita’s slippers were comfortable, they took her down! The slippers were more of an enemy than a friend in my perspective. It’s amazing how changing Rita’s shoes made all the difference in the world.

Sometimes home modifications are that simple! It can take ONE change to prevent falls in your home. Home modifications don’t need to be complicated, expensive, or messy to make a difference. Consulting with an occupational therapist is the best way to find what changes will work best for you!

I am aware that some people do not like to wear shoes in the house. That is completely fine! Be careful if you find yourself slipping though! Here’s some food for thought if this is your situation:

  • Am I slipping anywhere in the house? If so, where?

  • What time of day am I slipping?

  • How much lighting is in the spot I slip?

  • What’s on my feet when I slip?

  • What type of flooring am I slipping on?

  • Have I tried to wearing socks with grips on the bottom? (Not the ugly hospital socks! Cute ones from the store with grips on the bottom.)

If you answered these questions and still aren’t sure what to do, give me a call or email! I’m happy to help you problem solve!

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Remember, falling isn’t just a problem for adults. It’s a problem for kids too! These exact same issues impact children. You can use the same ideas to help kiddos stay on their feet too!

I can’t tell you how many times I slipped on the linoleum in the kitchen growing up. Many an elbow was bruised. If only I had my occupational therapy know-how back in the day!

Do you know someone like Rita? If you do, ask them what shoes they like to wear in the house. Maybe traction spray on the bottom of a pair of slick slippers can give enough stick between their feet and the carpet or hard floor. Or if you need some extra input, give me a call.

What types of shoes do you wear in the house? Or do you even wear shoes in the house? Comment below! What types of tricks do you do to avoid falling inside the house? Have you made any changes when you found yourself falling? Share your experience to help others learn what they can do to be safe at home!

Four Ways to Prevent Falls during Fall!

Time moves so quickly. How is it already fall? It seems like everyone is talking about the omnipotence of pumpkin spice or their upcoming Halloween plans! (FYI: I was Frida Kahlo last year and am uncertain as to what I should be this year. Leave your suggestions in the comments below!)

I looked out the window and quite a few trees have already turned colors. In my backyard the leaves on two of the trees have turned a pale yellow and are dropping on the ground. With all of the rain in Kansas City the past several days, it feels very slick outside with the leaves on the back stoop and pavement.

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” -Emily Bronte

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Alright, Emily Bronte. Although the leaves are very pretty to view, they turn into instant fall risks for me. I’ve almost hit the ground a couple of times while picking up branches.

So to help you and me stay upright on our feet, here is a list of four ways to prevent falls during fall!

1) Footwear

I am a firm believer in wearing whatever type of shoe you prefer. However when it precipitates outside, we need to seriously consider more practical footwear. Look for a shoe with a rubber sole that grips wet leaves and slick pavement to keep you sturdy while walking outside to the car or into school or work. I gleefully wear my rubber boots when walking my dogs on rainy days with the knowledge that I won’t slip and fall. Freedom!

 Pexels

Pexels

If I want to wear other shoes at work or visiting friends and family, I wear my rubber boots in the car and carry my other shoes in a tote! Easy peasy! I can have my cake and eat it too!

Also consider anti slip pads for the soles of your shoes for indoor and outdoor surfaces. You place the anti slip pads to the bottom of your shoes and walk in confidence. Look for anti slip pads on Amazon or any big box store for around $10. It’s a reasonable investment to avoid falling. I don’t think you need anything as hardy as anti slip traction cleats to combat ice yet. BUT we are almost to that time of year as well.

2) Lighting

Shorter days mean less light when I leave early in the morning and arrive home in the evening. It’s hard to see slick spots on my back stoop, stairs, and sidewalk.

 Home Depot

Home Depot

A simple solution is adding more light to avoid stepping in a huge puddle of mud. Solar panel pathway lighting is becoming more inexpensive and affordable to install by the walkways in and out of your house or apartment. Pathway lighting takes little effort to maintain and gives enough light to see where to safely walk. You can choose from an assortment of different designs to make your outdoors look even more beautiful.

 Home Depot

Home Depot

You also want to consider mounting an automatic motion sensor light by your main entryway. When the light senses you coming towards the door, it turns on and allows you to find your key and the keyhole to quickly enter your home. Most of the automatic motion sensor lights have adjustable timers to turn off after sensing no movement. This feature conserves energy in addition to preventing any falls you may have trying to get in and out of the house.

3) Non slip outdoor flooring

My back stoop is made out of wood. Unfortunately, a lot of paint has chipped off due to the elements and being a part of the main entryway of the house. The foot traffic, sunshine, wind, and rain, and snow combined have worn the poor sucker out.

 Maria Lindbergh

Maria Lindbergh

How do I fix it? Well, I could repaint the back stoop and apply a non slip coating or traction spray, like Slip Doctors, to prevent falls in the future. This is the least expensive option. You can find these items online or in store easily and slap it on your flooring. The only problem is non slip coating tends to fade away after use and time. You need to reapply the coating to ensure you stay fall free when entering and exiting your home.

Another option is to place non slip flooring on top of the existing stoop (I have to step up inside of my house anyway. I might as well shorten the distance!). Some non slip flooring that attracts my eye is recycled rubber (which can go on steps too), composite decking, paver tiles, or deck tiles. Non slip flooring would last longer than non slip coating and prevent me from slipping on my stoop when the rain and ice hits.

 SlipDoctors

SlipDoctors

Lastly, you can place non slip treads on the stoop and step to give more friction to your feet when going in and out of the house. Non slip treads come in strips or tape form to make it easy to apply where you prefer. Slip Doctors sells rolls of non slip tape with different widths to give you the choice to create the length you need for your home. You can find non slip treads in all kinds of colors including clear! The price range is $15-35 per unit. I recommend you seriously consider the black non slip tread with the reflective strip to avoid falling at home.

4) Portico

A portico is a part of the roof that hangs over your main entryway. I technically do not have a portico; part of the roof hangs over the door about 12 inches, which makes it nice and dry for the first step out the door!

 Sutton Group Preferred Realty

Sutton Group Preferred Realty

It would be lovely to have a portico cover my little 3’x4’ stoop to protect it from rain and snow. I wouldn’t worry about slipping on the stoop because it would remain dry.

Building a portico isn’t cheap, but there are other options. You could consider using a canopy, a patio cover, pavilion, or retractable awnings. With so many choices, it’s easy to plan and decide what will work best for your finances and aesthetics.

At the end of the day, I just don’t want you or me to fall, capiche? Look over these fall prevention tips and choose what’s going to work out best for you!

Please comment down below and tell me how you prevent falls in the fall! Let me learn your ways!

Preparing for the Costs of Long-Term Care: Tips for Seniors
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Pexels

Foreword:

The goal of Stay at Home Solutions is to do everything in our power to help you make changes in your home in order for you to live safely and independently for as long as you would like. However, the reality is sometimes “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”, meaning that you can make as many changes as you would like to your home, but you may need 24 hour personal care that your family cannot help you with.

None of us like to think that we could end up in that situation. Since we are practical people, we like to share additional information on what else you can do to prepare yourself. Luckily, we found someone who enjoys helping people do the same.

Hazel Bridges is the creator of AgingWellness.org, a website that aims to provide health and wellness resources for aging seniors. She’s a breast cancer survivor and challenges herself and others to live life to the fullest. Hazel contributed the information below for you to make the best decisions for you!


Preparing for the Costs

of Long-Term Care: Tips for Seniors

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It’s important to plan for your long-term care needs even if you don't end up needing it. You can never be sure if an unexpected illness or accident will suddenly change your ability to care for yourself. Though Medicare is valuable to seniors, it provides little coverage for the extensive costs of long-term care. The best thing you can do is prepare for the possibility of long-term care while you’re still able to make important decisions and look into your funding options.

Know What Types of Costs to Expect:

There are three main options for long-term senior care: nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and in-home care. According to A Place for Mom, a private room in an assisted living center costs about $90 per day while a private room in a nursing home costs $205 per day for the more intensive levels of care. In-home care costs anywhere from $112 to $192 per day, depending on the amount of time that care is required. If you have family members that can step in and help out, you can cut out some of the costs of in-home care. If you’re looking for the most affordable facility options, consider a care center in a non-urban area rather than one in the city.

Understand What Medicare and Medicaid Cover:

Long-term care services include assistance with daily living tasks such as dressing, cleaning and eating. Although Medicare can help seniors out with their required medical services, it does not cover any other aspects of long-term care. For example, Medicare covers doctor's visits, prescription drugs and hospital stays. It may also pay for a portion of the costs for short-term care in a certified nursing facility following a hospital admission, which can be helpful if you just need to recover from an accidental injury. Other than this, the program does not help with personal or long-term care services.

Unlike Medicare, Medicaid can help you cover some of the costs of long-term care, but only if you are low-income with few assets. Medicaid does pay for long-term care services in nursing homes and at home. However, states have different eligibility requirements and differ according to which services they cover.

Consider Funding Long-Term Care Yourself:

Of course, you are welcome to self-fund your long-term care if you have the means. This is a great way to avoid paying expensive premiums for insurance and have the flexibility to put your money exactly where you need it. However, this is difficult to do unless you have substantial savings built up or assets that can be liquidated. Selling your home can be a viable option if both you and your partner are moving out of the house. Before you sell, make sure you're up to date on the current home sale trends in your area. For example, homes in Smithville, Missouri have sold for an average of $215,000 in the last month.

Know About Your Insurance Options:

stay_at_home_solutions_money

According to Mariner Wealth Advisors, there are two main types of long-term care insurance. These are the stand-alone policy and life insurance with an accelerated death benefit rider. Stand-alone long-term care insurance covers the expenses that aren’t taken care of by either Medicare or Medicaid. This includes assisted living, nursing homes, and at-home care. However, if you don’t end up needing care, you don’t get any benefits from the insurance. On the other hand, a death benefit rider on a life insurance policy allows you to receive benefits if you end up needing care while any unused benefits will be paid to your beneficiaries. This type of policy is more flexible but tends to have higher premiums.

Many Americans' greatest fear about aging is requiring long-term care and not being able to pay for it. This is no surprise since costs can get as high as $100,000 to $250,000. Although government programs can be valuable to seniors requiring medical services, it's important that you make alternate plans to pay for possible long-term care needs in your future.


Afterword:

Although planning long-term care has its benefits, this can be a difficult topic to discuss between family members. No one enjoys thinking about the possibility of needing long-term care in the future. It’s easy to put this topic on the back burner.

Some tips to make long-term care planning easier include:

  1. Reflecting on what you want if you needed long-term care

  2. Identifying family and social supports

  3. Organizing information you gather to help you make sense of everything

In my experience, families who do talk about long-term care planning do not appear as stressed or frantic when their loved one needs it. They know what to do, where to go, and how it’s being funded. Peace of mind comes with planning your long-term care needs. It’s a lot of work, but consider the process as a gift to you and your family!

Hate to Admit It, But. . .

I accidentally locked myself out of my own website! So while I was missing last week, here is something I wanted to share:

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Pexels

Seniors Flourish graciously posted an article I wrote about how occupational therapists can help caregivers and patients make changes in the home to keep patients safe and independent during daily activities! Click here to read it! You don’t have to be an occupational therapist to benefit from it!

Also, feel free to peruse the rest of the Seniors Flourish website! It has excellent resources on how occupational therapists can provide evidence-based interventions to help their clients. You never know, you could learn a thing or two!

Stay tuned to check out the blog post this Tuesday at noon! I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with finances!

A Watch That Reads Your Heart?

When I was in school for occupational therapy, my instructors encouraged us to use strategies that avoided bringing unwanted attention to our client. We were tasked with helping our clients do the things they needed to do with items that did not make them stick out in the crowd.

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Pexels

For instance, if you had a kid who needs deep pressure to pay attention in class, put some leg warmers or athletic compression garments on!

Can’t read the menu? Take a picture of it and enlarge the image!

If you had a client who talked to voices in their head, put a bluetooth headphone on their ear!

Older adult can’t drive anymore? Show them how to use Uber on their smartphone!

That’s our bread and butter! Occupational therapists love to find these easy, everyday solutions so clients can live their lives to the fullest!

And guess what recently released that follows along the easy, everyday solutions theme of this article? (Trumpet fanfare plays)

The Apple Watch Series 4!

 Apple Watch Series 4 by David Phelan

Apple Watch Series 4 by David Phelan

What does it do? Well, this new-fangled watch can accurately read your heart for one thing! It has an electrocardiogram (EKG) that the Food and Drug Administration approved. There are electrodes inside of the ceramic backing. People can take their EKG at any time and share it with your doctor! The Series 4 measures your heart rate and can tell if you have irregular rhythm. It also sends you a notification when your heart rate is too low, which means there may not be enough blood pumping through your body.

Fear of falls? Not to worry! The Apple watch detects falls by noting wrist trajectory and impact acceleration. Think of the potential! It can even contact emergency services for you in case of medical emergency if you do not move in one minute.

Other features include a 30% larger watch face than the other Apple watches. This makes it easier to read the time, text messages, and caller ID. I know I appreciate not struggling to read tiny fonts!

 Apple Watch Series 4 by David Phelan

Apple Watch Series 4 by David Phelan

Good news for people with difficulty hearing, the new watch speakers are 50% louder. This is similar to other talking devices for people who have low vision.

The Series 4 is slimmer and lighter, which makes it more “manageable” to wear according to some reports. For me personally, I enjoy wearing a slimmer watch because I tend to catch on doorways or fabrics when I’m not paying attention while moving around!

I’m not going to lie. I am very excited by the possibilities this watch presents!

The very first thing I thought of was how many clients I have worked with who refuse to wear medical alert devices because they label them as a fall risk.

Case in point: my grandmother. She chose to wear her medical alert device (company name extracted) as a necklace. Granny thought if she wore it as a necklace, it would not be in her way while cooking and washing dishes. However, Granny never wore the medical alert device at all because it was ugly.

Me: “Where’s your medical alert device?”

Granny: “Oh. . . in my room.”

Me: “It’s supposed to be around your neck.”

Granny: “. . . I forgot.”

Then we would have a stare down with each other, which resulted in me retrieving the medical alert device from her room and placing it on her.

Not only did Granny not like the device because it was unattractive. It labeled her to other people as a fall risk. She felt like the medical alert device gave off a negative connotation of being old, fragile, feeble, incapable, decrepit, etc. Please insert whatever negative description you can think of.

And I felt bad for encouraging Granny to wear the medical alert device! At the same time, I wanted her to have assistance as quickly as possible in case she fell and became injured.

So what’s a granddaughter or other family member to do?

The answer is look out for ways to give Granny her dignity back through devices like this Apple watch.

People could wear this fashionable watch and no one would realize that the watch could help them in case of a fall or heart problem. You would merely glance at Granny and think, “Dang, what a cool lady!” You would probably go up and compliment Granny for wearing such a fancy watch.

Technology like the Apple watch gives family members and caregivers peace of mind. I see this tool as another way in which to help people stay at home as long as they like. The Apple watch is a form of support to allow people to confidently live independently in their community.

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Pexels

The only drawback I see is the price. This watch is not affordable to a lot of people who could truly benefit from it. It costs $399 to start and up to $499 for the cellular version.

Whoa, that’s a lot of dough for someone living on a fixed income.

But you have to consider all of the Apple Watch features compared to other medical alert devices. Besides after you purchase it, you are not paying a subscription fee like you would for a medical alert device. On average, subscription fees are around $20 a month, which comes to $240 a year.

You really need to weigh all of the pros and cons for this high tech gadget.

At the end of the day, Granny or any other adult can use this Apple watch to monitor health and use it to communicate needs to family and emergency personnel. It’s great that technology is becoming more affordable in that we all could potentially own a personal EKG on our wrists. The Apple watch is leading towards the same path as telehealth. Doctors are already able to monitor their patient’s weight and blood anti-coagulation levels from home. For people who struggle to go out for doctor’s visits, the option to send their health status by simply wearing a watch sounds incredibly appealing!

What do you think? Are you going to buy this watch for you or a loved one? Comment down below!

Can You Relate?
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Pexels

Breaking a bone in your body is one of the worst experiences you can have in your lifetime. Trust me. I know this experience firsthand!

When I was eight-years-old, I climbed the wobbly, rickety chain link fence in the backyard at home and toppled over to fall to the ground breaking my left elbow. I remember passing out from the pain after seeing my mother’s scared facial expression.

At the hospital, I was given pain medication that completely knocked me out. The radiology tech had to keep prodding me to stay awake while taking x-rays of my arm. Eventually, I had surgery to realign my bones with two pins.

I remember the whole experience vividly! I was small and nimble enough to not need any home modifications. BUT I needed help with getting dressed, going to the bathroom, taking a shower, and brushing my hair. The pain from my arm would wake me up sometimes at night. I had to sleep lying on my back with my arm propped up on pillows.

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Pexels

I HATE sleeping on my back!

Luckily, I am right handed and had all the benefits of youth while waiting for my arm to heal! I was able to easily manipulate brushing my teeth, drawing, feeding, playing card games, and anything else you can think of with my right hand. Recovery took no time at all for me as a child. As soon as I was able to use my left arm, I quickly returned to dance lessons and playing piano.

I could never forget how my injury impacted my life in such a profound way. My mother was wary and extra protective while my arm healed. She made sure my sisters and cousins were careful when they played around me. Mom did not want me to be hurt again!

Looking back, I not only see the physical impacts a broken arm had on my life. I also see how I changed the way I took care of myself and how my family members and friends treated me.

As an eight-year-old, I was very independent in taking care of myself prior to the injury, especially as the oldest of four children. When I broke my arm, it felt like going in reverse needing even more help from my mother. She even tied my shoes again. I saw myself as an independent person changing into an interdependent person.

That’s hard even for an eight-year-old child.

I can’t tell you how happy and relieved I was to resume my independence again after my arm fully recovered. But not everyone can experience this type of relief.

As an adult, injuries like broken bones can be more damaging and long lasting than what children experience. This is where it gets deep, people!

Adults have decades of being independent in taking care of themselves and others. A broken bone drastically changes how they view themselves. Accepting help can sometimes be seen in the same vein as becoming older or aging.

Of course, as occupational therapists, it’s easy for us to reassure adults with injuries that they are not old people (there’s nothing wrong with that anyway!). We educate them on all of the ways they can still do what they need and want to do. However, we do need to remind ourselves that when people break a bone, they are grieving the loss (temporary or permanent) of their independence and the way they used to do daily activities. Even little eight-year-old me grieved over not being able to play tag and ride my bike for a couple of months.

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Pexels

Whoa. Grief? Yes. Here’s an example!

Dave broke his tibia stepping off a sidewalk into the street while heading to a coffee shop. He had surgery and needed to use a walker to help balance while hopping on one leg to get around. He quickly realized he needed a lot of help with getting in and out of his house, bed, shower, and going up and down the stairs. Dave was frustrated he could not move easily around his house anymore.

 Pistola squat by Workoutlabs.com

Pistola squat by Workoutlabs.com

He thought, “Dang, I never thought I would need to do a pistola squat to get on and off the toilet! I don’t want my wife to help me with this every day!”

Dave even needed help picking up his dog’s bowls to put water and food in them! He felt like he had to rely on his wife to do everything. Dave started to feel depressed while his leg was healing because he wanted to do more by himself. Dave loved his wife, but he didn’t want to be soooo intimate with her while toileting and bathing.

He missed his ability to move around and take care of himself on his own time. Dave wondered if he will be able to continue living in his current house as it was. “What if I could never walk again? What will I do?”

In this situation, it’s easy to see why Dave would grieve the loss of his privacy, caring for himself, and moving around. He feels frustrated on how much effort he has to put in to simply move around the house. These emotions are very normal for any person. Have you every had this type of experience? Can you relate to Dave?

There are some things we cannot control whatsoever, like accidents. But we certainly can control our environment! Since we know breaking bones is such a challenging physical and emotional time, I am happy to say there are ways we can prevent lessen some of the pain and maintain our dignity by making changes in the home.

Yes, as a kid, I easily navigated my environment with a broken arm. However, poor adult Dave struggled to move around in and outside of his house with a broken leg. Let me tell you three things he could do to his house to make recovery better:

 Stanton Homes

Stanton Homes

1) Create one entrance at home with ZERO steps. This will make it easier to use a walker to hop on one leg in and out of the house. Dave will be able to escape the home in case of emergency, see the doctor, go to outpatient therapy, spend time with friends at the ball game, etc. Dave can just enjoy not struggling to get in and out of his own house! He will not feel like a trapped prisoner!

   Barrier free shower by Accessible Solutions

Barrier free shower by Accessible Solutions

2) Build a bathroom on the main floor of the house. Preferably this will be a full bathroom, but a half bathroom will certainly suffice! Put blocking in the walls in order to install grab bars later if needed. The blocking will allow you to install grab bars at any height! How neat! Grab bars could help Dave get on and off the toilet by himself, but there are a lot more options I can talk about with Dave and his wife.

3) Install a barrier free shower. Dave can easily use this shower with or without a broken leg! A barrier free shower lets you walk in and out without stepping over anything! This type of shower is perfect for all ages and abilities from wheelchair users to people who walk on two legs. Learn more by clicking here or here!

If you can relate to Dave, you may want to consider planning on making changes to your current home. Life is unpredictable, but if you do it before you need it then you are setting yourself up to maintain your independence and dignity in your own home. Please comment below if you or someone you know has had Dave’s experience of grieving the loss of taking care of yourself.