“OLD AGE ISN’T FOR SISSIES”
As an occupational therapist who spends a lot of time consulting with people in their sixth, seven, eighth, or ninth decade of life (and older!), I am reminded of this fact quite often. I remember hearing it first from an 80-something woman who was trying to maintain her independence and continue to live at home. Her health was becoming compromised and complex; she had pain, mild weakness, shortness of breath, and constant fatigue. There were no easy solutions, but there were lots of pills and doctor’s appointments. Money was tight. And, her kids were pushing her to move into an assisted living facility because she had recently fallen. “Old age isn’t for sissies,” she claimed, summing up the physical, financial, social, and psychological factors now confronting her daily life.
Her doctor had referred her to me for a Home Safety Evaluation. It was an opportunity for me to observe her in her home environment as she performed her Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s), and make recommendations to improve her safety and continue living in her home. I was able to suggest a new way for her to easily sit/stand from the toilet, remove a dangerous trip hazard, and place a grab bar near the shower. We talked about ways for her to be safer while moving about in her home. This may have prevented a fall, ultimately preserving her independence in living at home.
The grand challenge for many seniors is to continue to live at home for as long as safely possible. The ones who succeed are tough, indeed. But asking for help from an occupational therapist to consult through a Home Safety Evaluation is clever, too.
Written by Flint Stearns, OTR/L
Published October 2010