Better Mobility in Assisted Living: How to Prevent Injury & Preserve Quality of Life

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 29 August 2012

Today’s guest post is by Amanda Frank from Hugo Mobility. We thank Amanda for sharing these practical tips and insightful advice for preventing falls and improving quality of life via various types of mobility equipment.

Accidents happen, even if you’re Mitt Romney announcing your running-mate Paul Ryan as “the next president of the United States.” However, Romney’s slip of tongue could not cause a fall or result in a broken hip. If you live in a nursing home, accidents leading to falls are more likely to happen. The statistics are blunt: 30 to 50 percent of seniors living institutionally fall each year, according to the WHO Global Report on Falls Prevention. Of this population, 40 percent have multiple falls. Moving to a new environment raises the fall rate by 50 percent.

For an older person with reduced mobility, home can be a minefield of potential accidents. With 10 – 20 percent of falls resulting in fractures (mostly likely a hip fracture if the fall occurred indoors), it pays to evaluate a day in the life in a seniors’ residence in order to expose the hidden dangers.

Accidents often happen in the midst of doing something mundane. Danger lurks in seemingly innocuous places such as the bedroom, kitchen, and dining room.

Don’t wait ’til you bang into something…

Walking around, seeing friends and stopping to talk, residents are usually accompanied by a cane, walker or rolling walker with a seat. While a rollator can be an indispensable companion, restoring balance and confidence to be active and social, it can also get in the way. The more narrow the walker or rollator, the easier it will pass through doorways, hallways and around furniture unobstructed.

Make sure your walker works for your space, or you’ll echo the buyer’s remorse expressed in one bariatric rollator review: “I didn’t even consider that it would be too wide to fit through a couple of the doorways in his house! I figured all walkers fit through all doorways. It was impossible to use in his house for everyday use when it does not fit through his bathroom door.”

Every space is a unique “obstacle course” of hidden dangers…

The best way to accident-proof the environment of a senior loved one is to go wherever they would go during their day.

  • Ordinary objects like walls and chairs have corners and edges that can obstruct and interfere with a walker. To avoid walker interference, walk the path a resident would traverse in an average 24-hour span to make sure it’s clear.
  • Keep the ground area as level as possible to avoid snags or tripping over an uneven surface.
  • Remove throw rugs or area rugs. Bare floors or wall-to-wall carpeting are much safer options.
  • Keep the path clear of chair corners.
  • Modify your space as much as possible to suit your needs.

Wheels that lock…

Rolling walkers are medical devices designed to provide mobility and a safe place to sit, but the person using it needs to be strong enough to apply the brake locks, and cogent enough to do it consistently.

A rollator user needs to be very diligent about locking the wheels to stabilize the rollator before sitting down or getting up.

A chair on wheels that doesn’t lock can slip out from under you while you’re in the process of sitting down on it, resulting in hitting the floor instead, possibly fracturing a hip or tailbone.

To avoid an accident, get rid of any chairs that rotate and roll around on casters without a locking mechanism. A wheeled chair can go skidding across the room, with no guarantee the occupant will stay on the seat, particularly if they don’t weigh much.

Easy access items…

As the day wanes, so do energy levels. The more accessible an item, like a magazine or remote, the less likely a fall will take place reaching for it. Remove stepping stools or stepladders to avoid the temptation of using them. A telescopic grab wand is a clever item to keep handy.

Midnight bathroom break…

Apparently 20 percent of falls occur between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. while answering the call of nature in the wee hours of the night. Prepare ahead with a mattress protector to alleviate any desperation to make it to the bathroom; at least it will be an accident that doesn’t lead to a fracture.

  • Declutter for the midnight bathroom trip by keeping a wide pathway from the bed to the bathroom clear of all obstacles and clutter, including electrical cords and wires.
  • Install motion-sensing nightlights to illuminate the route from the bed to the bathroom.
  • Install a riser for the toilet seat so less effort and coordination will be required to sit and get up when a person is not fully awake.

Get advice from someone you trust regarding available resources…

Convincing anyone who is settled in their ways to adopt a new way of doing things can be a tough sell, and aging tends to compound the problem.

Altering a routine can be disruptive enough to lead to an outright rejection and a flat out refusal to try a new product or method, even if it’s guaranteed to provide safety and convenience. What is the best way to help change this mindset?

Find a trusted expert to explain and demo the products to help get them past that hump of reticence. Once people start using and benefiting from the rollator, you’d be amazed how passionate and evangelical people become:

“My aunt loves her walker now,” says Barrie Schwartz, “but for years she refused to even consider using one, even after she fell a couple of times and broke her wrist and then her elbow. A home care specialist came in and set her up with a walker. Now she says it’s the greatest thing ever. She walks everywhere and she’s 97.”

Your turn: What mobility aids have you or a senior family member used? What equipment was most helpful?


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