By Betty Berry, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Q: My dad will be coming to live with me in my home. He has some problems with mobility and I want to make the house as free from potential falls as possible. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do?
A: One of the added benefits of making your home safe for your dad is it also will be safer for you and the rest of your family, as anyone can take a tumble if areas are not well-lit and free of clutter. The suggested safety measures, collected from a number of safety experts, should be helpful for all.
Bathrooms account for many falls. Adding grab bars in the shower, tub and toilet areas will certainly make getting around in this room much safer. A word of caution about installation of grab bars: They must be attached directly into the studs to provide the strength needed when grabbed. If you don’t know how to do the installation, I strongly suggest you have them installed by a professional, as it is well worth the money. Incorrectly installed grab bars are more dangerous than no bars at all.
If you use bath mats in the tub or shower, make sure they have suction cups to hold them securely to the bottom. Better still, consider replacing mats with nonslip adhesive strips attached directly to the foot surface areas. Also consider a sitting bench or stool in the shower. An elevated toilet seat might also prove helpful.
In the bedroom, make sure you have a lamp or light switch that can be reached easily without having to get out of bed. Also, bedrooms as well as hallways and bathrooms should be equipped with night lights.
Stairs can be a real problem. You should have light switches at both ends of the staircase. Handrails should be installed on both sides of the stairs and should go all the way to the top and bottom steps. Many falls occur on the last step or two.
Added lighting aids include equipping every room in the house with a flashlight and leaving lights on when you leave the house at night so you do not have to enter a dark house and search for lights. It also is a good idea to leave a light or two on during the night.
Carpets and rugs have a real potential for disaster. Tack rugs and glue vinyl flooring so they lie flat. If rugs or runners tend to slip and slide, either remove them or use nonslip backing to hold them in place. If your stairs are carpeted, make sure the carpet is firmly attached to the treads.
General clutter should be eliminated or at least brought to a minimum. Make sure all telephone and electrical cords are out of pathways.
While making the inside of your house safe, don’t forget the outside. Outdoor steps are often more narrow or the risers are higher or lower than indoor stairs. So that you don’t miss a step, paint the edge of each step in a contrasting color to ensure it will be seen.
You might want to consider mixing the paint for the steps with a light mixture of sand to provide better traction. Lighting of walkways and outdoor stairs also is most important. Make sure all steps have a sturdy handrail.
These are just a few suggestions. Walk through your house and look at each room. I am sure you will see a number of things you can change to make that room safer.
Q: Someone just told me that the Medicare annual open enrollment period has been changed and will now be earlier in the year. Is this correct and, if so, when will it occur?
A: You were told correctly. As you know, each year, the annual open enrollment period, when you can change your health care coverage and your Part D prescription drug coverage, has been from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31. This year, the open enrollment period will run from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
Between now and Oct. 15, there are many meetings scheduled to inform you about this change and to review your Medicare options and answer any questions. Meetings will be announced in this column, so stay tuned.
Sept. 14, 1:30-3 p.m. Seminar, “Are You Prepared to Be a Caregiver?” at Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive, Westlake Village. For details, 495-6250.