In old age we tend to spend a lot of time within our bedrooms, as we gradually lose the will power or the physical ability to venture out and stay outdoors for long. Convenience becomes the main concern in everything that we do – right from daily household chores to maintaining personal hygiene. Consequently, it is advisable to equip ourselves with convenience aids, be it at the kitchen, or bedrooms or bathrooms. This is particularly true if you are living alone or living only with your elderly spouse.
Bedroom Aids for the Elderly
This article specifically talks about bedroom aids, what potential risks and hazards exist in the bedroom and how to mitigate those with the help of installing or placing mobility or stability aids in the bedroom. Aids can be classified as mobility aids or stability aids. Mobility aids generally help you to be mobile and reach your destination – examples are a wheelchair, a hoyer lift, a leg lifter or patient turner blankets. Stability aids offer you support and help to steady yourself – examples are grab bars, step stools, bed railings. There are a few other aids like wheelchair trays or overbed trays which are convenient for the purpose of working or having your meals.
Bedroom Hazards for the Elderly
As we age, understandably our mobility reduces which makes us move around less around the house. A lot of time is spent on the bed, or in some cases, on mobility aides like the wheelchair. However, we may still want to move about our bedroom and may have to visit the bathroom more frequently than before leading to the below risks.
- The single most prominent bedroom hazard for the elderly is the risk of falls. As an elderly, if you have low eyesight or you are mobility challenged or have balance issues, you should be extra careful while getting out of bed, getting in and out of the bathroom, take special care to keep your bathroom dry to prevent risk of slippage.
- The second hazard is that of injuring yourself by bumping into furniture. Typically, bedrooms of the elderly are cluttered and stuffed with furniture due to long term accumulation. The idea is to make your bedroom as uncluttered as possible and to have only essential stuff around you
- And the last is the risk of tripping on wires and cables that run across the room or which are not properly rolled up. These hazards can be eliminated by being watchful and being discipline when you are installing an electronic item in your room. A similar risk to avoid is the presence of raised dividers at the entrance of the bedroom or between the bedroom and the attached bathroom. It is better to take out these dividers if you have them.
Aids for the Elderly in the Bedroom
The elderly, particularly if one is on the heavier side, may often find it difficult to pull themselves on to the bed. They may also find it difficult to sit up on the bed from a supine position. Further, they may also be prone to roll over and fall from the bed – falls which may prove to be very dangerous in old age. Bed railings are the resolution for all these problems and can be separately installed on most beds. Having said that, we should be careful to not install an elaborate railing which may lead to hands or legs of older people getting trapped in them. Simple structures are more effective in serving the above requirements. It is also advisable to install one which has cushioning on it, to prevent inadvertent injuries to your hands and legs. Cushioning also helps to avoid exposure to the cold metal, particularly during winters.
Step Stools with Handle
Step stools are platforms that are typically about 9 inches high and have a handle to support yourself. It will also have curved rubber tipped feet which expand the support base of the device and add to the stability. While they can be used to access higher shelves safely, or to get in and out of the bathtub, in the bedroom, these devices will help you to get out of the bed safely, by providing a step in between. The elderly may often be disoriented or light-headed immediately after waking up and sitting up on the bed. The handle will help you to stabilize yourself once you are on the platform. The platform often has a non-slip rubberized layer to increase friction between your feet and platform and is helpful in wet conditions.
Grab bars are essentially rods, designed and installed on walls, to enable a person to take support and maintain balance. They are a common occurrence in bathrooms for the elderly to maneuver themselves while holding it and to prevent them from slipping or falling. They can also be used in your bedrooms, placed in the right areas, so that you can leverage them to move around the room safely. They are generally made of stainless steel, reinforced aluminum or ABS plastic and need to be installed using long and strong screws, so that the bars do not wilt under your weight. You may want to install bars just outside the door of your attached bathroom or at the entrance of your bedroom. You can also choose to install them all along the walls of the bedroom for better safety. Grab bars are good for encouraging your movements without external help.
As a care giver for an elderly who is mobility challenged, you must consider investing in a Hoyer lift. The Hoyer lift brings much needed relief to the caregiver from the stressful activity of transferring an adult to and from her bed and helps in restoring the dignity of your loved one to some extent. Moreover, it eliminates the need of a second person, other than the caregiver, to help with the transfer.
The Hoyer lift can be a hydraulic (mechanical) or an electric device which has a base, a spine or pillar and a lifting arm which can be manually or remotely adjusted to lift the patient and transfer her for short distances – mostly transfers are between a wheelchair and the bed.
Hoyer lifts can be fixed to the ceiling or they can be mobile. In case they are ceiling-fixed, they generally only offer transfers from wheelchair to bed and vice versa. Mobile Hoyer lifts can be used to transfer patients from the bedroom to bathroom or any other part of the house like the TV couch or outdoor patio. The Hoyer lift is generally used with a specialized sling blanket with loops, which can be used to cradle and lift the user.
Leg Lifter Straps
A leg lifter device is a strap that will help you to get into bed by yourself, even if you are partially disabled or paralyzed. It typically helps you to pull one leg at a time onto the bed and has a simple design which helps the patient to be independent and not require the help of the care giver. The device is basically a strap with loops at both ends – one loop is to be used to loop the leg lifter on to your foot and the loop on the other end is used to pull the leg on top of the bed. A simple product – the leg lifter allows you to be more independent and works out your upper body as well.
The over-bed table helps you to work on a laptop while being on bed and while maintaining a good posture. The base of the table typically has wheels and is of low height so that it can easily move under the bed for you to be able to position the table correctly. The devices generally come with height adjustability feature for the tray or table. You can customize the height as per your convenience. It can also be used for having in-bed meals.
Patient turner blankets
For the elderly who are completely paralyzed, or heavily mobility-challenged, a patient turner blanket helps the caregiver to easily turn patients in bed without causing strain to caregiver’s back. Turning a patient periodically is important to avoid skin breaks and ulcers. The turner blankets are equipped with loops which can be leveraged by caregivers to turn the patient to one side and change sides periodically.
Bedroom Lighting for the Elderly
One of the very effective ways of reducing the risk of falls, apart from the aids listed above, is to provide sufficient lighting for your bedroom. Well-lit places often compensate for failing eyesight and particularly reduce risks of tripping over or collision with furniture. It must be kept in mind that the elderly prefer cooler or white light rather than yellow light. Replacing current lighting with higher powered bulbs and installing bulbs in areas where there is less light is a quick way of making your bedroom well-lit. There are some solutions which are more expensive but increase convenience of the elderly and these are listed below.
- Motion Sensor Lights: Installing motion sensor lights in your bedroom and attached bathroom increases the convenience of the elderly who do not have to explicitly switch on the lights. Often the elderly may not be turning on lights thinking they do not need them, or it may not be convenient for them – however, dim areas always increase the risk of falls. Another benefit of sensor lights is that they do not require cables and wires like a floor lamp, reducing the risk of tripping on wires.
- Plug-in night lights: These lights can be directly plugged into electric outlets and they provide the minimum lighting to be used as night lights. Plugged into sockets closer to the floor, they often illuminate the floor well enough to prevent tripping or collisions at night.
It also helps to paint your bedroom walls with light colors which will reflect more light to make your room brighter.
While the above aids significantly reduce the risk of a fall, they do not eliminate the risk completely. Falls still occur. However, the impact and injury can be reduced to a large extent if you have a soft carpet flooring, rather than a hardwood flooring in your bedroom. However, if you have a hardwood flooring, chances are that it will not be possible for you to overhaul it and change to carpet. In that case, you may want to strategically place soft rugs in your bedroom, to have the same effect. You may want to place a rug on that side of the bed where you get down from, or just outside the bedroom to capture the areas of maximum likelihood of fall. It is, however, important to glue the ends of the rug closely to the floor, to prevent loose ends of the rugs from becoming causes of fall themselves.
Depending upon your physical fitness and ability to move around, you may need a combination of the above aids discussed in this article. Falls are one of the major reasons of injuries and health complications in the elderly and should be avoided at any cost. The aids discussed here, if implemented correctly in your bedroom, will definitely make your bedroom safer and will reduce hazards and risks of fall to a great extent.