Caring for an elderly relative with mobility issues can be difficult, especially if they’re reluctant to ask for help or even worse if they’re not willing to accept they need help. And having that conversation about the possibility of them needing some form of help, without a) upsetting them and b) denting their pride can be equally difficult.
I remember my mum having one hell of a time convincing my grandad to use walking sticks and then later a wheelchair when his health started to deteriorate and he experienced decreased mobility. She got there eventually, but he didn’t half make it difficult for her. And all because he wanted to soldier on and not be any trouble to anyone. He really was a stubborn so-and-so at times!
Ultimately, we only want what’s best for our elderly loved ones. We want to make it so that their quality of life can remain as close to the way it’s always been and to enable them to stay in the comfort of their own homes for as long as they can. Whether it’s making activities and movement around the home as simple as possible, ensuring that they can continue to safely navigate the outdoors, or to continue the joy of a much loved hobby, there is help out there to allow them to do so.
In this article, we’re going to look at some of the ways you can help your elderly relative remain independent and also share some advice on how to persuade them to make use of daily living aids and mobility equipment.
Having The Conversation
No one wants to be told they can’t do something any more and they certainly don’t want to feel patronized, therefore it’s crucial you approach the conversation with consideration and respect. Chances are they’ve spent their life raising and looking after you and for the roles to suddenly be reversed can be a massive thing for both of you. It’s important to make clear that you’re suggesting these new changes because you want to help them continue being able to do things for themselves. That by implementing these useful additions, they can live independently and not have to rely on the help of others. That they are not a burden. You just want to help.
Ultimately, it is their decision to use mobility aids or to have living aids fitted in their home and you certainly can’t force anyone to use these things, but you can help by explaining the benefits that such devices would bring. Perhaps take them to a showroom so that they can try some of the equipment out for themselves, or sit down with them and look at online stores to help explore the various options. Some older people may be worried about the expense of such items, either about the cost to themselves or worried about the financial impact it may have on you. Try to get to the bottom of why they’re reluctant to make these changes as there will always be a reason. Be patient, be understanding, and most importantly listen to them.
If you’ve managed to persuade them to entertain the idea of some form of aid, well done you. This is the first step. Next up, you need to figure out what it is that will help them. This will mostly depend on individual requirements but also on how restricted their mobility is. Here are a few options to consider:
What mobility aid you choose will depend on the level of mobility that your elderly relative still has. Walking sticks are the most common walking aid used by the elderly and are a great starting point for someone who is new to using walking aids and who also has slightly better mobility. If someone is unsteady on their feet it can result in them losing the confidence to leave the house because they’re worried about falling. However, using a walking stick for support and stability means they can still get out and about, doing their food shop, visiting friends, attending groups, or simply going for a walk. There are a wide range of different walking sticks available. From the classic wooden ones, to lightweight aluminum ones, folding ones, tripod and quad based ones, there are even Nordic walking sticks for people who enjoy hiking. There is literally a walking stick for everyone!
Walking frames offer even more support, so a great option for people who can still move around on their feet, but who also need the extra stability that a frame gives. The fact that it has more points of contact on the ground means that it is the next level up from a walking stick in terms of support. They can be used in and outside of the home and some even come equipped with wheels for additional maneuverability.
Aside from walking aids, like sticks and frames, there is also the option of wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Both of these allow users to freely get about without feeling tired and worn out, which means they can be out and about for longer and travel further afield. Also, because the user is seated it removes any concern of not being able to sit down at say a restaurant or the park if there isn’t a seat available.
Mobility is a key factor in enabling elderly people to remain independent and to get around by their own free will. And using any one of these mobility aids will help boost confidence, keep them active, and allow them to continue doing the daily activities they’ve been accustomed to.
As people get older they can start to experience problems with balance and muscle weakness. And so another issue that needs to be addressed is safety at home, as older people are much more likely to have falls. Approximately 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 and half of those aged 80 experience at least one fall a year.
Although your elderly relative may not like the idea of their home being tampered with, there are many benefits to be had from installing living aids. Fitting grab rails and a chair in the shower can make life so much easier and give them the confidence that there is something to reach out for or sit on should they have a moment of dizziness or imbalance. For that same reason, grab rails can be fitted in other areas of the home, for example near the front door, by the sofa, next to the bed, or by the toilet. Anywhere that may involve extra movement that could potentially cause imbalance.
If your loved one isn’t convinced about having fixtures installed in their home, why not suggest something like a grabber or non-slip mats as a cheaper and less permanent option. Grabbers can be kept by the side of an armchair and used to reach out for things to prevent them stretching further than they should. Or to reach down and pick something up from the floor so that they don’t risk toppling over. Likewise, placing non-slip mats in risky areas such as the kitchen and bathroom, especially in areas that get wet, like the shower and bath, will help prevent unnecessary falls.
The thought of no longer being able to look after yourself is a scary one and so it’s no wonder many old people are reluctant to accept they need help. It’s important for them to understand that by making use of additional help in the form of mobility and living aids that this is not an admission of defeat, but rather an act that will help them to continue living independently. And whilst it is a difficult conversation to have, it is an important one. One that will ultimately bring peace of mind to you and continued self reliance to your loved one.