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February 20, 2013

Aging in place

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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Roger Burghdoff, an owner of E.L. Kitchens & Baths in Farmington Hills, demonstrates a device that may be installed into closets that allows someone using a wheelchair to pull the shelf down to a reachable level.

What can you do if a loved one is having trouble accomplishing the day-to-day things they need to do to safely live in their home or your home?

Things like laundry, maintaining hygiene, cooking and even just getting around may become a challenge for someone returning home from the hospital, rehab or a nursing home facility.

“As we all grow older, it’s all about being safe in your home,” Roger Burghdoff said. He is an owner of E.L. Kitchens & Baths in Farmington Hills, which specializes in home construction and making things easier for elderly residents.

“Everybody’s needs are different. It’s about safety and it’s got to function. And it doesn’t have to look like a medical facility.”

While many think of walk-in showers and grab-bars when adapting a home for an aging loved one or someone incapacitated, other things, like lower shelves and counters in kitchens, may be just as helpful and not as easily identified.

“We do a lot of first-floor laundries,” Burghdoff said. Going up and down stairs to do laundry, especially carrying a basket of clothes, may become a challenge, he said.

“We like doing home evaluations,” Burghdoff added. He said the biggest things, when considering the safety of a loved one or yourself in the home, are entrances, the bathroom and the kitchen.

“Move things to create a bigger pathway,” he suggested. “It’s cheaper to stay in the home than go to assisted living,” he added. He said people worried that adaptive features, like a walk-in shower, could lower the resale value of a home should set money aside to “put it back” to the former state, if necessary.

“Take care of today,” he said.

Bert Copple, general manager at Home Instead Senior Care, based in Birmingham, agreed that every situation is going to be different. Home Instead Senior Care provides services to help seniors safely live in their homes. Home Instead Senior Care provides seniors with transportation to the doctor, reminders to take medication at the proper time, meal preparation, light housekeeping, help running errands, shopping and care of Alzheimer’s patients.

“Preventing falls is most important,” he said.

Copple said balance problems, mobility issues, sensory deficits, low blood pressure and side effects of medications could cause falls.

“It’s important that someone coming home from the hospital have someone with them for the first two days,” he said.

He noted that getting in and out of a shower, where the body temperature changes quickly and lowers blood pressure, could cause a fall.

Other common culprits that pose hazards around the house include throw rugs and not using a shower chair in the bathroom.

“The majority of falls happen in the bathroom,” Copple said. “Everyone over age 65 should have a shower chair to eliminate risk of falls.”

Also look for a shower chair that goes over the tub, he said. And remember that towel racks were not designed to be grab bars, he said.

When making modifications to accommodate an elderly loved one, make sure the contractor is a certified aging-in-place specialist, Copple added.

Recuperation often involves bed rest, which can be tricky for those with a variety of health issues.

Jeffrey Scheuer, owner of Mattress to Go in Shelby Township, explained that many develop back problems and circulation issues, which makes sleeping in reclining beds more difficult as they age.

Scheuer earned a Bachelor of Science degree in health science from the Michigan State University Honors College and coached the U.S. Winter Olympic Luge Team in 1994 before joining the family business.

The store sells the Leggett & Platt adjustable bed, which allows the head and feet to be elevated. 

“Some people come to us and say they’ve had to sleep in reclining chairs in the living room, due to health issues, such as acid reflux,” he said.

In past years, the typical buyer of the electric adjustable bed tended to be older than 50. “But customers are getting younger,” he said. “People want to elevate their heads to watch TV or work on a computer in bed,” he explained. 

The Area Agency on Aging 1-B, which connects seniors and adults with disabilities in southeast Michigan to support services, offers the Nursing Facility Transition program to residents of nursing facilities on Medicaid who would like to return home, move in with family members, find an apartment or find another living option. Also, support and services to help those who move back home are available, free of charge, for those who meet functional and financial guidelines. The help is funded by the Michigan Department of Community Health and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Nursing facility residents may request transition services for themselves, and family members, friends and social workers may also request the transition services. Call the Area Agency on Aging 1-B Information and Assistance Line at (800) 852-7795.

E.L. Kitchens and Baths, on Haggerty Road in Farmington Hills, may be reached at (888) 248-3510. Call Home Instead Senior Care at (248) 203-2273. Mattress to Go, located at Van Dyke and 23 Mile Road in Shelby Township, may be reached at (586) 580-3605.