The need for caregiving, especially in older people, is increasing. And a problem that comes with this is that some older patients lose their independence to old age and disease.
Here's a scenario: Imagine an active retired teacher who has a debilitating chronic illness. This person loses many bodily functions until it becomes difficult for them to do things on their own. It was hard for them then when they had to give up their driving privileges. It was even harder to accept that they'd become too weak to even get on public transportation.
Whether it's about walking or doing something that they want, it's a big struggle. Take note that these people are once able-bodied and with a lot of experience about the world. They are now suddenly limited to doing a few things because of an illness.
The loss of independence can impact a patient's health and overall well-being. Caregivers must be aware that one way to help patients regain their sense of control is to provide different means for their patients to be on their own safely.
One way to foster independence is through the use of assistive devices. Assistive devices are smartly designed gadgets and equipment that help people with a loss of function perform a certain task. They are very useful and safe to use. Some assistive devices are prescribed, some are not.
1. Canes, crutches, and walkers.
These assistive devices increase a patient's base of support and improve balance to walk independently. They require a prescription because they target a specific weakness. For this reason, a patient cannot should not use the crutches belonging to another person. As a caregiver, make sure that the patient’s cane or crutches are within easy reach.
2. Hearing and vision aids.
Poor hearing and vision also limit a patient's performance of daily activities, so physicians prescribe hearing aids and eyeglasses for them. When your patients use these devices, help them put them on and take them off.
You may offer to clean them, too. Gently remove visible wax and debris from hearing aids and proceed to wipe with a damp cloth. You may clean their eyeglasses by running them under warm water and using a tiny drop of dish soap to remove oil marks on the lens. Use a lint-free towel to pat dry the lenses and the rest of the eyewear.
3. Built-up utensils, universal cuffs, plate guards, and weighted utensils.
Built-up utensils are designed for people with poor grip strength. They have a thicker handle for easier hold.
On the other hand, a universal cuff is a comfortable elastic that is strapped around the hand. It has a pocket to hold a utensil securely. It also benefits those with poor grip and coordination.
A plate guard is a dining aid that is useful for one-handed eating. It prevents food from spilling out of the plate. People with one-sided weakness or paralysis can use this device.
Weighted utensils are heavier than your usual ones. They provide additional weight to help stabilize hand and arm movements for shaky hands.
4. Reachers and grabbers.
These assistive devices help clutch items from hard-to-reach areas so that the patient doesn't need to stretch or bend excessively. Think of them as arm extensions that can pick things up. Store these devices in an accessible place.
5. Dressing devices.
Patients with limited hand function and poor coordination will appreciate these devices.
Button hooks are slipped inside a buttonhole to catch the button underneath to fasten it. Zipper pulls help pull zippers up. Sock aids and long-handled shoehorns are handy tools that patients can use to put on socks and shoes without bending over.
6. Bathing devices.
Bathing devices help patients clean and groom themselves independently yet safely. An example is a tub transfer bench. It lets the patient sit on it to get out of the tub without tripping over the tub. Handheld showers rinse hard-to-reach areas.
Similarly, shower chairs allow the patient to sit instead of just standing when taking a bath. Long-handles sponges help wash areas that are difficult to reach.
Now that you have a good idea of tools that can help your patients become more independent, you can work with the healthcare team to provide them with what they need.
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