Maintaining independent living, wherever possible, not only increases feelings of confidence, control and dignity, but also eases day-to-day life by lowering reliance on others. That’s why the importance of promoting independence in those with mobility and strength issues cannot be overemphasised. Additionally, increased independence creates a safer living environment, especially in the elderly, as individuals are less likely to pose a risk to themselves when undertaking daily tasks.
Whilst a sense of independence can be fostered in care environments, individuals who are safely able to remain within their homes can achieve even greater independence- the paybacks of which are extensive. Even something as simple as being able to make a cup of tea without help can provide massive psychological benefits, not to mention substantially reduce the amount of called-on assistance required.
Whilst remaining independent with mobility or strength issues isn’t easy, and the extent to which it is feasible will vary depending on the individual’s particular situation, it remains achievable for most people when utilising the right tips and independent living aids. Read on to discover how!
Independent Living Advice for Carers
By following the below independent living advice and practising the methods outlined, independent living can be achievable to many.
1. Only Rely on Help Where Necessary
As a carer, the key to fostering successful independent living is by administering care only when it’s truly needed, as this will promote independence where the patient is capable. Mobility issues are varied and diverse, meaning care is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and should therefore be altered accordingly, tailored to each patient’s individual abilities.
Look at the below list, and decide which areas your patient truly needs help with, and which they could actually manage themselves;
- Preparing meals and shopping for food
- Cleaning, and other general household chores
- Organising bills and finances
- Personal grooming, and bathing
Altering care to only be provided where necessary is a key independent living aid, and will have a knock-on effect concerning the amount of visits the patient receives from those providing assistance, who will be providing assistance (family, care staff or doctors), and where assistance will be based (in-home, hospital or care-facility based).
2. If Possible, Manage own Medication and Appointments
Whilst this independent living aid would not be advisory for all patients (such as those battling dementia), if your patient is able to manage their own prescriptions and appointments, this can massively boost their independence, and provide a feeling of control. This process can be made easier by setting phone reminder alerts both for appointments and to take medication. You can also request that doctors send email/text reminders for appointments.
3. Introduce Smartphones
Introducing smartphones is a fantastic way to increase independence in those with limited mobility, especially amongst seniors, who may be unfamiliar with them. Smartphones grant even bed-bound patients a level of independence by providing both a connection with the outside world, and the ability to request help at the touch of a button. This in turn fosters a feeling of security and decreases the need to have a carer present at all times, whilst also easing companionship.
Another reason smartphones make such an effective independent living aid is how easily they can be tailored to the individual’s needs, which makes them suitable for all. For example, large font and high volume is easy to set on all devices, whilst speed dial enables users to call important numbers easily.
4. Declutter the House
Ensuring effortless movement between rooms is one of the best, and most simple, ways to encourage independence in the home, both from an ease-of-use and safety standpoint. Remove anything which could cause trips or falls, such as rugs and wires, and add additional lighting (and motion sensors) where necessary, to both inside and outside the house. For individuals with impaired sight, place brightly coloured tape to the edges of stairs for additional support.
By making movement between rooms as seamless as possible you will not only increase the patient’s safety but also reduce the need for a carer to be present.
5. Have a Medical Alert System in Place
Having a trusted medical alert system in place enables seniors to continue living autonomously, yet rest assured that if something was to happen, an alarm would automatically become triggered. Medical alert systems are therefore vital in ensuring that independence doesn’t compromise safety. Please see PCMagazine’s comprehensive guide for a full rundown of medical alert systems.
Also worth looking into is Medical ID jewellery, which ensures patients can be quickly identified in terms of their conditions/medications, for timely and accurate medical help.
Additionally, you can take advantage of telehealth to keep tabs on several conditions, including high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes and urinary infections. Your patient may be eligible for telehealth free of charge from your local council; complete a care needs assessment to find out.
6. Plan for Safety
Staying safe when living alone with mobility or strength issues is viable with the right independent living aids and tips. Make sure patients have all important numbers pre-programmed into their phones, as well as physically printed. These should include; 999 (emergency services), 111 (for urgent medical concerns), 101 (to report a burglary), as well as the numbers of close friends, family members and their doctor.
Fall systems should also be in place as a safety precaution, and specialist smoke alarms installed, especially if your patient has hearing or visual difficulties. Specialist smoke alarms are wirelessly connected, meaning that if one is triggered, all are triggered, and some even feature vibrating pads. Get in touch with your local fire and rescue service to discuss these specialist options further. If you need assistance installing home security and safety measures, you can call upon Age UK’s handyperson services.
If your patient lives in an area prone to flooding, make sure to have a flood kit prepared. Every individual living alone should also have a basic first aid kit to hand.
Independent Living Aids
With today’s modern advancements, disabled and senior independent living is more possible than ever. To maintain your patient’s independence, you should invest in proper independent living supplies, most of which take care of simple daily activities. When added up, these independent living products enable noticeably greater self-sufficiency.
1. Kettle, Jug and Teapot Tippers
As a simple task, but a daily staple, the ability to boil water and make a hot beverage not only makes life notably easier due to how often this action is executed, but greatly boosts confidence in the process. Without a tipper, making a hot drink with strength or mobility issues would be impossible without risking injury. Tippers utilise Velcro straps to ensure secureness, heat resistant platforms, and removable fill areas.
1. Tap Turners
Bath and basin tap turners are one of the most useful independent living products on the market due to how often taps are used, which makes turners essential to daily life. Tap turners feature textured handles for secure grip, as well as non-slip rubber lining for leverage, which together make taps much easier to turn. They are also colour-coded to help those with limited vision.
2. Grab Rails
Bathroom safety rails make visiting the bathroom considerably easier for those with mobility and strength issues, offering support that enables hygiene and toilet needs to be fulfilled independently. Independence in the bathroom can protect patients’ dignity, which goes a long way to improve patient happiness levels. Providing the right bathroom aids is therefore imperative.
A diverse product which comes in a wide range of shapes, sizes and lengths, safety rails can be utilised to accommodate any mobility issue; some even have adjustable height. They are also not limited to the bathroom, and can be used in stairways and throughout the home, including outside- wherever support is required. Safety rails support the user’s weight, aiding sitting up and down, and feature a non-slip ribbed finish for extra grip.
3. Raised Toilet Seats and Toilet Frames
Minimising excessive bending and over-balancing, raised seats and toilet frames are some of the most useful independent living products in existence. Raised seats feature non-slip technology, and can be attached to the toilet bowl without needing to remove the pre-existing seat, for added convenience.
Frames on the other hand feature adjustable legs (and sometimes width), added grip, and come in free-standing and floor-fixed variants. See our blog for more information on toileting aids for senior independent living.
For further bathroom-specific independent living supplies and ideas, bath seats are also incredibly useful, featuring secured rubber suckers and a textured surface for reliable bathing assistance.
4. Kitchen Aids
As eating is one of our main daily activities, the ability to do so independently can have a monumental impact on your patient’s confidence and ease-of-living, greatly boosting their independence in the process. Eating successfully by oneself can be encouraged through a variety of independent living products. Large handle cutlery makes gripping much easier, whilst food preparation boards are ideal for those with limited hand use due to the product’s non-slip feet and curved lips, both of which hold the board in place to prevent food slipping off. Manoy plates meanwhile are useful for avoiding food spillages due to their sloping bottoms and high sided ends.
5. Bed Use Aids
For fostering a sense of independence in individuals restricted to their beds, overbed tables provide a great solution. Through the use of an overbed table, patients can perform a variety of functions without having to get up. Overbed tables are also easily maneuverable, and so do not require another individual’s assistance to be used.
With so many advanced independent living products on the market, it can be easy to forget about the more basic independent living supplies. However, the more basic can sometimes be the most helpful and vital in enabling independence. Step platforms and stools are two such products, as well as trollies. Make sure not to forget these staples when preparing your patient’s home.
For advice on any of the above products, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team, and we’ll gladly assist you further. Please also see our blog for further information on living independently, including how to stay active outside using walking aids, and, if you choose to facilitate independence in a care home environment, how to choose the right care home.
Ultimately, by adapting your patient’s home with the correct tools and equipment, and providing help only where they truly need it, individuals with mobility and strength issues can take back control of their lives, and experience the boundless positive side-effects of doing so.