Homecare Agencies: Management and Scheduling Troubles?

In the past, I’ve told you about software like KeePass , the Oprea Browser, and Skype; software that offers some useful benefits for Seniors and their Caregivers. Today, I thought I’d mention a piece of software that I’ve been hearing goods things about that’s geared towards professional Homecare Agencies .

First, two quick disclaimers: 1) Elder Depot wasn’t put up to this, the only reason we’re promoting this software is that we’ve been hearing good things about it and because it strikes us as pretty useful. 2) As a supplier of Eldercare Products, Elder Depot does business with a lot of Homecare Agencies but we’re not a Homecare Agency and we haven’t actually used this software. So, Caveat Emptor.

Running any business can be a complicated headache at times, that’s all the more true for Home Care Agencies that face challenges like strict legal requirements, a need for accurate scheduling, and the difficulty of managing staff at a distance. My wife works at an Adult Day Program that tackles many of these problems by juggling several computer programs, mapping and remapping the weekly schedule on a giant dry-erase board, and making heavy use of cellphones. That kind of solution works… It even works well. But there’s something appealing about what is by most accounts an intuitive, easy-to-use, and integrated software package that does the same and more.

HomeTrak is a piece of software designed specifically to meet the management, scheduling, and legal needs of Home Care Agencies.

http://www.hometrak.com/

Judging from their website, the four words that guide HomeTrek’s design are Schedule, Manage, Serve, & Grow. At it core, the software is designed to get jobs scheduled, that sounds simple but it can be complicated. HomeTrak simplifies the process by providing detail and up-to-date information on clients and caregivers, while keeping track of referrers.

I thought the emphasis on integrated referral management was pretty insightful. The HomeTrak website breaks that down into the following benefits.

  • Keep track of anyone or any business that is sending clients and caregivers to your organization.
  • How many new referrals did you receive yesterday?
  • How many new clients did you receive yesterday?
  • How long is it taking to turn potential clients into active clients?
  • Information from the referral module can be used to make educated marketing decisions.

HomeTrak offers the following benefits in regards to clients. I thought it was particularly useful that it tracks changes to a client’s records – what an improvement over paper files, where you’d have to do detective work to track down who to ask about a change.

  • Tracks required dates specific to each client.
  • Allows for a permanent schedule and visit plan.
  • Records all the skills required to accommodate a client’s needs.
  • Connects external documents to each client for easy reference.
  • Tracks changes made to a client’s records, including information changed, who changed the information, and when it was changed.
  • Imports and exports demographic information with other contact management and accounting software.
  • Manages referral sources and contacts through the Referral Management System.

Staff Management is pretty straightforward but with enough detail. I like how it integrates skill-sets that it can then compare to Client needs.

  • Stores caregiver photographs.
  • Multiple options available for pay rates.
  • Connects external documents to each caregiver for easy reference.
  • Allows viewing of all clients that the caregiver is currently assigned to visit.
  • Allows viewing of all changes made to a caregiver’s record, including information changed, who changed the information, and when it was changed.
  • Allows creation of user-defined skills, user-defined locations and user-defined compliance data.

Scheduling. That’s what caught my interest when I first heard of HomeTrak. There are so many features here that I thought were so useful. In particular, I like the automation that saves management staff so much legwork and how the software keeps Client family members in the loop.

  • Automatic alerts to open schedules and caregiver overlaps.
  • Suggests caregivers best suited to care for clients based on user defined parameters.
  • Only matches available caregivers that meet the client’s request.
  • Client and caregiver information is visible side-by-side for a better match.
  • Eliminates double scheduling of shifts.
  • Notifies scheduler when a caregiver might go into overtime.
  • Invoicing and payroll are based on a confirmed schedule, thus eliminating errors in client billings and caregiver pay.
  • Single entry of duplicated data eliminates human errors.
  • Information is archived for later retrieval as needed.
  • Saves time and money by e-mailing schedules and other pertinent information directly from the schedule module to caregivers, clients and their families.
  • Provides integrated directions to client homes using an interface to Google Maps, an extraordinary new concept that allows viewing of maps to the client’s home and viewing driving routes between schedules.

As if all of that weren’t enough, HomeTrak also manages finances including Payroll and Billing.

  • Calculates payroll for any time period.
  • Calculates payroll for all caregiver groups or a single group.
  • Make minor adjustments to calculated payroll.
  • Easily creates payroll reports for both active and posted payroll periods.
  • Exports payroll to QuickBooks timecards.
  • Moves payroll information to the sales history system, so you can view profit and loss by type of work performed, clients visited, or payers.
  • Calculates billing for any time period.
  • Calculates billing for all client groups or a single group.
  • Produces an invoice that can include your company logo, and/or a tear-off remittance section.
  • Creates billing reports for both active and posted billing periods.
  • Sends invoices to QuickBooks accounting after created.
  • Capable of billing for holidays by individual client.
  • Allows correction of posted billing.
  • Easily creates invoices between normal runs for estate payment.
  • Capable of billing for mileage, errand mileage and expenses.

Quick and easy-to-generate reports have become an industry standard… But it’s nice to see them here.

  • Easily generate, display and print reports.
  • Choose the report or options that you want.
  • Quickly find the information that you need.
  • Create professional looking caregiver name badges.
  • Simple to generate mailing labels or envelopes for clients, payers or caregivers.

Management by…Telephony? I thought this was amazing and it saves management so many hassles.

  • Eliminate paper time sheets for good!
  • Client is no longer required to sign timesheets thereby avoiding potential conflicts
  • Significantly streamline payroll and invoicing
  • No additional phone lines or hardware required
  • Disciplines caregivers to show up on time and work for the authorized period
  • Provides management with a unique and powerful caregiver management tool

So… Maybe now you understand why I was impressed? I’m not alone, it seems like more and more Home Care agencies are switching over. I can’t say if HomeTrak is as good as it’s features or reputation make it out to be…but I think it’s one of the best examples of modern information technology put to a practical use that I’ve seen in a long time.

The Super Little Grandmom ~ Fighting Senior Boredom

This morning as I was driving to work I heard an interesting interview on the radio about ‘Super Mamika’. No, Super Mamika isn’t a copycat of Super Mario, it’s a series of themed photographs by Sacha Goldberger featuring his Hungarian grandmother in the role of a superhero. Mamika means ‘Little Grandmother’ in Hungarian, so the literal translation is Super Little Grandmom.

The story behind ‘Super Mamika’ is that Goldberger noticed that his grandmother, after a long active life, was becoming bored and depressed in her later years. Like many concerned family members he brainstormed ways to engage her, though the solution he came up with does stand out as being more than a little unique.

The ‘Super Mamika’ series of photographs were only the beginning for Frederika Goldberger. She has continued modeling for photographs as can be seen on her MySpace page.

www.myspace.com/frederikagoldberger

Fortunately you don’t have to be a professional photographer or even an artist to engage your elderly loved ones. It’s not only good for Seniors socially and emotionally but some studies have shown that mental stimulation “may” help slow the spread and lessen the symptoms of cognitive decline, as we’ve mentioned before. Of course, the more personal the better…apparently Frederika loves the humor of her Superhero counterpart…but here are a few general suggestions to get you going. Nothing quite as unique as Super Mamika.

  • Pictures: Looking at old family pictures together is one of the classic ways to engage Seniors. However, an often overlooked activity is showing Seniors unfamiliar pictures as well as familiar ones. Books of amazing photography  and picture heavy magazines like National Geographic can be very stimulating.
  • Card Games: Games like Bridge, Pokeno, and Pinochle are old favorites of many Seniors. Large print playing cards, card holders, and automatic card shufflers can enable individuals with dexterity or vision impairment to continue to play their favorite games.
  • Puzzles: Puzzles can captivate Seniors for hours, keeping their mental juices flowing and focusing their attention on putting together a stimulating image. For Seniors with dexterity or vision difficulties, it’s recommended to look for puzzles with Large Pieces. Large Print Crossword Puzzles can also be a great help.
  • Book Clubs: Getting a Senior involved in a slower paced book club can do wonders for them both mentally and socially. If the book club is inter-generational, all the better…as long as they’re reading books that have large print editions available.

What activities have you used to fight Senior Boredom and Depression? Share them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

Crossword Puzzles still a good mental workout.

On December 21st, 1913 the New York World published Arthur Wynne’s “word-cross”, the first Crossword puzzle. 97 years later, the Crossword has become an established part of many people’s mental workout and is one of the most popular kinds of puzzle in the world.

More and more research is showing what many Seniors have known for years, that challenging mental activities like the daily Crossword can help slow cognitive decline due to the aging and “may” even improve the brain function of dementia sufferers.

“Crossword puzzles are a perfect way to stay mentally fit. They come in every ability level and are fun, engaging and intellectually stimulating.” ~Stanley Newman

Free Monthly Large Print Crossword for Download or Printing

Free Daily Online Crossword Puzzle from Plus50LifeStyles

Keep in touch over the holidays!

You might remember me recommending Skype as a great free software gift back on Father’s Day. It’s a practical, innovative, and easy-to-use way to keep in touch with family.

Skype is a free computer program that will allow your family to do something that was once considered the stuff of science fiction. Like the Jetsons, you can keep in touch with loved ones through video conference technology that will allow family to see faces while hearing words. It is a powerful tool to help fight against feelings of isolation and abandonment.

Skype works by transmitting voice and video signals over the Internet. Skype to Skype calls are provided as a free service. Skype is also capable of making calls to normal phone lines though this service has a small fee.

All that Skype requires is a Computer of average capacity, an external microphone, and a broadband Internet connection. A webcamera is needed for video chatting but it’s not required as Skype can be used just for audio. Check it out at…

http://www.skype.com/

Skype is a great tool but it’s not right for every person or every situation. We want to help families keep in touch over the holidays and that’s why for the rest of December 2010 Elder Depot is offering 5% off our full stock of Senior Friendly Telephones. Just enter the coupon code: 5offPhones

Keeping Seniors Safe and Warm this Winter

Well, the calendar on my wall claims that winter won’t start until next week but you could have fooled me. It’s freezing out there. Back in July we shared 10 Ways for Seniors to Keep Cool, given the frigid weather outside now seems like a good time to follow up with some advice on keeping Seniors warm and safe this winter.

Winter is one of the most dangerous seasons for Seniors. The weather makes it difficult for them to get around, further isolating them from friends and help. They are more vulnerable to the extreme cold. It is the season of influenza, which each year kills tens of thousands of Seniors and hospitalizes hundreds of thousands more. The freezing weather drastically increases Senior’s risk of falls, putting them at additional risk of injury.

Keeping Seniors Safe in the Winter

  • Winter Footwear: When heading outside wear footwear with non-slip soles and thermal socks. This will help prevent falls and will keep feet nice and warm.
  • Slip Prevention: It’s important to keep steps, driveways, and walkways as free of ice as possible; sprinkle them with a mixture of salt and sand. Don’t hesitate to ask for or hire help. A well positioned grab rail on a flight of slick steps can literally be a lifesaver and a Ice Attachment for Canes can give Seniors some added traction when they’re out and about.

Keeping Seniors Healthy in the Winter

  • Eat Well: Seniors should eat hot nutritious meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Dale Carter has pointed out that special care should be taken to avoid dehydration, which can be hard to identify during the colder months.
  • Seasonal Vaccinations: Seniors should be annually vaccinated against the pneumonia and flu. The Center for Disease Control recommends getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available because it takes the body about two weeks to build up an immunity. For more information visit Flu.gov.
  • Stockpile Medicines: Stock up on common medicines for sore throats, colds, and coughs. Order prescription drug refills in advance so that there’s no reason to go out in bad weather.
  • Keep Active: Moving around produces body heat and is good for general well-being. During the winter don’t sit still for more than an hour, get up, walk around, and make a warm drink. Spread activities throughout the day. Seniors who have difficulty walking can do chair-based exercises. Another major benefit of moving around is improved circulation, which helps prevent Perniosis and spread heat throughout the body. Diana Nyad, world champion swimmer of the 1970s and boomer champion of today, recommends some simple indoor exercises like desk push-ups for the winter.
  • Perniosis: When a person gets cold and warms their skin too quickly they can develop perniosis, also known as chilblains. These itchy, red swellings often occur on the feet, finders, nose, and ears. People with poor circulation are especially vulnerable. Perniosis is a common condition that can be easily treated by applying calamine or witch hazel to the swelling to reduce itching, it’s important not to scratch the swellings as this could break skin and result in an infection. To prevent Perniosis avoid rapid changes in temperature, wear warm footwear, gloves and socks,  avoid tight fitting clothing that impedes circulation, and do not drink alcohol before going out into the cold.

Keeping Warm in the Winter

  • Wear Layers: It is warmer to wear several thin layers of clothing than one thick layer. Wool and cotton fibers help to hold warmth in. Thermal underwear or tights make for a good under-layer.
  • Cover Head, Feet, and Hands: The U.S. army field manual for survival states that 40% to 45% of body heat is lost through the head, to prevent this heat loss in cold weather it is important to wear a warm hat. Warm gloves and footwear are equally important to keep hands and feet warm.
  • Dress for the Cold…even indoors: Wear warm clothing indoors, even overnight in bed. This can be more effective than cranking up the heat and will certainly be more efficient.

Our fellow Pennsylvanian Peter Leer shared the following Winter Caregiving Tips on Wheelchair Outings along with many more on his blog at CaregivinglyYours.com.

  • Body Heat: Don’t forget that a person riding in a wheelchair does not produce the same amount of body heat as a person walking.
  • Scarfs: In Peter’s own words, “While a hat and scarf are often recommended I have concerns about mixing scarves and wheelchairs, seems an accident waiting to happen.”
  • Outerwear: Again, in Peter’s own words, “For outerwear we usually rely upon a hooded wool zippered cape. Capes are easier for getting on and off when assisting someone in a wheelchair and a zippered cape simply increases options. Hoods are easy to flip up or down, cover everything except the face and are always attached. While wool is ‘old school’ it still has the unique ability to provide warmth even when it is wet.”
  • Don’t forget the lower body: A warm blanket or leg warmers help to keep in body heat and reduce wind chill. Leslie Cairns of British Columbia has made a business of Buggy Bags, a clever alternative.

Did we miss anything? Share your Winter Caregiving Tips in the comments.

Creamy Ensure® Eggnog Pudding

This delicious holiday treat is healthy too! Packed with nutritional value from Ensure® products, this take on traditional eggnog pudding not only tastes good, it’s good for you.

Creamy Ensure® Eggnog Pudding

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1-ounce package instant vanilla sugar-free, fat-free pudding mix (can be substituted with one 3.5-ounce package regular instant vanilla pudding mix, if desired)
  • 1-1/2 cups COLD Ensure® Homemade Vanilla Shake*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus a dash for the top
  • 1/2 teaspoon artificial rum flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup fat-free whipped topping, divided

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the pudding mix, Ensure Homemade Vanilla Shake, nutmeg, rum flavoring, and vanilla extract.
  2. Whisk vigorously for 2 minutes until thick.
  3. Fold in 1/2 cup whipped topping.
  4. Divide the pudding into 4 serving dishes.
  5. Chill for 1 hour.
  6. When ready to serve, top each with 1 tablespoon whipped topping and a dash of nutmeg.
  7. Serve chilled.

Nutrition Facts (if prepared with Ensure®)
Serv. Size: 1/2 cup (106g)
Calories: 140
Calories From Fat: 40

Amount Per Serving % DV

Total Fat 4g 6%

Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Trans Fat 0g 0%

Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 160mg 7%
Potassium 155mg 7%
Total Carb. 20g 7%

Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Sugars 12g

Protein 4g 8%

Vitamin A 10% Vitamin C 20% Calcium 15% Iron 10%

*This recipe can be prepared with Ensure® Nutrition Shake or Ensure Plus®. Nutrition information will vary with product used.
†Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 Calorie diet.

Is it time to “take the keys” to the liquor cabinet?

It’s a happy time. The whole family has come together for a holiday meal together and now, it’s time for a toast. On break from College, this is the first time that Junior is able to join in. It’s now that it occurs to you… Should Pop be drinking with all his medication? He’s already got a wine glass in hand and is having a laugh with Junior. You have to make a choice, do you cause a scene or do you risk his health by letting him drink?

Family toasting over holiday meal, should Seniors be included?It’s a question that often comes up at the last minute, when the bottle’s uncorked and you’re about to pour. Should you serve alcohol to a Senior? There isn’t one answer, but with the right information a Caregiver can make the right judgment call.

The importance of Drinking.

Drinking alcohol, like driving, is often seen as a rite of passage, something that separates children from adults. Caregivers should be aware that restricting a Senior’s use of alcohol may be received as attacking their adulthood.

Reasons to “Take the Keys” to the liquor cabinet.

Unlike driving, there are few guides that help Caregivers decide if a Senior should “turn in the keys” to the liquor cabinet. Here are some reasons to think about restricting a Senior’s access to alcohol.

  • Dangerous Alcohol and Medication Interactions: Many medications can have dangerous interactions with alcohol that lead to increased risk of illness, injury, or even death. The elderly are especially at risk due to the large amounts of medication they often take.
  • Increased Effect of Alcohol: Several studies have shown that Alcohol has an increased effect on most Seniors, reducing their ability to function to a greater extent and for a longer period of time. This can be especially dangerous for Seniors suffering from cognitive impairment.
  • Worsen Medical Conditions: Alcohol can worsen certain medical conditions, such as High Blood Pressure and Ulcers.
  • Increased Risk of Injury: Drinking alcohol can greatly increase a Senior’s risk of injury from falls.
  • Late Onset Alcoholism: Depression, social isolation, and physical pain can lead to Seniors abusing Alcohol later in life. This is a growing problem in the United States and one that often goes overlooked.
  • Malnutrition: Drinking large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis can flood a Senior’s system with empty calories, quenching appetite and causing malnutrition without weight loss.

The Checklist

If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of the items on the following check list, it may be time to take control of your elderly loved one’s access to alcohol.

  1. Is there a risk of dangerous interaction between Alcohol and the Senior’s Medication? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this risk?
  2. Does the Senior have a medical condition that is exacerbated by alcohol consumption? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this condition?
  3. Does even a small amount of alcohol have an exaggerated effect on the Senior? Is the Senior no longer able to drink responsibly?
  4. Are there signs that the Senior is at higher risk of incidental injuries such as falls when they drink alcohol? Is the Senior no longer able to respond appropriately to this danger?
  5. Is the Senior showing a signs of Alcohol abuse? Do those signs merit an intervention?

This guide is meant to educate and inform, it is not meant to be a substitute for a Medical Doctor’s advice. The best judge of whether a Senior should give up drinking is their Doctor and a Caregiver should always consult with a Doctor if they’re worried about a Senior drinking.

Preserving health, dignity, and relationship

Refusing to serve alcohol to an elderly loved one might leave them feeling embarrassed, excluded, and like you stripped them of their adulthood. It might result in a nasty scene and hurt feelings, ruining what had been a happy time together. With some forethought you can set up a compromise that preserves both a Senior’s dignity and their health.

  • Talk to the Senior’s Doctor about your concerns beforehand, don’t wait until the family toast to think about alcohol.
  • Talk to the Senior beforehand, tell them your concerns and ask them to compromise. Let them know that you want them to be part of the family traditions but that you’re worried about their health.
  • Serve Low-Alcohol Beverages like ‘Near Beer’ or a light ‘Mixed Drink’; lowering the alcohol content can go a long way, just be sure to always check with the Senior’s Doctor first.
  • Serve Non-Alcoholic Beer like O’Doul’s instead of alcoholic beer or Sparkling Grape Juice instead of Champagne.

These suggestions might not be enough to prevent hurt feelings or wounded pride, but in the end the important thing to remember is that you’re not stealing your loved one’s dignity – you’re trying to protect their health.

More Information

To help equip you to make an informed decision we’ve compiled some additional information that we hope proves helpful.

Some Medications that interact dangerously with Alcohol.

The following are some common medications that can interact dangerously with alcohol. This is by no means a definitive list and to be safe always check the medication warning labels and consult with the Senior’s Doctor.

  • Antibiotics are a common medication used to fight off infectious diseases.
  • Anticoagulants are prescribed to impede the blood’s ability to clot.
  • Antidepressants are an increasingly medication used to counter clinical depression.
  • Oral hypoglycemic drugs help lower blood sugar levels for some individuals suffering from diabetes.
  • Antihistamines are commonly taken to lessen allergic symptoms and to treat insomnia.
  • Antipsychotic drugs are prescribed to lessen psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
  • Antiseizure medications are primarily prescribed to treat epilepsy.
  • Cardiovascular medications are prescribed to treat heart and circulatory system ailments.
  • Narcotic pain relievers are prescribed to lessen moderate to severe pain.
  • Nonnarcotic pain relievers are the most common nonprescription pain relievers and are commonly used by the elderly.

Many other medications can have dangerous interactions with alcohol so, again, to be safe always consult with the Senior’s Doctor. It’s a good idea to keep a list of all medications that the Senior is taking, including over the counter drugs and supplements, on hand to check with the Doctor.

Benefits of Drinking for Seniors?

Light to Moderate Drinking
No more than 14 drinks a week
No more than 2 drinks a day

Several studies have shown that Seniors who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol also have a lower risk of certain ailments. There are still a lot of unknowns in these studies but the message seems to be that ‘moderation may be best after all.‘ Let’s take a closer look at a handful of the studies.

The results of a study conducted by the David Geffen School of Medicine found that healthy Seniors who drank light or moderate amounts of alcohol were almost 25% less likely to suffer from incident disability or death as compared to non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.

Three Seniors in living room drinking champagne and smiling

Researchers from the Tulane University studied 35 studies and discovered that individuals who drink one to two alcoholic drinks a day were almost 30% less likely to have a stroke than non-drinkers. The same study also found the disturbing correlation that heavy drinkers were almost 70% more likely to have a stroke.

Several studies have shown that individuals who drank light to moderate alcoholic drinks were less likely to suffer from heart disease. The same studies also showed that heavy drinkers were more likely to suffer from heart disease.

The material of this blog is provided for informational purposes only. Elder Depot does not intend to provide medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Please consult with a Medical Professional when deciding if a Senior should drink alcohol.

Computer Games that give a Good Mental Workout

More and more evidence keeps on cropping up showing that challenging mental activities, like playing certain computer games, can help slow cognitive decline due to the aging and “may” even improve the brain function of dementia sufferers. That’s great news but, here’s a true or false, now a days most computer games are intense slaughter-fests geared for young males high on testosterone.

You may be surprised to hear that the answer is False. Think how many people you know who play games like Bejeweled, Spider Solitaire, The Sims, Tetris, or the Myst series. There are a wealth of computer games out there that can exercise the mind without featuring distasteful content or overwhelming gameplay. We’re going to share a few of them here.

Classic Adventures: The Great Gatsby

This ‘hidden object’ game is based on the classic novel The Great Gatsby, the player experiences the story of the novel while collecting objects and solving puzzles. The game is challenging but not overwhelming, offering a mental workout rather than a frustrating exercise in failure. The controls should be familiar to anyone who uses a modern computer, just point and click.

FlightGear

For someone who loves the idea of flying, FlightGear is an open-source flight simulator that allows anyone to pilot a plane from the safety of their computer desk. As a simulator FlightGear exercises many of the mental skills needed by real pilots such as spatial reasoning, hand-eye coordination, and cognitive processing speed. It can be downloaded for free or purchased on CD.

SimCity Societies

SimCity Societies offers some excellent opportunities for mental exercise by giving players the task of creating unique cities and the challenge of keeping them growing through solid management. The latest in a long line of ‘city building’ simulators, SimCity Societies takes the traditional formula and simplifies it; building a city is as fun and challenging as ever but the complicated micro-management of previous titles has been cut back, resulting in streamlined and intuitive gameplay.

CogniFit Personal Coach

Unlike the other games we’re recommending, CogniFit Personal Coach is actually designed to act as a Brain Fitness Program. Scientifically designed, this software suite assesses the player’s cognitive abilities and then chooses appropriate exercises to help keep them up to par. CogniFit also offers a Senior Driver exercise program designed to help keep the driving skills of aging adults sharp.

In Closing…

We hope that this small sample of some solid mentally exercising computer games was helpful to you. For more suggestions, check out what the ‘Digital Gramma’ over at DigitalGrandparent.com has to say, for one she’s a big fan of Wizard101 which she plays with her grandkids.

That’s it, I’m done : The outburst of a Caregiver?

The news has been abuzz over the JetBlue air steward who dramatically quit his job earlier this week. Yesterday, I was reading an article on the topic by the Daily Record and they shared a bit of information that I hadn’t seen before.

Slater nursed his elderly father as he died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and is now going through a similar ordeal with his mother, who has lung cancer.

I don’t know the details but I take that as meaning that Steve Slater currently is caregiver to a terminally ill parent and is dealing with the grief of losing another parent. His frustration has resonated with service workers across the world, however most of those workers would only dream of quitting in the fashion that Steve Slater did. I wonder if it was the emotional strain of caregiving that pushed him beyond his breaking point, declaring “That’s it, I’m done.”

Bath Safety Product Guide

Many injuries for seniors occur in the bathroom, which is not surprising, given the mix of water with slippery surfaces. We have put together a list of helpful tips and products that will make the bathroom safer and help prevent falls and injuries before they happen.

The items below can all be used in your current bathroom and do not require any bathroom remodeling. These innovative product choices will allow you to design the bathroom that best fits your safety needs.



Raised Toilet Seats

Raised toilet seats help with allowing you to stand up and sit down more easily and comfortably. This is especially important if you have difficulty with mobility, such as arthritis in your knees or other leg impairments. These Elevated Toilet Seats install on your existing toilet bowl and add anywhere from 2” to 6” in height, making sitting and standing much easier. Since the standard height of a toilet is usually only about 15” high (with some ADA models now available at 17”), this extra height can be very helpful.

Choosing the Size

There are a couple of considerations before purchasing a raised toilet seat. You will first want to make sure of which size toilet you have. This is the #1 consideration, because if the toilet seat doesn’t fit, you can’t use it! Standard toilets in the United States are typically found in 2 sizes, Standard (Round) or Elongated (Oval). To determine your toilet size, measure from the center of the seat bolt holes in the back of the toilet to the outside front of the bowl. The measurement of a Standard size toilet is generally around 16-1/2” Long. An Elongated (oval) Toilet is approximately 18-1/2” Long.

Choosing the Height

Raised Toilet Seats are available in several height options from 2” to 6”. The height of the toilet seat riser will depend up on the height of the individual. An average height person should be good with a riser between 3”-4” on average. For a taller person, a 6” height might be more appropriate and for a shorter person a 2” height might be all that is needed. We are not aware of any toilet seats great than 6” in height mainly due to safety reasons; however, if you find that you do need 8”-9” of additional toilet seat height, you can combine a raised toilet seat with a toilet base riser to obtain the needed height.

Choosing Installation Features

Most raised toilet seats are constructed of a durable plastic material and are offered in a variety of different options for installation. Do you need to remove the raised toilet seat more quickly and easily on a regular basis in a shared bathroom or will the seat be used for travel? If either of these is true, you will most likely benefit from a raised toilet seat that does not require any tools for installation. There are several types that simply slide into the rim of the toilet seat bowl and do not provide any locking options. This is fine for those that are slightly more mobile and stable. There are also several models available that install in the same manner, but also include a frontal turn knob to lock the seat in place on the rim to help prevent movement of the toilet riser.

If you will not need to remove the toilet seat on a daily or regular basis, then it is recommended to purchase a raised toilet seat that installs with tools and bolts in the back of the toilet. These types of raised toilet seats will be the most secure and are recommended for those that require additional stability. They will almost always include the extra long bolts that install on your toilet in the exact same way as a regular toilet seat and lid. Most standard U.S. toilets include bolt holes that are 5-1/2” apart and most bolt down model raised toilet seats do adjust for a proper fit.

One of the biggest concerns with raised toilet seats that provide a more permanent bolted installation is “How easy are they to clean?” and “What if my husband will be using the same toilet?” There is actually a great solution that solves both of these issues! The 3” Hinged Elevated Toilet Seat would be your best choice! This unique design includes bolt-down installation providing a sturdy seating surface, almost 4” in height when installed with your existing toilet seat and lid, and it is “Hinged” so that it can raise up and lower, just like a regular toilet seat. This is great for households with men, so they do not soil the seat and makes cleaning the toilet much easier.

Considering Toilet Arms or Handles

You can elect to have a toilet seat with arms included (typically most are removable) or you can purchase a separate Toilet Safety Frame to provide a handle grip to help with sitting and standing. The Toilet Safety Frame or other toilet handles can be used alone or along with most model raised toilet seats. Whether or not handles are needed is a matter of individual safety concern. If you would benefit from being able to hold onto the handles when raising yourself or lowering yourself onto the toilet, then this should be a feature to look for in a raised toilet seat or you can add the Toilet Safety Frame to your bathroom safety checklist.



Grab Bars

Grab bars are considered the staple of the bathroom when providing for bathroom safety. It would typically be a good idea to have a horizontal grab bar in the bathtub or shower in a position suited for the user and a second grab bar vertically installed next to the bathtub or shower exit for gripping assistance while stepping over the bathtub wall. Grab bars can also be installed next to the toilet or anywhere a secure hand grip is needed.

Types of Grab Bars

The standard wall mounted grab bar will install permanently onto the wall surface. They are generally constructed of a stainless steel to help prevent rusting and include a non-slip gripping surface for the user. There are also composite plastic grab bars that will never rust. A newer item that was recently introduced in the last few years is the Suction Tub Grab Bar, which installs with suction cups and does not require any tools for permanent installation. These suction grab bars may be good for travel or someone who requires very mild balance assist. However, if more than a mild balance assist is needed, I would recommend installing permanent grab bars for more reliable safety.

Choosing a Grab Bar

Grab bars are available in many different lengths, sizes, and colors. The standard grab bar lengths are 12”, 16”, 24” or 36”. There are variations to this, but these are the most typical sizes found in the market. The ADA (American with Disabilities Act) does provide for federal guidelines for grab bars being installed in public areas or new property construction; however, if you own your home, you can purchase whichever grab bar fits your needs and décor the best.

Standard ADA approved wall-mounted grab bars will include a diameter of between 1-1/4″ to 1-1/2″ and will provide 1-1/2” of spacing from the wall. There are many other specialty grab bars that individuals find useful, but they may not adhere to these exact guidelines.

Over the years, many manufacturers have come out with new colors and designs to better match your bathroom décor. There are stainless steel, brushed nickel, bronze, and many more. Some of the nicer models may even have special gripping surfaces to make using the bar safer and easier. One such model can be viewed here.

Installing a Grab Bar

Grab bars can be placed anywhere assistance is needed. There is no specific set guideline regarding the location of the bar. I would recommend that you have the person who will be using the grab bars enter and exit the tub and see where they grab onto the wall to assist themselves. This may be a good indication that a grab bar would be helpful in that area. The bars can be installed horizontally or vertically, depending on which ever will suite your needs the best.

Grab bars can be installed on almost any bathroom wall surface, provided there is a stud to secure the bar or a wall mounting anchor is used. There are special made drills that will allow you to drill through the tile without cracking it to install the grab bars. If you are worried about permanent installation, simply choose a nice design to match your bathroom décor and everyone can appreciate having a nice-looking bar to hold on to or to put your washcloth or towel.

If you are unsure of how to install your newly acquired wall mounted grab bars, it may be best to contact your plumber or local handyman to provide the installation, as drilling and tools will be required. If you are handy around the house, there are several online articles and you tube videos that explain how to install the grab bars yourself. It is very important that the grab bars are installed securely to a wall stud or installed with a wall mount kit to prevent the grab bar from coming loose and causing a fall. Many grab bars have user weight capacity limits; however, no grab bar should be considered secure unless it is installed into a wall stud or used with a mounting kit.

To view the listing of grab bars, please visit us here.



Tub Rails

Tub rails are a great device to assist with getting in and out of the bathtub or for help with getting up from a bath chair. A tub rail can be installed on any area of the bathtub wall where assistance will be needed and that will not interfere with the individual getting into and out of the tub. A tub rail is a great option for individuals who would benefit from a secure hand grip to help pull themselves up from a seated position or who need assistance when entering or exiting the bathtub.

Tub Rails VS. Grab Bars

The difference between a standard grab bar and tub rail is that the grab bar installs permanently on the walls of the bathroom, whereas the tub rail installs directly onto the side of the tub and can be installed and removed without any damage to the tub. Grab bars are typically installed vertically or horizontally on the wall and can provide a higher gripping surface if needed. Tub rails will typically have a lower gripping surface, which may work well for those using bath chairs. When a tub rail is used together with a wall grab bar, the user can then have a hand grip on both sides while entering or exiting the tub.

Choosing a Tub Rail

Tub rails are available in many different designs and sizes to fit individual needs. The first thing to consider is the construction of your bathtub. Most tub rails are designed for ceramic or other hard surface bathtubs and will not work with fiberglass tubs as the wall is not strong enough to safely support the rail installation and user weight. There is a newer model tub rail that will work with fiberglass tubs. You can find the details about this item here. It is also important to note that tub rails should not be used with Claw Foot Tubs or with tubs that include sliding doors, as the metal rods will prevent proper installation. For users with these types of bathtubs, you can consider using wall mounted grab bars or Floor Support Rails that install on the floor of the bathroom.

You will also need to check the thickness of your bathtub wall before buying a tub rail. Most tub rails will fit standard size tub walls, typically adjustable from approximately 3”-7”. Almost all tub rails install without tools (hand tightening) and include pads so that they will not mar or scratch the tub surface during installation and tightening.

Considerations for a Tub Rail

There are many tub rail designs to choose from, which will depend mainly on the individual needs of the user. Most rails run horizontally with the tub wall; however, vertical installation tub rails are also available. Some users prefer the tub rail to run perpendicular to the tub wall as they don’t want the tub rail interfering with getting in and out of the tub. The most important thing to remember when choosing a tub rail is the location of the rail. It should be installed in a place that will aid the user with getting in and out of the tub, but not cause any obstacles or interference.

Many users who are using a bath chair find a tub rail installed on the bathtub wall and a wall mounted grab bar on the other side useful for helping to pull themselves up to a standing position. Although some bath chairs may include arms, these are typically meant for balance assist and can assist users with pushing themselves upward to a standing position. However, it is sometimes easier for users to have an option to pull themselves up.

Tub rails are available in various lengths, heights, adjustable height, and there are those with multi level gripping surfaces to provide for a hand grip at different levels. You can check out the full selection of tub rail options here .



Slip Safety

It’s very important to make sure that the bathroom tub or shower area includes a good non-slip surface to prevent slipping when wet. This could be through the use of a bath mat or installing self-stick tread strips to ensure there is always a good foot grip to prevent falls.

Bath Mats

Bath mats are available in many sizes, colors, and forms. The most standard form of bathtub or shower mat includes suction cups along the bottom that adhere to the tub surface. Shower mats with rubber suction on the bottom seem to stay in place a little better with ceramic tubs than fiberglass surfaces. Bath mats should be installed on clean and dry surfaces, free of any residue.

Self Adhesive Treads

If you find that your bath mat tends to slip when the tub floor gets wet, you might want to try using the alternative self-stick adhesive backed bathtub treads as an alternative. When installing the self-stick treads, you want to make sure that the tub surface is completely clean and rinsed thoroughly from any cleaner residue. The surface should also be completely dry before installing the tread strips. These treads are available in strips, fish & shells, stars, and many other decorative designs. You want to make sure that enough of the tread strips are installed to prevent any areas that may cause a fall.



Bath Chairs

Bath chairs are great for individuals who cannot stand for long periods of time or who are unsteady on their feet. The chair is placed inside the bathtub or shower and you can sit safely and comfortably while taking your shower.

Bath Chairs & Handheld Shower Sprays

Bath chairs go hand and hand with Handheld Shower Sprayers. You can replace your existing shower head with a long hose handheld shower spray so you can keep the shower spray next to you or clipped on your bath chair for easy access. If the bathroom is being used by others that do not require the bath chair, the shower spray will simply mount back on top of the shower bracket for a standard shower.

Considerations for your Bath Chair

The most important thing you should do before selecting your bath chair is to measure the inside of your bathtub or shower. The majority of returns on bath chairs are a result of the chair not fitting inside of the bathtub. You want to make sure that the bath chair will fit securely in the tub on a flat surface, and don’t forget to account for the curvature of the tub wall! In most cases the seat width is not an indication of the width at the base of the legs. If the leg span (width x depth of the legs) is too large, the chair will be unstable and unsafe. This is especially important in older construction or in bathtubs that are smaller than the standard bathtub width.

Choosing a Bath Chair

There are many different varieties of bath chairs. Many people prefer the all composite plastic bath chairs as they are easy to clean and will never rust; however, bath chairs that are made of aluminum and plastic will also have little issues with rust. The seat size is also important. You want a bath chair that will provide enough room for the user, but not too big and bulky so that it gets in the way. Most standard bath chair seat dimensions are approximately 16”-20” wide x 14” deep, but can vary depending on the models. Weight capacity is another important factor. There are bath chairs that include a 250 lb. weight capacity and those that support up to 500 lbs.

Bath chairs are available with either a backrest or without a backrest, depending on your needs. Backrests can make your bathing experience more comfortable; however, some people prefer the open back to have better access to cleaning their back area and to have more freedom to lean backwards. The open back would not be recommended for those who have greater mobility issues and require the backrest for greater support and safety.

Bath chair handles are another option that is based on user needs. The handles of most bath chairs provide some leverage for helping to sit, stand and maneuver on the bath chair if needed. Handles are generally removable so you can remove them at any time. The handles of the bath chairs are really meant to be used as a balance assist for help with sitting and standing. If you have grab bars or a tub rail installed, it may be easier for some individuals to pull their full weight up from a seated position rather than try to push up their weight. Of course, the bath chair handles, grab bars, and tub rail can all be used together if this will provide the safest option for the user.

Bath chairs are available in many different styles and colors to fit your specific needs. Some include rubber non-skid tips and others include actual suction cup feet. Some include padded seats, folding options for portability, as well as wheels for mobility. The options can be overwhelming, but when you decide on a style that fits your specific needs the best, make sure that you double check all of the chair dimensions to make sure that the unit will provide the best option for your needs and bathroom space. You can view a full list of available bath chair here .

Bath Chair Accessories

There are many accessories available for bath chairs to make the bathing experience more comfortable and convenient. There are under chair bags to store shampoos, conditioners and other toiletries. If the bath chair does not already include a shower spray holder built into the chair, there are shower spray clips that can be used universally with most shower chairs. Some models, such as the designer bath chair includes a full line of accessories available, such as bathing baskets that attach to the side of the chair.



Transfer Benches

Transfer benches are a perfect choice for those with very limited mobility. This is essentially a very wide bath chair that includes a permanent extension that sits on the outside of the bathtub so you can easily transfer from a wheelchair or simply sit down on the outside of the tub and maneuver yourself over the bathtub wall while sitting on the bench.

Considerations for your Transfer Bench

It is important to measure your bathtub width before selecting a transfer bench to ensure that the bench will be adequate for your space. The length of the bench is important because you don’t want the bench to be too short or too long for the space that you have. Almost all transfer benches are reversible, so they can be used universally for right side or left side entry tubs. Typically this is done by simply reversing the backrest and armrest of the bench.

Choosing a Transfer Bench

Transfer Benches do include solid surface benches, benches with built in commodes, and sliding transfer benches that actually controllably slide you into the tub and lock into place. Depending on your needs and space, there are many transfer bench styles and models to choose from.

There are several optional features, depending on the model transfer bench chosen. Some options include suction cup tips inside of the tub, curtain tucks to tuck the shower curtain into the bench a couple of inches, and many other others. You can view the full line of transfer benches here

Preventing Water Spillage with Transfer Benches

One of the most complained about things with the use of a transfer bench is that the shower curtain will not close around the bench to prevent water from getting outside of the tub. We have had people tell us that they simply cut slits in their existing shower curtain so that the unit would fit around the transfer bench. If you get an inexpensive shower curtain, this home-made solution might help.