When you have a senior with is frail and weak, especially when it comes to getting up and walking, it is time to make your home more elderly friendly.
My mother had a fall last year and for weeks she was in a lot of pain and had difficultly getting up from bed to go to the washroom.
Unlike in overseas where it is easy to buy items to make your home elderly friendly, it is not so in Malaysia when it comes to certain items. As some items took me time to find, some took me a long time search, I wish to share my experience so that you need not go through a lot of hassle and ordeal as I did.
Here are the following items I have bought/ modifications to make my home more elderly friendly (CLICK HERE TO VIEW UPDATED COMPREHENSIVE LIST):
1. Handrails to be placed in the bathroom
Note: Get these handrails online as they are much cheaper: such as this grab bar and a L shape design. You may also consider the foldable stainless steel type which you would usually see in public disabled toilets. This is useful if one or both side of the toilet does not have a wall at the side to mount the grab bar.
I got the above from the catalogue where I bought the grab bars- I bought 2 pieces of SRT393 and a single SRT392. The SRT393 which is in a L shape was placed on both side of the walls next to the sitting toilet bowl. All 3 items had caused me around RM200 plus. The final one I had it on vertical length and place next to the bathroom sink.
After buying the handrails, it had to be drilled to the walls of the bathroom. As I lack in expertise, I paid for someone to come over to do it for me.
One thing though, the cap of one side of the handrails always seemed to fall off. I know we are supposed to turn the cap to lock in position but I could not do so for one side for both the L shaped handrails.
Still, the handrails are really useful- because of it, my mom could use the toilet with ease – it makes it easier for her to get up and sit down. This is because most toilet sitting bowls are too low for someone with weak legs. The support makes a lot of difference. The stainless steel handrails are also easy to clean with a normal brush. If you are not able to find any store near you that carry these items, do try searching for these items online.
2. Walking aids- walker and wheelchair
My mom already use a 4 leg walking cane but as her legs got more weak and she was more wobbly, I snuck out and bought a walker (walking frame), wheelchair and bedside commode. I wrote in more full detail in this article in my Health Blog.
For an older person…. it is time to use a walking stick when one has less energy in the legs. With time, as one start to suffer from balance issue, and you notice that your parents or a senior is more wobbly and unstable when walking even with a cane, constantly reaching for the wall, edge or a chair for support and is moving very slowly, it is time that they need to use a walker or walking frame.
Get the items ready once you noticed the symptoms. Prevention is better than cure. I have heard a few horror stories from my mom’s friends (firsthand) and friend’s friends who broke their hip, or knees or injured their back requiring a massive (and expensive) operation to fix followed by months of recovery. And a lot of money. A hip replacement operation costs between RM30k- RM40k in a private hospital in Malaysia (according to two of my mom’s friends, the government hospital do not perform that procedure and even if there is, there is a long waiting list. The immense pain is already killing them).
I bought my mom’s walking cane, walker, wheelchair and bedside commode from Lifeline Innovators. Another place where you can go to buy these items are from Maycare who is also a large medical equipment supplier in Malaysia.
So far, I like the quality of their items- it started from a walking cane that I bought from them and I like the quality as it is sturdy. I have been there a few times and noticed they have quite knowledgeable salesmen. This is because two different sales person who attended to me also are servicing hospitals hence they knew what items or model are best suited based on a person’s needs.
When you are approaching such stores to buy an item, you need to explain your situation clearly so that they could recommend an item that could best help you. Not necessarily the most expensive item would be the best.
The salesman also allowed me to take a video where he patiently and clearly demonstrated how to expand and fold back the portable wheelchair.
The wheelchair (pictured above) I bought is the lightweight version, and foldable. I could quickly assembled and then fold back the wheelchair in my car. The wheels are much smaller than a normal hospital size wheelchair making it easier for a weaker person like me to fold, lift and put in my car. However if the senior or a disabled person also wanted to move around on his own, then you would need the bigger wheels type. In the case of my mom, she does not hence I got a smaller wheel for her. But I choose a more broader wheelchair instead of a narrow transit chair (used to move the patient to short distance) as I noticed it was less sturdy.
When going out which involved walking, my mom would need to use a wheelchair as she struggled to walk even 100 metres. Using a wheelchair enables me to take her along and for her to go out longer without tiring herself.
One thing though, even though my wheelchair is relatively light, it is scary when using a travelator (using escalator is totally out as it is very dangerous). Travelators are the kind you see in hypermarket malls where there is space allowed for the trolley. The wheelchair, due to the smaller wheels, cannot grip strongly and move backwards. I had to use all my strength to support to prevent both of us from falling. Now I know, no travelators. I am sticking to the lift or elevator.
3. Replacing the mattress
I replaced the mattress that she used with one that is thick with memory foam. Due to the size of the mattress of about 6.5 inches, with my mom’s already high bedframe, it ended up making her bed very tall.
At first I thought I made a very bad decision as the bed was high and I was worried she would fall. Until my wise teacher, who had been through a back operation told me that she herself also use a high bed to make it easier for her to get up from the bed without needing to raise herself physically.
But it turned out to be the correct decision because when my mom got down from the bed, her butt was on the mattress and her legs were straight. She need not bend her weak legs to get up. After my mom’s back recovered, the cheeky old lady was frequently getting up and down the bed with better ease, compared to prior to me replacing the mattress.
Just in case, if you also wish to search for a bedside handrail for elderly in Malaysia, I noticed this website ielder.my does sell it. I also saw it in Lazada. But last year when I was searching for such items, I could not find any place selling it- both online and offline.
4. Bedside commode
My mom started using a bedside commode since last year. In my opinion once you notice an elderly person started to get weak in walking, it is better to have a bedside commode next to the bed of the person. At first, it is going to be very difficult because of pride.
But between having to wear adult diapers and wetting her pants a few times as she could not make it to the bathroom on time, she finally relented to using the bedside commode.
And once she got use to it, I mean literally she just get down the bed, walked a few steps and that’s the toilet…. she prefers to use it especially when she did not think she is going to make it to the bathroom on time.
Family members need to be diligent to empty the contents of the commode (you can remove the container and there is handle for you to carry to the bathroom) as it will stink in a short while (just like how an unflushed toilet will be).
The commode is not heavy and it is foldable (that is why I was able to hide the walker, commode and wheelchair snugly in my storeroom after I bought it before she was ‘ready’ to use it). They have the wheel version to make it easier to move the chair but just like the walker, I avoided the wheels because the wheels could be a tripping hazard.
Do note that if there is an incline, it is very dangerous to use anything with wheels as the wheels would on their own. The advantage of having wheels
5. Lazy chair
If the senior sometimes need to stay in hospital and you are a caregiver, you may want to consider getting a foldable lazy chair for you to be able to sleep on when you are accompanying the person. The chair can be folded when not being use. I learned this when my mom was hospitalized and on the opposite bed, there is a mother who was hospitalized and her adult children are taking turns round the clock to look after her (in 3 shifts). At night, her son slept on the lazy chair.
You can buy such chairs from shops selling plasticware, brooms and mattress.
6. Anti slip mats
You would also need to ensure the mats in your home are anti slip, meaning they have rubber base- especially those outside the bathroom. Mats that are made of cloth would be slippery and a potential fall hazard.
And try to clear the walking space. Clean all spills and anything that could make the floor slippery or oily.
7. Bells, cups and plates.
Previously my mom has broke a few ceramic cups in our home. Eventually I replaced with a durable plastic cup which I bought for RM2.70 from MrDIY. I also use the same type of cup myself as I also could be clumsy at times.
Caution: The cup is not suitable if you are constantly make drink using boiling water. My mom makes her Ensure drink using warm water so the cup serves her well. Few times the cup fell and I am grateful it is plastic and not breakable stuff like glass or ceramic because she could hurt herself stepping or trying to pick up the broken pieces.
Also I got her an ice cream bell which is also sold at Mr DIY for a cheap price. Seriously, don’t be deceived by the cute look of that bell- it is really loud, almost like the old fashion Roti or Ice Cream man’s one. I place it by her bedside for her to use but well, she still refused to use it.
Another very useful item (if you don’t like the bell idea)- wireless doorbell. Usually people use this for the front door and it is a very cheap doorbell. But you can actually put the doorbell at the bedside of the person. It is helpful because you may not be always with the person you are caring for. The wireless doorbell comes in 2 receivers which you can plug at different place of your house. So if the elderly person needs help, he/she just ring the doorbell and you would be able to hear it.
I also bought a medium sized lightweight hot water flask to keep warm water and I replace it often. For older people, it is important for them to drink warm water (and not cold or room temperature water). By placing a flask, they need not walk to the kitchen when thirsty and the water stays warm longer.
When you have an elderly person at home, keep your house well litted. We now keep one of our kitchen lights and the living room lights on at night as my mom tends to get up at night to go to the kitchen. You can also consider installing motion sensor lights.
Well, hopefully the above would help you if you find yourself in the shoes of having to look after a loved one who has gone weaker and not so mobile. One final thing, if you are a caregiver, do not neglect your health (physical, mental and emotional). Please take care of yourself too, okie.
For the full detailed listing, please refer to the Elderly | Disabled Friendly Resource Page.