Hydrotherapy: What You Need to Know


 Staying Put at Home Tips for Pain ReliefIn an effort to counteract the health conditions that come with age, many seniors are turning toward treatments that have been practiced for millennia. One such method that is growing more popular is hydrotherapy, which is the use of water to relieve discomfort and improve physical well-being. This idea dates back to the ancient Greeks, who used bathing as a way to stave off illness. In this post, Staying Put at Home will review how hydrotherapy works and the potential physical benefits.

What is Hydrotherapy?

There are a few different ways that water can be used as a form of therapy. The Kneipp system, named after its founder Sebastian Kneipp, involves the use of hot and cold water on the skin. External hydrotherapy uses the immersion of the body in water or the application of water to the body. Balneotherapy (from the Latin balneum, meaning bath) is bathing in naturally occurring heated mineral water. Exercising in water is yet another form of hydrotherapy, as it relieves arthritis symptoms, increases flexibility, improves cardiovascular functions and strengthens muscles.

While hydrotherapy usually conjures images of relaxing in a pool or tub, this treatment can also include compresses, poultices and towel wraps. Steam inhalation is another form, as it can open up congested sinuses and lung passages, making it easier to breathe.

As with any kind of treatment, people have different tolerances. What works well for one person can cause pain and aches for another. Find the method of hydrotherapy that works best for you. It can be a good idea to avoid extremes when using hydrotherapy. Cold water hydrotherapy is not recommended for seniors, as it can lead to hypothermia.1 Warm water hydrotherapy should also be approached with caution, as it can lead to overheating.

How Hydrotherapy Works

Heat can be used to slow down the activity of internal organs. This causes blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow and sends blood to the skin’s surface, thereby opening the pores and relaxing the muscles. In addition, the warm water will cause the endocrine system to relax. Due to this, a person’s blood pressure will likely go down. The water’s hydrostatic effect can also feel like a massage to the bather, which reduces stress by helping the bather feel and relaxed and at ease.

Water buoyancy can also reduce a person’s weight by roughly 90 percent, depending on the person’s size and the depth of water. So, when a person is submerged in water, gravity’s effects are reduced and the person’s joints have an increased range of motion. This will make joints feel looser, helping alleviate pain from arthritis.

A bath between 97.7 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and a five minute immersion should be enough to activate the hydrotherapy benefits. But, as we said, it’s important to find a comfortable temperature that works best for the individual bather.

Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy’s impact on internal and external organs has been shown to be overwhelmingly positive. Just a few of the ways hydrotherapy can benefit its user include:

  • Muscle relaxation2
  • Reducing pain and inflammation from arthritis
  • Helping to induce sleep
  • Preventing headaches, as the arteries in your head will have lower blood pressure
  • Fighting infection by speeding up blood flow and the movement of your immune system’s white blood cells
  • Treating muscle injuries and relieving muscle disease by bringing blood flow to the body’s soft tissue
  • Helping diabetics control their blood sugar by increasing blood flow and maintaining glucose levels
  • Clearing out respiratory infections by relaxing swollen lung canals and air sacs, thereby helping fluids and mucus move out of the lungs
  • Potentially treating depression by alleviating stress and tension, creating a calm feeling3

The point about diabetics is especially important. It is estimated that only 1 in 3 senior diabetics has the condition under control.4 With so few being able to adequately manage their diabetes, hydrotherapy presents a possible option to improve health.

Hydrotherapy and Walk-in Bathtubs

A walk-in tub can be a great way to take advantage of the healing benefits of hydrotherapy. The water and temperature setting controls make it easy to achieve the optimal therapeutic bath. Many walk-in tubs are constructed with air and/or water jets that focus water toward your neck, back, shoulders, hips, legs and feet. This massaging sensation will relieve tension in the areas that need it most. Best of all, you can treat yourself at any time in your own home. There’s no need to spend exorbitant prices for a visit to the spa when you can enjoy the same benefits in the safety and comfort of your home.

Hydrotherapy is an effective treatment for many of the ailments that are affecting seniors and those with chronic pain. We hope that our blog post helped clarify how and why hydrotherapy is a productive option when treating a multitude of conditions.

Is there something you would like to add? Then please share with the Staying Put at Home community by posting a comment.

1. Bath Water Temperature Safety for the Elderly | Return to Text
2. Hydrotherapy Information | Return to Text
3. A Cold Splash–Hydrotherapy for Depression and Anxiety | Return to Text
4. Just 1 in 3 Seniors With Diabetes Has the Condition Under Control | Return to Text

Hourglassalbum.com Hopes to Slow Memory Loss and Dementia


Staying Put at Home Tips for Senior HealthSean Christensen, former employee of Bliss Tubs, has not stopped thinking about how to help seniors. The current University of Southern Carolina medical student has partnered with his classmate, Robert Gereige, to establish a new website that they hope will help seniors and their caretakers slow memory loss and dementia.

Hourglass (www.hourglassalbum.com) uses images from pop culture to reignite memories from the user’s youth. All you need to do is put in your year of birth, your hometown and your gender. The website will then give you a series of images with the prompts of “Like” and “Nope.” Clicking either will move you to the next image.

According to the website’s founders, Hourglass also allows facilitators to work with Alzheimer’s patients to customize the series of images, using photos that they know will evoke a response. Along with their colleague Regis Blanc, Christensen and Gereige have come up with an algorithm to best match the photos to a person’s age, gender and location, finding the images that will have the most potent effect.

The students hypothesize that a trip down memory lane could help seniors preserve their recollections longer. Research has shown that reminiscence therapy might be a viable method to fight dementia.1 This is demonstrated in the documentary Alive Inside, a clip of which is embedded below:

By triggering memories, seniors would be able to improve their power of recall. In doing so, dementia’s impact on the elderly could be severely weakened. This change would make it easier for seniors to continue aging at home, as they would not need to relocate to a senior living center in order to get support.

So far, Hourglass has been pilot tested on non-dementia patients in the geriatric unit at the Palmetto Health Richland. These initial tests were promising, as the patients’ anxiety levels decreased as they flipped through the images.

Hourglass was developed from the duo’s social media website TimeStash (www.timestash.com), which used videos and photos from pop culture to stimulate users to share content. However, Hourglass focuses more on senior audiences. At this moment, the website is still developing. The pair hopes to interview more older patients to build their database and get a more comprehensive impression of what pop culture photos will provoke a response. Christensen and Gereige are also concentrating on finishing medical school.

1. Reminiscence therapy: Finding meaning in memories | Return to Text

How to Declutter Your Home for Aging in Place


Staying Put at Home Tips for Home Safety After accumulating a lifetime’s worth of belongings, it can be difficult to cut down and decide what can be discarded. It can be even harder to stick through this process until the end. However, a clean, organized home can reduce tripping and fire hazards and make it easier to stay in your house longer. This week, Staying Put at Home has come up with a few tips to make decluttering your home a more manageable mission.

Start Small

It is tempting to begin with the area you think is most cluttered. Put all your energy into the most cluttered area of your home and pluck out the root, right? This method can exhaust someone quickly, leaving much of your home untouched while you need to relax. Beginning in one area that you know you can clean quickly can let you build up energy to move on to the tougher tasks.

Stick to a Schedule…

Organization can make a big difference when tackling a major project like decluttering. Without a schedule, your attention can drift. Distractions can quickly pile up, eating up your time and foiling your efforts. Also, make sure that your schedule is realistic. One professional home organizer estimated that it takes 20 to 30 hours to fully declutter a home.1

…But Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Break

Don’t think that you need to get through decluttering hastily. In addition to being time consuming, it can also be emotionally draining. If you need to recharge, then take some time to rest.

Use the Three Box Method

As we mentioned, hesitating and putting off a decision to dispose of something often lets the problem remain unsolved. Using the three box method can reduce the time it takes to decide. For this, designate one box “Keep,” one box “Donate” and one box “Sell.” For each item, as you encounter it, judge which of the boxes it can go in. By having a physical and visual method of categorizing your clutter, you will be able to go through the process with fewer pauses to assess and reconsider throwing something out.

Keep the Memory, Not the Object

At that crucial moment of deliberation whether to keep an item, a memory associated with it is frequently the deciding factor. There is nothing wrong with being sentimental. Maybe it’s a souvenir from a vacation you took several decades ago. Perhaps it is a rarely used gift that came from a loved one. Whatever the case may be, it can be hard to part with the object.

One way you can preserve that memory is by photographing the item. This allows you to hold on to the memory attached to the item without letting the object take up space in your living room.

Contact an Outside Agency If You Need Assistance

Getting all the details right when decluttering can be a tedious, stressful burden, but you don’t have to do it alone. An outside agency can help you draw up a plan and provide advice as to what areas need the most help. The extra pair of hands can also cut down on the amount of labor. These agencies often have information about what charities and organizations will accept your donations, thereby saving many of your items from going to the trash. You can also enjoy the tax write-off benefit of a donation. While it might seem unnecessary to involve an agency in your home, a professional can make all the difference.

Outside agencies can also help if you decide to have an estate sale. Not only can this help your wallet, but the agency’s expertise might be able to show you the true value of that vase or painting.

When to Get Help for Hoarding

It’s important to remember that accumulating items is not the same as hoarding. A person who hoards will compulsively collect something, believing that these items will be necessary or valuable in the future. People with hoarding issues will often avoid inviting friends or family to their home, as they are afraid that they will be judged or shamed for their living condition. This frequently makes the person feel isolated, which can lead to depression.

Hoarding can be especially dangerous for seniors, severely limiting mobility and making it harder to stay in the home. One study found that 45% of older adult hoarders could not use their refrigerator, 42% could not use their kitchen sink, 42% could not use their bathtub and 10% could not use their toilet.2 Hoarding also increases in severity over time,3 meaning that seniors who hoard will be affected more and more as they age.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is hoarding, then treatment is available. Removing the amassed objects from a home will usually not eliminate the root of the problem. Certain medications are considered effective treatments. Another method is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help people dispose of items without feeling stress. Consult a doctor about what treatment would be the best course.

An organized, decluttered home doesn’t need to be a fantasy. Having a schedule and knowing the basics can make this task surmountable. If you have any recommendations for keeping clutter at bay, please leave us a comment!

1. AARP: Declutter Your Life — Now! | Return to Text
2. Types of Hoarding | Return to Text
3. Age of Onset and Progression of Hoarding Symptoms in Older Adults with Hoarding Disorder | Return to Text

What You Need to Know About Medical Alert Devices


Staying Put at Home Tips for Home Safety Having the security of a medical alert device or personal emergency response system (PERS) in your home can help you feel more confident about Aging in Place, as you’ll have somebody available in case of emergency. In a 2005 survey, 75.6% of participants said they felt more secure with a medical alert device.1 This week, Staying Put at Home looks at what a medical alert device is and what you need to know before getting one.

What is A Medical Alert Device?

Are you afraid of falling at home? Are you apprehensive about staying in your house because of this? Medical alert devices are designed to address this concern. These appliances usually include a pendant that you can wear around your wrist or neck and a base station that is plugged into your wall. In case of emergency, you can push a button on your pendant, which will send a signal to your base station, alerting your dispatcher that you are in distress.

What Questions You Should Ask About a Medical Alert Device

Not all medical alert devices offer the same services. Think about what you are looking for in a medical alert device and make sure you get the one that suits your home and your needs. We’ve gathered a few questions you should ask to help find out which medical alert device is your best option:

  • Is my monitoring station open 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Who does it notify when my button is pushed? What is the dispatcher’s training? What is their response time?
  • Does my medical alert device use a landline or is it cellular? (This is important if you do not have a landline in your home.)
  • How far is the range of my medical alert system? Will my pendant work from anywhere in my home?
  • Do I install my medical alert device or does your company have someone who will do this? If you do have an installer, will you charge me extra to install it in my home?
  • Do I own my medical alert device? Am I just leasing it? What happens if my equipment is damaged? Is it waterproof?
  • Does my device come with automatic fall detection?
  • Is a mobile 911 phone included with purchase of the medical alert device?
  • Is it certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL)?


Most medical alert systems cost $25-$75 per month.2 Be wary of any company that charges less than this amount, as they may be cutting corners and not providing you with valuable benefits. Some companies will charge a setup fee, which usually costs $50-$200. Although Medicare will generally not cover the cost of medical alert systems, some state Medicaid programs will assist in payment. For example, HCBS waivers and Consumer Directed Services can be used to fund your medical alert system.3

Read the Fine Print

Inspect your contract carefully before you sign it. Many medical alert systems use long-term contracts that do not have an opt-out clause, trapping you with a system and payment plan you may not want. Some companies will charge you if your medical alert device’s button is accidentally pushed and triggers a false alarm. Other companies may not call 911 if the button is pushed, thereby leaving you stranded in case of emergency. Cancellation policies also differ between some companies, so you might not be able to cancel immediately. Make sure you know exactly what you are signing up for by checking www.fda.gov to find out if a medical alert system’s company has had any recalls or complaints.

Beware of Scams

In 2013, a story made the rounds about calls offering free life alert systems to seniors. If this sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. These scams will often cold-call seniors and pressure them to provide bank account and social security information. They will often use generic names like “Medical Alert USA” and “Medical Alert Systems” to trick people into believing they are legitimate.

In 2014, the scam returned. This time, though, it was an automated message telling seniors that they were entitled to a free device and $3,000 worth of coupons. They instructed seniors to press 1 if they wanted more information and press 5 if they wanted to be taken off the call list. If this happens to you, hang up. If you press 5, the scammers will know that your phone number is working, and they will bombard you with more calls.

We hope that this article has clarified some of the questions about medical alert devices. There are many medical alert companies out there, and we advise you to do your research to find out which one works for you. Did we leave anything out? Please let us know in the comment section!

1. Use of Personal Emergency Response Systems by Older Individuals with Disabilities | Return to Text
2. Medicaid and Personal Emergency Response Services / Personal Safety Monitors | Return to Text
3. Medicaid and Personal Emergency Response Services / Personal Safety Monitors – HCBS Waivers | Return to Text

How You Can Make Your Kitchen Safer


Staying Put at Home Tips for Home Safety Whether you are a master chef or a microwave connoisseur, it’s likely that the kitchen is one of your household’s central hubs. With the kitchen getting so much use, it is not surprising that fires and falls are frequent mishaps. In fact, home fires kill seniors at twice the rate of society as a whole.1 While we have already covered some helpful tips on this subject, we thought it would be a good idea to provide a more comprehensive look at how you can modify your kitchen to make Aging in Place easier and more comfortable.

What to Do With Power Cords and Socket Covers

  • Reduce the amount of cords in your kitchen to as few as possible. Make sure those remaining are not in any pathways. Not only will this save you energy, but it will also remove a number of tripping hazards. In addition to removing these cords, getting rid of certain appliances, like blenders and toasters, could lower the risk of an accident.
  • Make sure that your appliances are easy to unplug and not near your sink. You put yourself at risk of injury if you constantly need to bend over to unplug something.
  • Put socket covers on your wall outlets to diminish your risk of shock. This is extremely important in your kitchen, as a lot of liquid flows here.

Have Safe, Convenient Light Switches & Outlets

  • Have your light switch by your doorway. How many times have you walked through your kitchen in the dark looking for your light switch? It doesn’t matter if you have done it a thousand times, one open cabinet door or a chair out of place could be a dangerous tripping hazard. With a switch near your doorway, you can light your kitchen as soon as you enter.
  • If you are having trouble seeing your light switch, then place brightly colored tape on it to make it more visible.
  • Install motion sensor lights. Motion sensor lights trigger automatically when they detect the least bit of movement. This means that you would never have to navigate your kitchen in darkness.
  • Ensure your outlets are GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupters). GFCI-protected outlets reduce the risk of electrocutions. A GFCI monitors the current flowing through a circuit. If the current differs by even a slight amount, then the GFCI outlet will shut off power immediately. Your kitchen may already be equipped with GFCI outlets, as they have been part of the National Electrical Code since 1987.

Don’t Hurt Yourself Trying to Open Your Cabinets

  • Install pull-out and pull-down shelves. Pull-out shelves make it easier to access items at lower levels, as you just have to pull the shelf out instead of crouching to find something. If you have osteoporosis, hip or back problems, then bending over could be difficult and dangerous. Consider getting a pull-out shelf if you have this condition. Pull-down shelves allow you to bring a shelf to your level, meaning you won’t need a hazardous stepstool. Furthermore, food that is hard to reach often does not get used, causing it to expire. Not only does the food go to waste, but eating it can lead to illness.
  • Install “D” shaped handles to make it easier to open cabinets. This is especially helpful for somebody with arthritis.

Make Your Sink Easy to Use

  • Place the faucets and sprayer on the side of your sink to make them easier to reach. Consider getting lever handles that are easier to use.
  • Use anti-scald devices on your sink to prevent burns.

Find the Right Dishwasher

  • Raise the height of your dishwasher so that it is easier to load and unload. Like with low shelves, it might not be feasible to bend over to empty your dishwasher on a regular basis. Lifting your dishwasher to a more manageable level could make this routine activity much more comfortable.

Use a Chair to Preserve Stamina

  • Use a chair to sit at your countertop or at your stove so that you won’t tire as easily. While you stand at your countertop chopping vegetables, you might feel yourself getting a bit fatigued. As you age, you tire more easily and tend to have less energy than younger people, meaning it can be harder to stand for long intervals.2 Always remember to return your chair to a familiar, out-of-the-way area so that it does not pose a tripping hazard.

Make Your Stove Safe

  • Make sure your stove has an automatic gas stove shut-off feature in case your pilot light goes out. This device automatically detects unattended cooking by monitoring the user’s movement in the kitchen, preventing stove top fires and dangerous gas emissions. You don’t want to fill your house with gas.
  • Ensure that your knobs are permanent and not removable, as it is easy for these knobs to be misplaced.
  • Never leave your stove unattended. Fire spreads quickly, and it can take seconds for your entire kitchen to be engulfed.
  • Throw away any frayed and tattered oven mitts. These can lead to burns when removing an object from your stove.

Cut Down On Fire Hazards

  • Designate an area of your kitchen away from your stove or oven where you can place potential fire hazards. Keeping items like paper towels, dish rags, potholders and oven mitts near an open flame could cause a disaster. Most home fires begin in the kitchen,3 so moving these objects away from a flame is a great step to protect yourself.
  • Keep a working fire extinguisher within easy reach and make sure your fire alarms are functional.

We hope that these tips help you think about how to make your kitchen safer. If you have any suggestions of your own, please let us know in the comment section.

1. “Aging in Place” Topics | Return to Text
2. Aging Changes in the Bones – Muscles – Joints | Return to Text
3. Home Fires Involving Cooking Equipment | Return to Text

Exercise At Home: How to Improve Stamina, Mobility and Balance


Staying Put at Home Tips for Mobility Although exercise may sound great, it’s often difficult to get out of your house and go for a walk or to the gym. However, an active lifestyle can keep you in your home longer. Exercise is an effective treatment for many chronic conditions, including heart disease and arthritis.1 Physical exertion can also benefit brain activity, preventing memory loss and slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s.2 Older adults are recommended to have 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week and muscle-strengthening activities for at least two days a week.3 This week, Staying Put at Home will look at some simple aerobic, balance and core strengthening exercises that you can do at home that will improve your stamina, mobility and balance.

Aerobic Exercises

Increased aerobic and cardiovascular activity has been linked to decreases in cholesterol, hypertension and depression.4 Here are a few aerobic exercises you can do at home:

  • Garden, mow or rake your lawn
  • Sweep your floors
  • March or jog in place
  • If you have one, walk on your treadmill or ride a stationary bike
  • If you don’t have a treadmill, then just walk around your home at a consistent pace

Start slowly; you don’t need to sprint right out of the gate. Make sure you find the duration and exercises that work best for you. If you feel any discomfort (like chest pain or dizziness), then slow down to a more relaxed rate.

Balance Exercises

Improving your balance can be a great way to deter dangerous falls. As we have discussed elsewhere on Staying Put at Home, senior falls can often lead to hip fractures and long stays in hospitals and nursing homes. Try out some of these exercises so that your balance remains steady:

  • Walk heel to toe in a straight line, then repeat for 20 steps.
  • Stand on one foot behind a chair, using the chair for balance. Then, hold for ten seconds and repeat with the other leg.
  • Stand behind a chair, using it for balance. Then, lift up one leg behind you without bending your knee. Hold this position for a few seconds and breathe out as you lower your leg.
  • While sitting down, have both feet planted on the ground. Extend one leg in front of you as straight as possible, without locking your knee. Then, point your toes toward the ceiling and hold for one second. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg back down.
  • While sitting down, extend your right knee and move your foot in a circle 20 times. Then, repeat with the other foot.

When exercising, avoid wearing clothes that restrict you or that are overly baggy, as these could be trip hazards.

Core Exercises

The deep muscles of your stomach and lower back are commonly referred to as your “core muscles.” Strengthening your core can reduce your risk of falls by improving balance and coordination. Research has shown that a strong core can increase strength by 30% and balance by 23% in seniors.5 Here are a few core exercises you can do at home.

Some of these exercises require you to lie down on the floor. Make sure you have a way to stand up, like balancing yourself on sturdy furniture or having a partner nearby.

  • Seated Side Bends:
  1. Sit up straight and remain seated throughout
  2. Draw your belly button toward your spine
  3. Curl your upper chest and spine toward your right side
  4. After a couple seconds, uncurl
  5. Repeat exercise on your left side
  • Elbow to Knee:
  1. Sit up straight on the edge of your chair
  2. Raise your right hand up toward the ceiling
  3. Raise your left knee and bend your elbow to bring your right arm down
  4. Touch your left knee with your right elbow
  5. Return to starting position
  6. After 8 to 10 repetitions, repeat the exercise using your left arm and your right knee
  • Seated Obliques:
  1. Sit upright in a chair
  2. Bring your hands behind your head with your elbows out
  3. Stretch your right elbow toward your right hip
  4. Bring your right elbow back up
  5. After 8 to 10 repetitions, repeat the exercise on your left side
  • Leg Lift:
  1. Lie flat on your back with your legs flat
  2. Contract your abdominal muscles and raise one leg five inches off the ground
  3. Count to three and lower your leg
  4. Repeat with the other leg
  • Segmental Rotation:
  1. Lie on your back and keep your shoulders on the floor throughout
  2. Bend your knees
  3. Tilt your knees to your left as far as you can
  4. Hold this for as long as you feel comfortable
  5. Return to your starting position and repeat with your right side
  • Plank:
  1. Start in the “up” part of a push-up
  2. Keep your back flat
  3. Hold this position for 30 seconds
  • Bicycle:
  1. Lie on your back
  2. Pedal your legs like you are riding a bicycle
  3. Continue this for 30 seconds

Getting Up Off the Floor

While we have provided a bit of advice above about getting off the floor, we realize that you can often find yourself in a situation where assistance is not close at hand. If you are having a hard time standing up, follow these steps:

  1. Take a moment to relax and compose yourself. Make sure you are not injured, lightheaded or otherwise unable to stand.
  2. If you are not hurt, then roll onto your side.
  3. After you are comfortable on your side, slowly get on your hands and knees.
  4. Crawl toward the nearest chair or piece of furniture.
  5. Make sure it is stable enough to use as support.
  6. Put your hands on the seat or the flat surface. Slide one foot forward so that it is flat on the floor. Keep the knee of your other leg bent so that your leg lies flat on the ground.
  7. Slowly rise up and turn so that you can sit down in the chair.

If you are unable to complete these steps because you are hurt, then try to find a phone and call for help.

Remember, if you have trouble breathing, have chest pain or experience dizziness, then take a break and consult a medical professional. Always consult a physician before beginning an exercise routine. Ask your doctor if there are any exercises you should avoid based on your medical history. If you have any advice or suggestions, please share in our comment section.

1. Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging | Return to Text
2. Exercise and Fitness as You Age | Return to Text
3. How Much Physical Activity Do Older Adults Need? | Return to Text
4. Aerobic Exercise in the Elderly: A Key to Successful Aging | Return to Text
5. Core Strengthening Exercises for Seniors | Return to Text

Staying Safe at Home: Avoiding Overmedication


Staying Put at Home Tips for Senior HealthThe average 75 year old takes more than 10 prescription drugs.1 The use of four or more medications is known as polypharmacy. When using multiple medications, seniors run the risk of overmedicating, which can lead to falls, kidney failure and heart attacks. From 2007 to 2009, there were an estimated 99,628 emergency hospitalizations annually for adverse drug events in individuals 65 years and older.2 Not properly adhering to medication regimens is also a major cause of nursing home placement of frail older adults. Elder care attorney and gerontologist Susan B Geffen mentions in her Raising UP Your Parents seminar that polypharmacy can lead to dizziness and falls. This week, Staying Put at Home will look at what you can do to make sure you stick to your prescription schedule and avoid overmedication.

Make A List

How many different medications are you taking? Can you name them all off the top of your head? Even if you can, we still strongly urge you to catalog all of your medication. Overmedication and complications with polypharmacy often arise from uncertainty. Making a list will give you a document you can consult whenever you might get confused. Along with your medications, list any over-the-counter products, vitamins and herbal supplements you take. Just because you can buy something over the counter does not make it less potent than a prescription drug. Furthermore, over-the-counter products can have adverse reactions when mixed with prescription drugs. Keep this list up to date, as one omitted drug could cause unwanted side effects. Make sure that your list is in an easy-to-find place in case of emergency.

When you write your list, make sure you include the following information for each medication:

  • Name and strength of the medication
  • Dosage instructions, including frequency, time of day and food intake
  • Color of the pill
  • Why you are taking it
  • When you started taking it
  • Any food or drug interactions
  • Doctor who prescribed it

Consult Your Pharmacist or Physician

As you age, it is common to have numerous doctors and specialists monitoring your health. With so many doctors, your prescriptions can stack up. Health care professionals often do not consult one another before writing prescriptions, meaning that they may not be aware of all the drugs you are taking. This oversight could lead to overmedication if you are not careful. In order to prevent this, use your list to go over all your medications with your pharmacist or physician. This person should know which drugs will have harmful interactions. Also, use just one pharmacy for all your prescriptions. That way, they will have a record of all the medications you are taking and can alert you to any potential drug interactions.

Do Your Research

A little work now could pay off later. Check all the possible side effects or potential ailments that your medication could induce. Also, always ask your doctors about any potential issues when they are writing your prescriptions and make sure they clearly explain the information. Medication awareness lets you know exactly what you are putting in your body.

Use A Pillbox

A pillbox is a simple tool you can use to stay on top of your medication. Like with a list, keeping your medications organized in one place will help you remember whether you have taken the correct daily dosages. Skipping drugs can have major health consequences, leading to lengthy stays in the hospital. Pill timers can also be useful for reminding you when to take your medication, especially if you have short term memory trouble. If you have a smartphone, consider getting an app that will remind you when to take your medication.

We hope that these tips will help you avoid overmedication and any complications with polypharmacy. If you believe you are suffering from these conditions, visit your doctor or pharmacist immediately. Have any tips that we did not include? Then please share them in our comment section.

1. Digging In On Issue of Overmedicated Seniors | Return to Text
2. Overmedicating The Elderly – The New Epidemic | Return to Text

Aging in Place Essentials: Part 5 – How To Make Your Bathroom Safer


Staying Put at Home Tips for Home Safety As we have mentioned elsewhere on Staying Put at Home, a safe bathroom is critical to Aging in Place. This week, we have a few more suggestions for how to improve the safety of your bathroom.

Remove Tripping & Slipping Hazards

In 2009, bathroom slips, trips and falls accounted for over 230,000 nonfatal injuries in the US.1 These accidents are particularly dangerous for the elderly, as falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries.2 Here are several ways to avoid these mishaps in your bathroom:

  • Replace throw rugs with nonslip mats and pads around your plumbing fixtures
  • To reduce slipping, have flooring that is matte-finished, textured tile or low pile commercial carpet
  • Wipe up wet spots immediately
  • Wear proper footwear

Install the Right Toilet

Having a toilet that properly fits you can make your bathroom much easier and safer to use. A toilet between 14 and 16 inches off the ground can cause pain for those with arthritis and back, knee and hip problems. The National Association of Home Building recommends installing a toilet that is 2 ½ inches higher (17-19 inches) than the standard sized toilet.3 This should make it easier for you to stand up and sit down. Also consider the following ideas to make your toilet safer and more comfortable:

  • Installing an elevated toilet seat or toilet seat riser from Home Depot or another home improvement retailer so that you don’t have to replace your entire toilet
  • Covering your seat with a soft toilet seat cushion
  • Having a toilet seat color that contrasts with the rest of the toilet and the surroundings to make it easier to see where you are going to be seated
  • Installing a Kohler nightlight toilet seat so that your toilet shines in the dark and is easy to find at night
  • Using grab bars with nonslip grips on adjacent walls or armrests on your toilet’s sides to easily get up and to stabilize yourself
  • Making sure toilet paper rolls are within reach and can be changed easily

Walk-in Tubs

Depending on your needs, a walk-in tub could be one of the safest investments you make. Here are a few practical reasons why a walk-in tub can improve your health and lead to a safer bathing experience:

  • The low threshold makes it easier to get in and out, greatly reducing the chance of losing your balance
  • Many walk-in tubs have nonslip floors
  • A walk-in tub seat allows you to sit down and relax, and it is easier to stand up and get out of your tub
  • In-tub grab bars can provide stable support, which you won’t find in a standard bathtub
  • Warm water bathing relieves arthritis pain,4 alleviating stiffness in arthritis sufferers and saving money on health care and physical therapy
  • Soaking in a warm bath increases heart rate while lowering blood pressure5
  • Bathing improves blood circulation, strengthens your immune system and gives you more energy.6 Increased blood circulation promotes cell growth, organ function and healthy skin.7
  • Water therapy can help in recovery from strokes,8 connective tissue diseases9 and other respiratory related problems
  • A warm bath before bed time promotes drowsiness and relaxes muscles, resulting in a good night’s sleep10
  • Studies show that those with Type II diabetes who used warm water therapy reported a reduction in blood sugar levels, improved sleep and an increased sense of well-being11
  • Warm water immersion can protect the heart from arrhythmia and strengthen the heart muscle12
  • Water therapy can alleviate back, knee and hip pain
  • A relaxing bath can soothe hemorrhoids, varicose veins and tendinitis
  • Many walk-in tubs have a detachable hand-shower that makes it easier for bathers to get to those hard-to-reach areas

Roll-in Showers

For those who have mobility challenges and require a wheelchair, getting over a walk-in tub’s threshold may not be feasible. Roll-in showers do not have a barrier so that the transition from your wheelchair to your shower is less challenging. In these circumstances, a roll-in shower may be a more appropriate choice. Consider all your options when contemplating whether to install a walk-in tub or roll-in shower in your bathroom. While a roll-in shower may offer more convenience, they lack the water therapy and bathing benefits of walk-in tubs.

General Safety Tips

Creating a safe bathroom does not stop at your toilet, bathtub or shower. We have some advice for safety-proofing the rest of your restroom:

  • Don’t rush; move at a comfortable, leisurely pace so that you don’t accidentally slip
  • Select grab bars that contrast with the walls to increase visibility
  • Never use towel racks as grab bars, as they are not sturdy enough to support your weight
  • If you are unable to install grab bars where you need them, install a vertical support pole from your floor to your ceiling
  • Have a well-lit bathroom, but use non-glare lighting to keep your vision clear and unobstructed
  • Install an illuminated light switch next to your door so that you can find it in the dark
  • Install a plug-in nightlight that will turn on automatically when the bathroom is dark
  • Make your toiletries easy to reach
  • Remove or pad sharp edges on your countertop
  • Lower your bathroom cabinets by 3 to 5 inches so that your shelves are easier to access
  • Turn your water heater to below 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns
  • Don’t leave appliances plugged in around plumbing fixtures
  • Purchase a waterproof phone in case you need to call someone in an emergency
  • Always check your medications to make sure that they have not expired
  • Install GFCI electrical outlets in your bathroom so that you lower the risk of electrocution

Keeping a safe, comfortable bathroom makes Aging in Place much more effective. Check back in at Staying Put at Home for future articles on keeping your home safe, and take a look at the other entries in our series on Aging in Place:

Aging in Place Essentials

  1. Introduction
  2. Making Your Home Safer & More Comfortable
  3. How Can Aging in Place Save You Money?
  4. Maintaining & Modifying Your Home: Who Can Help?
  5. How To Make Your Bathroom Safer

1. Thousands of Injuries Occur in Bathroom Each Year, CDC Reports | Return to Text
2. Falls Among Older Adults: An Overview | Return to Text
3. Aging-In-Place Remodeling Checklist | Return to Text
4. Warm Water Works Wonders on Pain | Return to Text
5. Foundational Lifestyle Strategies to Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure | Return to Text
6. 5 Tips To Improve Blood Circulation | Return to Text
7. Benefits of Increased Blood Circulation | Return to Text
8. The Effect of Aquatic Therapy on Postural Balance and Muscle Strength in Stroke Survivors | Return to Text
9. Tips for Getting the Most Out of the Oldest Form of Therapy | Return to Text
10. Bedtime Behaviors That Work: 7 Habits That Will Prepare Your Body for Sleep | Return to Text
11. Hot Tub Therapy For People With Diabetes | Return to Text
12. Immersion in Warm Water Induces Improvement in Cardiac Function in
Patients with Chronic Heart Failure
| Return to Text

Aging in Place Essentials: Part 4 – Maintaining & Modifying Your Home: Who Can Help?


Staying Put at Home Tips for Senior HealthAs you have gotten older, many of your household tasks may have become much harder and more dangerous than they once were. Now, you don’t have to do it alone. In Part 4 of our Aging in Place series, we will look at how you can maintain and modify your home with a little help from Aging in Place Villages, occupational therapists and certified aging in place specialists (CAPS).

Aging in Place Villages

Aging in Place Villages link together independently living seniors. Although a Village might sound like senior housing, residents live in their own homes and take advantage of the village’s support structure. The goal of a Village is to offer the amenities of assisted living without making seniors leave their home. Members pay an annual rate for services like:

  • Housework
  • Transportation
  • Computer and paperwork assistance
  • Meal Delivery
  • Shopping with other members
  • Referrals to vetted contractors
  • Gardening and yard cleanup

Do you need to change a light bulb but don’t want to climb a ladder? Then just call someone from your Village to come over. Villages have many volunteers, so there are younger members who can help you finish your housework. The annual rate for membership varies from a few hundred dollars to about $1000, but many Villages have options for low-income seniors.1 Many Villages have volunteer-first models, in which certain members are responsible for administration. Some Villages hire an administrator so that there is someone running the whole operation. Each Village offers different services, so contact your local Village to learn more.

The Village movement began in 2002 when the Beacon Hill Village enrolled its first members.2 Since then, 150 villages have begun across the country, with 120 more in development.3 In a UC Berkeley study, 55 to 80% of seniors said that their Village had improved their quality of life.4 Joining an Aging in Place Village might make it easier for you to take care of those tough household tasks.

Occupational Therapists

An occupational therapist figures out a person’s goals, tries to make it easier to perform daily activities and evaluates if these goals have been met. If you have vision impairments, restricted mobility or other ailments, occupational therapists can also suggest modifications to make it easier to get around your home. Here are some ways that occupational therapists might assist you Age in Place:

  • Recommend furniture arrangements so that you have clear walkways
  • Develop a plan for you to make it easier to access your frequently used items
  • Teach you basic exercises to strengthen your mobility and make it less difficult to move around your home
  • Label your drawers to make it easier to remember where you keep items
  • Find out how to reduce glare in your home

Occupational therapists provide an individualized service. Each home is evaluated to find the best way to make it fit its homeowner. Physicians and other medical care professionals can refer you to an occupational therapist in your area.

Medicare Part B can also help pay for medically necessary occupational therapy. The therapy cap limit for an occupational therapist is $1,940 per year.5 However, if your therapist or therapy provider provides documentation that your therapy was medically reasonable and necessary, then your Medicare will continue to cover its share above the yearly $1,940 cap limit. As part of the exceptions process, there are additional limits (called “thresholds”). If you get outpatient therapy services higher than the threshold amounts, a Medicare contractor will review your medical records to ensure your therapy was a medical necessity. The threshold amount for 2015 is $3,700.

Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS)

A certified aging in place specialist will look at your home and evaluate which areas need to be safer. They are trained to understand what tools and modifications are needed to safely Age in Place. CAPS professionals are trained and certified by the National Association of Home Builders.6 The training process to become a CAPS professional lasts three days and includes classes on communication and building solutions. Certified aging in place specialists also have to complete 12 hours of education every three years. These specialists are not medical or health care professionals. They tend to be occupational therapists, architects or remodelers.

A certified aging in place specialist could help if you are asking yourself these questions:

  • Am I able to bathe without being afraid that I will slip?
  • Could I get a walker or wheelchair through my doorway?
  • How can I safely reach high shelves?
  • Do I need to install grab bars and handrails?
  • How can I get up my stairs safely?

Maintaining your home and modifying it to fit your needs are important aspects of Aging in Place. We hope that the services outlined here will make it easier to keep yourself safe and comfortable in your home as you grow older. Check back in at Staying Put at Home to see the final part of our series on Aging in Place:

Aging in Place Essentials

  1. Introduction
  2. Making Your Home Safer & More Comfortable
  3. How Can Aging in Place Save You Money?
  4. Maintaining & Modifying Your Home: Who Can Help?
  5. How To Make Your Bathroom Safer

1. Retirement Villages: Aging in Community | Return to Text
2. About Beacon Hill Village | Return to Text
3. About VTV Network | Return to Text
4. ‘Village’ Movement for Aging Seniors Faces Some Challenges | Return to Text
5. Medicare Limits on Therapy Services | Return to Text
6. What is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist? | Return to Text

Aging in Place Essentials: Part 3 – How Can Aging in Place Save You Money?


Staying Put at Home Tips for CaregivingAging in Place can provide a much more affordable alternative to the high cost of independent living facilities, assisted living facilities and community care retirement centers. Our blog post this week explores how staying put in your own home will more likely save you money.

How Much Do Independent Living Facilities, Assisted Living Facilities and Community Care Retirement Centers Cost?

Independent living facilities is a general term for housing arrangements for seniors who do not need assistance with daily activities. These facilities come in the form of retirement communities, retirement homes, senior housing and senior apartments. Most of these facilities provide common areas for meals and socializing. Some independent living facilities also have medical and personal care services. However, you still remain independent, having your own housing and receiving less care than you would find at an assisted living facility. Services available at independent living facilities include laundry, meals, transportation and some social activities.

Assisted living facilities are long-term facilities for elderly or disabled people who are able to get around on their own but need help with some daily activities, such as medication assistance/management, bathing, dressing and transportation. Traditional options for assisted living facilities include:

  • Three meals a day served in a common dining room at prescribed times
  • Housekeeping services
  • Transportation
  • 24-hour security
  • Bathing/Dressing
  • Exercise and wellness programs
  • Laundry services
  • Social and recreational activities

Community care retirement centers (CCRCs) typically have three or four levels of care: independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing. These organizations offer you assistance as you need it. Perhaps you are healthy and do not need any support. Down the road, though, you might require a nurse. Community care retirement centers accommodate your needs as they change. Many even offer hospice care and end-of-life services. This housing allows seniors to remain at one residential location regardless of their health. CCRCs require you to pay an entrance fee. But beware, if a CCRC goes bankrupt, residents can lose part or all of their entrance fee. According to AARP, there are three types of contracts for CCRCs:

  • Life Care or Extended Contract: The most expensive option, but offers unlimited assisted living, medical treatment and skilled nursing care without additional charges.
  • Modified Contract: This option offers a number of services provided for a set length of time. Once that time has expired, other services can be purchased, but for higher monthly fees.
  • Fee-for-Service Contract: This option has a lower fee, but there are no long-term care benefits included in the contract. You will need to pay for long-term care benefits at their market rates when you need them.

The above mentioned most commonly available types of senior communities, however, might not be cost-effective. Whatever your rent is, your costs can quickly pile up, leaving you with a hefty bill:

  • Independent living facilities can cost between approximately $20,000 and $42,000 per year, depending on your locality and what services are included.1
  • In 2013, assisted living facilities had a median annual cost of $41,400.2 This was up 5% from the previous year.
  • Community care retirement centers have a national average entrance fee of approximately $250,000,3 and rent usually amounts to $3,000 to $5,000 per month.4 The cost of CCRCs also depends on your health, the kind of housing you have chosen and the number of residents in your facility.

Why Aging in Place Could Be The More Affordable Option

The cost of staying put in your current home, of course, depends on the condition of your home and your needs. Certain modifications may be necessary. In the long run, though, these purchases could save you money and keep you comfortable in your home. By not entering a senior care facility, you will hold on to thousands of dollars each year. Marty Bell, Executive Director of the National Aging in Place Council, estimates that annual cost for Aging in Place is $23,000.5 In a four-year analysis, the total costs for Aging in Place were thousands of dollars less than institutional care options.6 If you carefully invest in Aging in Place home improvements, you can come out ahead in the long run with Aging in Place, and also have the great joy of staying in your home as long as possible.

Cost Comparison table

There are many hypothetical premises, of course, behind the above calculations. For example:

  1. For simplification, it is assumed that the Aging in Place senior remains in good enough health to remain in his or her home.
  2. For simplification, it is assumed that there is no significant inflation in costs.

The above costs are the national averages for a single person. These numbers may be higher depending on your state. Costs for a couple will be 25 to 50% higher.

Financial Assistance

Certain grants and programs can also make Aging in Place more affordable:

  • Veterans are eligible for SAH, SHA and HISA grants through the VA that fund home remodeling projects.7 Your annual income and assets need to be below a certain threshold to qualify for these grants.
  • The Department of Agriculture offers Rural Repair and Rehabilitation grants to assist rural homeowners renovate for Aging in Place.8 These grants are designed for low-income homeowners. Those who qualify for these grants usually have less than 50% of the median annual income for the area.
  • Rebuilding Together is a national nonprofit aimed at seniors and veterans that offers financial assistance and volunteer labor for home modification projects.9 Rebuilding Together usually focuses on assisting low-income seniors.
  • Many states offer Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers through Medicaid, which allow individuals to avoid nursing homes and hospitals, often by modifying their houses.10 To qualify for an HCBS, you need to be below a certain income. This number will vary depending on your state.

Many of these grants have eligibility requirements. If your assets ans annual income exceeds a certain level, then you may not be able to qualify for these grants.

Having financial security is a great benefit of Aging in Place. We hope that this blog post has clarified the often confusing question of how it compares to various senior living communities. Check back in at Staying Put at Home to see the rest of our series on Aging in Place:

Aging in Place Essentials

  1. Introduction
  2. Making Your Home Safer & More Comfortable
  3. How Can Aging in Place Save You Money?
  4. Maintaining & Modifying Your Home: Who Can Help?
  5. How To Make Your Bathroom Safer

1. Guide to Senior Housing Options | Return to Text
2. Nursing Home Costs Top $80,000 A Year | Return to Text
3. Continuing-Care Retirement Communities: Weighing the Risks | Return to Text
4. About Continuing Care Retirement Communities | Return to Text
5. As Senior Population Grows, Aging in Place Gains Popularity: Communities Conducting Outreach | Return to Text
6. Aging in Place Preserves Seniors’ Independence, Reduces Care Costs, Researchers Find | Return to Text
7. SAH, SHA & HISA Grants: Home Modification Help for Elderly and Disabled Veterans | Return to Text
8. Rural Housing: Housing Repair Loans and Grants | Return to Text
9. Rebuilding Together | Return to Text
10. Home & Community Based Services | Return to Text