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Published on February 19, 2018

healthcare worker helping man with walker

When Moving Around the House is Challenging

Teenagers see a car as the ultimate symbol of freedom, a means to get to the game, the party or to their job quickly when they wish to go.

Older people see moving around the house in the same way. But as we age, sometimes those taken-for-granted steps that were so easy are no longer as simple as they once were. Chronic conditions and injuries can slow our pace or make us less steady. They sap that freedom everyone wants to enjoy.

But there are ways for older adults to stay at home freely as well as safely. Avera@Home Nurse Supervisor Bethany Eichelberger, RN, BSN, knows this fact because she helps folks making these transitions just about every day.

“Much of our work is about education and about clearing out misconceptions, the biggest one being that if you call us, we’re going to take steps to have you leave your home,” she said. “That’s a myth – what we want to do is work with you, your doctor and your family to help you stay at home and to do so in the safest, most comfortable fashion possible.”

Getting Started

Eichelberger said in many cases, the process begins with the hospital or doctor’s clinic reaching out to her team to help a patient, who is soon-to-be going home, to provide some help there with safe movement. The help may include a nurse or therapist as well, she said. In other cases, patients themselves, or their loved ones, may request an assessment.

In all cases, the home evaluation can determine what level of help they may need.

“In some cases we may provide a weekly visit in which we’ll provide help that varies – it could be cooking or help with bathing,” she said. “It could be laundry. It’s patient-centered, and our focus is to keep you at home, with a little help.”

Working with the patient in the place they live helps them to feel more comfortable and to avoid the stress and in some cases, the potential risk, that would come with weekly visits to the clinic or therapist’s office, Eichelberger said. Since every patient – and every patient’s home – differs, insightful professionals like her can consider approaches and equipment that may be helpful.

Wide Range of Services

Occupational and physical therapists, as well as home-medical equipment experts can recommend devices that may help with safer movement in the home, from quad canes to walkers and wheelchairs,” said Eichelberger. “Some people, especially those who have had amputations, may be managing their movement, but we can help optimize it, either through therapy, a device or a combination.”

Care can range from the chores or assistance Eichelberger mentioned, but it can include skilled nursing care when needed. Regardless of the need, the duration or the coverage – Avera@Home professionals can help figure out payment questions and insurance, too.

She said sometimes the signs of “help needed” can be subtle, and that’s why she recommends making an appointment for assessment. Some patients may say no when initially asked – few want to admit they need assistance.

“We have had patients that said no to help, but once we visit and show how we can help with many things that may be tough for them – from vacuuming and cleaning to showers and meal preparation – they change their minds,” she said. “Your doctor will be involved, but the decisions are all patient-driven. Safety and independence are the keys, but the patient is the boss.”

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