It’s hard to believe the holidays are already here. As I have frantically baked cookies, mailed holiday cards and waited in long lines for the perfect gift, I couldn’t help but people-watch. I’ve encountered my share of fellow shoppers that should be posted on various websites for their holiday spirit, or lack thereof.

I also have seen my fair share of ‘unsafe’ behaviors from our elderly and their family members. I find myself keeping a close eye on the elderly man or woman who is dropped off in front of the store while their companion drives away to park the car. I’ve run out of fingers and toes, counting how many poor car transfers and almost-falls due to poor curb management I’ve seen. And the list continues.

Last year, I wrote a posting about how to incorporate the therapy department into patient-caregiver training during the holiday season. I still firmly believe this is a strong program that can significantly reduce the number of injuries and accidents during a family outing (at any time). However, this is not always a practical option due to scheduling difficulties with families, and so on. 

So, as a compromise, I’d like to propose we provide the family with a home safety guide. I recommend we collaborate with our social workers, but here are a couple of quick tips that could be explained in the guide (which could be used for any time of the year):

1.     Remove all throw rugs — These can cause tripping hazards

2.     Remove clutter — Have a clutter-free zone from the home’s entryway to the primary sitting areas, and also to-and-from the bathroom

3.     Have the bathroom situation pre-planned — If you have a bathroom on the first floor, remove clutter, and throw rugs; if you don’t have a first floor bathroom, consider the option of setting up a portable potty in a private area.

4.     Toilet seat height — If you have a low or older toilet, consider adding a built-up toilet seat to better accommodate your loved one

5.     General seating — It’s recommended to have your loved one sit in a firm chair with arm rests, or consider adding an extra pillow to the couch cushion. Use proper body mechanics if you need to assist your loved one out of his or her seated position.

6.     Table seating — Give your loved one the “guest of honor” seat; sitting at the end of the table will provide easier access for sitting and standing purposes

I’m sure I’ve left out at least a dozen more tips, but if you can provide the families with this information before any big at-home event, it will allow them time to prepare their home and follow-up with any questions. I hope you and your families have a safe and happy holiday season.

Shelly Mesure (“Measure”), MS, OTR/L, is the senior vice president of Orchestrall Rehab Solutions and owner of A Mesured Solution Inc., a rehabilitation management consultancy with clients nationwide. A former corporate and program director for major long-term care providers, she is a much sought after speaker and writer on therapy and reimbursement issues.