Columbia ISA
Adult Care

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HELP for aging adults, caregivers, aids and devices. 

HELP older adults in your home with aids and devices.

Everyday help for the elderly

Older Adult care - Help for everyday movement
Walking, showering, bathroom safety

Anyone who has seen their loved one grow old has experienced the issues that come with age. The normal things we take for granted are difficult for older adults. Taking a shower for example becomes a chore. Older folks may not be able to stand up for the time it takes to shower.

Walking and balance becomes a problem as we age. Exercise helps slow the aging of muscles but is not always possible due to illness or injury. Falls are a major factor as we age. Even if no bones are broken, a fall can cause immobility and require a lengthy recovery.

During the recovery and healing process, one can benefit from helpful aids. For example, a back injury causes pain everytime the person moves. Getting on and off the toilet becomes a painful chore. A commode wheelchair is an aid which allows the person to remain stationary while going to the toilet and help the back heal.

Walkers and rollators help with balance while walking. Wheelchairs help with mobility for those who cannot walk. Many caregivers simply do not know that all kinds of help is available in the form of aids and devices. The caregiver's burden is greatly lightened when some of these helpful aids are used and the loved one being helped is much better off.

If you provide care for your loved one in the home, here are some devices which could help. Many of these items can be purchased at Walgreens or online at sites like and delivered to your home. It is up to you to determine the appropriatness of each device. Consult your health professional, talk to your friends and ask for help from local churches, agencies on aging, county, state and federal health organizations.

Walker - a walker is a device which helps the person balance while walking by letting them use their arms to steady themselves. If the person can stand and walk, even if very slowly, a walker may help prevent a fall. Preventing a fall is your goal because broken bones can lead to various other cascading serious events when older adults are involved.

A walker has four legs which are height adjustable. A walker typically has two small wheels in front that roll, and in the rear, plastic sliders on the bottom. Some people cut a hole in a tennis ball and insert them over the rear leg frame posts to give traction and prevent scrapes on a floor. The walker is lightweight so the person just pushes it forward and walks while using their arms to steady themselves on the walker's frame. Walkers usually fold for storage. Walkers come in many sizes, even youth walkers, which may be appropriate for shorter adult women. Walkers usually cost $50 to $75. Anyone who has balance problems or pain while walking may not be a candidate for a walker. The older adult must have a level of ability to use a walker safely to avoid falling. If you feel that the older adult is not safe using a walker, then a wheelchair may be better. Your goal is always to be safe and above all else, avoid a fall. Consult your health professional to determine the appropriateness of using a walker.

- a rollator is like a walker only it has four wheels that roll along indoors or outdoors when pushed. In addition, a rollator has a seat and a backrest so that if the person gets tired while walking, they can sit down. A rollator has two brakes that lock the rear wheels in place to prevent rolling. Many rollators also have a wire basket or pouch so you can carry along extras you may need. A rollator can fold up so it fits in your car. This way if you go to the mall or store, you have your own aid while walking. The handlebars are height adjustable. Rollators usually cost from $70 to over $140 with $100 being about average to get a good one.

Wheelchairs and transport chairs

Wheelchairs have two large wheels in the rear with hand rails for self-power and two smaller wheels in the front. Most wheelchairs have two removable foot rests. Wheelchairs can be manual or powered by batteries. The traditional manufacturers of manual wheelchairs are Invacare, Medline, Drive Medical, Everest & Jennings and a few others. Manual wheelchairs cost around $200 and up and can have any number of options which can add cost.

Transport chairs have four small wheels and are designed to be pushed by a caregiver instead of moved by the older adult themselves. Transport chairs are lightweight and foldable so they fit in a car.

A commode wheelchair is designed to either go over a toilet or just have a container under the seat. These usually cost more than a standard wheelchair. The seat has a hole in the center where the person sits. The container fits under the seat and can be removed while the person is still sitting in the wheelchair.

Wheelchair ramps

Often you will need a ramp in order to get your wheelchair up a step. There are portable ramps of all kinds. Another choice is to build a permanent ramp when needed.

Find someone who knows how to work with concrete if you need to convert an outside step of a sidewalk, driveway, or walkway. Pouring some concrete can convert the step to a permanent concrete ramp for the future.

Portable ramps can be made of aluminum with traction tape on the surface and can fold up. Read up on these ramps as safety can be important. Also make sure to measure your required dimensions so you get a ramp that works. Access to areas without ramps like a park, church, building or school can become important for the elderly. Most public places have wheelchair access but be prepared for those that do not.


Transfer bench for bathtub

Showering can be almost impossible for the person who is immobile and subject to falling. A transfer bench allows the person to remain seated while moving into the bathtub to shower. You just sit on the bench and shower. You may need a caregiver to help turn on the water and adjust flow but falling is not nearly so much of an issue.

Walking cane

A cane is a simple aid to help keep your balance while walking. There are all kinds of styles. Most are inexpensive. There are some with four small legs for more points on the ground. There are even collapsable canes. Many older adults use canes to maintain balance.

Commode chair - stationary

These inexpensive chairs can be used at the bedside or over a standard toilet for support and a raised seat. Height adjustable legs and armrests with a plastic bucket and seat that can be removed. Lightweight construction allows for portability. The benefit is the raised seat for easy down and up plus the faster access than a trip to the bathroom at night. These chairs can be used for years. Cost is $40 and up. Cleanup is fast as the bucket can be hosed off outside.

toilet raised - slip over raised toilet seat

To help sit and stand, a raised toilet seat works well. Rather than install a new raised toilet, you can buy a toilet seat extension which slips over your existing toilet.

Handles and grab bars

Installing grab bars in the bathroom can help prevent a fall. Grab bars can be iinstalled inside the shower or anywhere in the bathroom where the loved one can steady themself. Grab bars usually do not cost much.

Bed rails

To prevent falling out of bed at night and injuring the older adult, a bed rail can be inserted in the bed, possibly on both sides. Even a slight jolt in the wrong spot can cause an injury and older adults can fall out of bed at night.

Anything you can do to prevent an injury is an improvement. Lowering the bed could help to reduce the shock of a fall out of bed. For a wooden bed frame, you could consider cutting the bed legs down a few inches which would lower the bed and reduce the likehood of an injury.

Alarms and monitoring

One inexpensive alarm is the magnetic pull alarm which is portable and will sound an alarm when the patient moves beyond the desired length of movement. For example, you can put this alarm on the bed or the wheelchair to alarm if the patient moves too far, such as trying to get out of bed. Fall prevention is the main benefit. Nursing homes sometimes use these alarms to prevent falls. A quick reaction to the alarm is key to prevent a fall. The alarm below has a very good attachment to the patient, can be wall mounted, has a low battery indicator and costs less than $30.

  • Patient alarm
  • Notifies staff or caregiver that a user has moved
  • Alligator clip attaches to clothing so when user gets up, the cord pulls from the alarm and the audio alarm is activated
  • Easily secures with self contained clip
  • Low battery indicator
  • Activation cord is adjustable 

Audio and video monitoring

Monitoring your loved one can be made easier by using systems which link video cameras, recorders and microphones with a flat screen TV type video monitor and speakers. Even infra-red cameras that can see in the dark at night are available.

Hospital bed

These beds can be expensive but if you can avoid the nursing home, your loved one may benefit from living in their own home even when requiring this type of bed. These beds can raise and lower the head and feet using electric motors. Cost can be $1,000 and up. If your loved one needs to be moved in bed, the motors can do this to help prevent bed sores. Long periods in bed without moving is not good for anyone.

Light switches

The simple act of turning a lamp on or off can become impossible if the older adult has a back injury or cannot move to the lamp switch at night. By using an electrical cord with a switch in the cord, the person can turn the light on or off without moving, except their arm or hand.

Male bed urinal - a small plastic bottle type container for the male used to substitute for constant trips to the bathroom, particularly at night, when a fall may occur. Keeps the person in bed instead of getting up to go to the bathroom. It may not be ideal to use this aid but if a fall can be prevented it could be worth it.

Bed pan

The bed pan may not be needed but it could come in handy. They do not cost much. Better have one and not need it than need one and not have it.

Briefs, diapers, pads

For incontinence during the day or night, it may be a good idea to wear a brief to prevent accidents. A diaper/brief with a pad inside can absorb a lot of fluid. There are all sizes and capacities. Depends and Poise are major brand names. Poise pads work well and Depend underware also work well. Combine underware and pads together for a better level of absorbtion. At night a waterproof bad pad can be placed on the bed to avoid washing sheets everyday. A waterproof bed cover under the sheets can avoid wetting the mattress. These pads cost only a few dollars, can be washed and reused.

For Women or Men - Underware briefs

Gait Belt

This simple belt is one of the most useful devices a caregiver can own. Place belt around the waist/chest of the older adult and the caregiver can control the balance of the older adult. Use it for transfers out of and into bed or into wheelchair or chair to wheelchair. Use it to balance and aid in the balance of the older adult while using a walker to make sure the older adult does not fall. The belt is adjustable and costs only a few dollars. Nursing homes, rehab facilities, physical therapy aids, all use these gait belts on older adults to make sure they do not fall. The caregiver needs to be strong enough to grab the belt and maintain the balance of the older adult. For moving the older adult (transfers) the caregiver needs to be strong enough to prevent a fall.

BIG button cellphone

Backlit keypad assists visibility in low-light areas & bright color screen makes it easy to see phone numbers, text messages and photos

Big buttons with large, legible numbers make dialing easier

Hearing aid compatible (M4/T4 rating) with a powerful speaker so that conversations are loud and clear

Long-lasting battery withup to 25 days of standby time

Dedicated 5Star button provides one-touch access to medical alert service
Medical Alert Guide

GreatCall Link smartphone app that keeps caregivers informed about the health, safety and location of their family members who have 5Star Medical Alert Service Health & Safety Packages include 5Star Medical Alert Service, Urgent Care, Personal Operators, etc. 

Medical Alert device - LifeLine

Bay Alarm Medical- One of the best systems available with a broad range of features, good monitoring service, a plethora of extra features all at one of the lowest prices in the industry.

Life Alert- This is arguably the best known alert provider with the catch phrase “Help! I have fallen and I can’t get up”. Their cost is a little higher than most and comes with other fees, however their service is good.

LifeFone – Offers a great monitoring service keeping medical history details on file although they do not offer a mobile GPS enabled system.

LifeStation -A highly trained staff and a superior protocol for answering emergency calls gives this provider high marks.

Medical Guardian – The company is a relatively new entrant, beginning sales in 2005 with a bevy of features.

MobileHelp- As their name implies this company specializes in GPS enabled help monitoring although they lack some features found in other systems.

Philips Lifeline- This service comes with many optional add-on features such as a medication dispenser and fall detector.

Rescue Alert- Has a good core product but lacks many of the additional features found in competing offers. All agents are trained emergency medical dispatchers.

5Star Urgent Response – 5Star is part of the popular cell phone brand Great Call and this explains the focus on mobility and absence of a fixed base station.

Medical Alert systems Reviewed

 Does your loved one need help at home - Signs to look for:

o Trouble getting up from a seated position.
o Difficulty with walking, balance and mobility.
o Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks.
o Forgetfulness.
o Strong smell of urine in the house.
o Noticeable decline in grooming habits and personal care.
o Mood swings.

See this website for more information on care for the aging and caregivers: