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One of the best things you can do to help care for your loved one battling dementia is help them stay in their home. 9 out of 10 people prefer living in their home and you’ll improve their standard of life by keeping them there.

But, there are plenty of hazards in the home. Various tripping hazards, security problems, and a lack of supervision can complicate things.

Many people think you need to do a full home renovation to make it safer for your loved ones to live at home, but you don’t have to.

In this episode, Blythe Williamson from Safer Senior Life joins me to discuss inexpensive ways

to make the home safer, more secure, and more comfortable so they can avoid the nursing home.

Here Are The Show Highlights:

  • Why a full renovation is unnecessary and what to do instead (2:36)
  • A simple bathtub “tweak” that dramatically decreases the chances your loved one falls (3:37)
  • The single best type of ramp to install in your loved ones home (11:03)
  • Why tripping hazards hide in plain sight — especially in the bathroom (12:31)
  • The “doorbell trick” that gives your loved ones more comfort, security, and freedom in their home (16:45)

If you’d want to learn more information on how Blythe can help improve your loved ones’ home, give him a call at 817-809-7890 or visit his website at https://saferseniorlife.com/.

For daily 5-minute mind exercises, head over and like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hcafortworth/

You can also find additional support and resources by calling Home Care Assistance at 817-349-7599 or visit our websites https://www.homecareassistancefortworth.com/ and https://itsmyturntocare.com/.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “It’s My Turn To Care.” We know the challenges you face caring for someone with dementia. That's why each week we bring you tips, strategies, and most of all, support as you navigate your role as caregiver. Let's get started. [00:15.6]

Dave: Hello and welcome to It’s My Turn To Care: Secrets for the Dementia Caregiver. My name is Dave Parks and I'm a certified senior advisor and also the owner of Home Care Assistance, and we're located in the Northern part of Tarrant County in the great state of Texas.

It's our goal to bring you tips, strategies, and secrets that support you, your needs as you care for someone suffering from dementia. So, it's really an honor and a privilege to host this podcast and we look forward to bringing you some of the most knowledgeable, insightful people in the industry.

And, today and for the next couple of podcasts, we're going to talk about some practical things you can do with your home to help you stay safe in your home or have your loved one be safe in their home. [01:10.6]

Today, we have Blythe Williamson, and Blythe started a company called Safer Senior Life because he saw the need for specialized home modifications, really geared towards seniors, and, of course, others with mobility issues. So, he's looking to help people stay in their homes because nine out of 10 people want to stay in their homes, and we call it “aging in place,” and be able to stay there without making major renovations.

Blythe installs things like grab bars and ramps, widens doorways, as well as he has a special service where he cuts the existing bathtub to lower the tub so that the showering is much easier to access.
So, Blythe, welcome to the program. [02:04.7]

Blythe: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Dave: Yeah, I appreciate you coming out. So, tell us a little bit more about what you do and what makes y’all so unique.

Blythe: I think you described what I do pretty well. Basically, I come into a home and speak with the caregivers, the clients directly, and kind of research what their needs might be and find the best solutions that I can for their particular situation. I came about this, I became a certified aging-in-place specialist and with that training became much more aware of the different opportunities that are out there to modify a home rather than to renovate a home. In doing that process, I realized that the modification route was far more desirable for most people.

Dave: Yeah. I can imagine a lot less expensive. [02:57.0]

Blythe: A lot less expensive, which is why it’s more desirable for most people, although there are other reasons. Having your bathroom torn out for a week and a half or something is not real fun. However, being able to step in and resolve issues where as little as a hundred dollars versus more, or doing a more intensive modification program for someone than meting out a couple of thousand dollars is still a much, much less expensive way to go and, frankly, it gets as good as the results most of the time.

Dave: Give an idea of an example of something that you could do to help someone stay in the home.

Blythe: One of the best options that I have for anyone in a home that has a bathtub-shower combination—you alluded to it earlier—is doing the tub cut. The tub cut is an idea that I think people might've had, If I can only get through that area better, but most people aren't aware that it is a reality that we can do that. [04:03.8]

And so, in cutting out the side of the tub, retrofitting it to make it a safe, presentable step or a step through into the tub is a big advantage, but with that, there's so much more that you can do as well to make that whole area better. The grab bars, a shower wand/grab bar, so that we can direct the spray better for where it's going, so it's not splashing out onto the floor. If someone's needing care or caregiver assistance, or will need caregiver assistance, that allows the caregiver much more control and flexibility as well in bathing that client.

The other item I’d put into that package often is a wonderful bench that actually sits on top of the tub itself, and mounts to the wall and can be folded up against the wall, and then, when needed, folded down, and it lays across and sits directly on the tub. [05:04.0]

So, you can put a great deal of weight on it. It's very stable unlike a lot of shower chairs that are placed into bathtubs. The bathtub floor is uneven. With this, it's rock solid on top of the bathtub, so it just makes everything that much more secure and creates a complete package that allows someone to function better within that shower area.

Dave: So, I see a lot of advertisements on TV about different ways to do these things, and then I'll get calls from folks that are saying, I need to do this in my home. I need to buy this, whatever it might be, off a TV. And I just kind of cringe because I'm thinking that's going to be a one-size-fits-all and it's probably going to be really expensive. So, it’s good to know. [05:58.4]

I bet you probably get that a lot yourself. It's good to know there's someone to call to kinda…because every bathroom is different. Every tub size and shower is different. It's good to know you can customize it a little bit, but probably not have to pay kind of a customized price.

Blythe: Absolutely. Anytime you're doing a true custom bathroom, you're usually bringing in multiple trade skills, so a plumber, possibly an electrician, tiler. Just all sorts of different crafts are involved in that. And then, as you stated, a lot of times they're seeing it on TV where you've got large marketing dollars involved in there. They have to share it before as well.

Dave: Sure.

Blythe: The opportunity that I offer is I come out for free, come and walk through with you, talk with you and discuss what you're needing, what different products are out there. And that's the whole avenue right there. It’s that there are so many products out there that people aren't aware of, whether that be grab bars that don't look like grab bars. Those are becoming more and more popular. [07:09.5]

Dave: Talk a little bit about that because I didn't know, because when I think of grab bars, I think of the big silver grab bars. So, what are those? Give us an idea of what those look like.

Blythe: I do install the big silver grab bars.

Dave: Sure.

Blythe: They’re our basic bar. I describe them as the bar that you see when you go to the hospital or Starbucks. That’s just your standard bar. But there are other mobility assist products and what they do is they will hold, say, 300 pounds of force instead of 500 pounds of force.

Dave: I see.

Blythe: So, you're still getting a lot of assistance and stability out of them, except for they look like a designer shower bar instead of those--

Dave: For the average, let's say, the average man weighs 200 pounds, then that would be plenty.

Blythe: It's plenty because the concept for most of the work these locations, where these would be used at are areas that you're walking through, not necessarily falling. [08:06.0]

In a bathtub, it's far more likely that you're going to actually be falling, unfortunately, because of the surface slickness, because of the step over there, we were discussing earlier, things like that. So, if you're walking through the hallway area of your bathroom and just need something to be stable on, there's plenty of assistance there.

But along in that same family, there are other items that are toilet paper dispensers. I often go into homes and see that they have either been knocked off the wall or half off the wall because that's what they're using to get up from the toileting area. So, there's a whole family of products that fit in that realm of mobility assists that don't look like that commercial look of a grab bar.

That’s one area. Plus, there’s just areas throughout the home. Whether it's getting up out of bed, we have products. Whether it's getting up out of your favorite lounge chair, there's a product there that we can use to help you to pull up on instead of having to pull on your spouse or something along that line. [09:10.3]

Dave: You may not offer this product, but you may want to. We had a client who needed guidance to the bathroom after they got out of bed, so when they got out of bed and their feet hit the floor, lights showed up and directed them to the bathroom.

Blythe: That's fantastic. I have not seen that. That's a new one for me, but I'm excited about that. I'll go find that.

Dave: Yeah, absolutely. I thought that was pretty cool.

Blythe: Lighting is something in general I offer and making sure that people have a lighted pathway to their restroom or down the hallway. That's just one of the safety areas that we go, but that product is exciting. I like that.

Dave: Yeah. So, talk a little bit about ramps. So many people want to stay in their home, but they're in a wheelchair or they have to at least be in a wheelchair when they leave the home, things like that. Talk a little bit about that. [10:03.9]

Blythe: Right, ramps range…just installed some yesterday, and what they are, only one inch tall and it's just for getting across that threshold area. They can make it happen, but they're jarring the client so much in that wheelchair that this just smooths it all out.

But then, obviously, ramps can get quite large depending on how much increase in elevation that's needed to be covered. Most homes, two steps getting in and out, that's what we see around in our area of the world anyway. We're getting into eight-foot ramps. And then I've had one client in the last month put in a 55-foot ramp. They wanted to be able to go around the back of their garage where the ramp was out of sight, and just easier for her to use during entering her driveway. So, we cover the whole gamut of what ramps can do for you. [11:00.0]

I'll tell you my specialty and my belief. It’s that they're much better and that's installing modular metal ramps, and the reasoning for that is that with the aluminum ramping system, they're designed very professionally to handle. They'll have a double railing system, so if you're in a chair, the railing is at the appropriate height. If you're walking, the railing is at the appropriate height. The railings are round and that's a big deal that your hand holds 10 times stronger over a round bar than a pinch situation like with a two-by-four.

Dave: Sure. I haven't thought about that, but I could see where that would be true.

Blythe: Much, much more steady and appropriately placed. Their maintenance on them is much lower. They don't get slick in the winter or in the rain. They can be moved and transferred to the other part of the house or resold later on. So, anyway, it's my belief anyway that if you're going to invest the money in a ramp, you might as well do it correctly and that's what I specialize in. [12:02.1]

Dave: Okay, very good. Let's talk a little bit more about the tub because a lot of people are coming daily or however often we have to abate and that's such a kind of a dangerous area. My guess is a lot of falls happen in the bathroom relative to the rest of the home. So, talk a little bit about that, what you're actually going to do.

Blythe: The biggest part is just looking for a lot of hazards. A lot of hazards in that area don't require any purchase or investment from me or anyone else. It more just needs to be an awareness situation. A lot of times we may be aware that there's a tripping hazard, but kind of overlook it anyway because that's what we like. Our house, we've lived in it for 30 years and that's what we like.

Dave: Sure.

Blythe: But gently, kindly, but sternly is pretty much how I describe how I point things out to people, because they need to really know that, hey, that rug and that location really has to get removed because it really is a tripping hazard and it's absolutely not worth tripping-- [13:09.1]

Dave: You're kind of doing a safety inspection.

Blythe: As I go I do an informal safety inspection, not a written, documented one. If I go into that, then there's an expense involved in it, so we usually avoid that. But, yes, there's a professional, certified aging-in-place specialist taking a look and making those suggestions. Sometimes it's removing a door, just removing a door to a bathroom with a smaller entry can allow that person to then walk in with their walker. There's no cost for that. It’s just removing a few screws.

So, there's a lot of just different visual aspects of what I do that can relate to a safer environment in the bathroom. And you're right, the bathroom is absolutely the most dangerous area in the home. By far, the most falls occur there and you're talking about sharp objects in that room. You're talking about moisture on the floor in that room, talking about stepping over the wall of the bathtub into a slick surface. [14:09.1]

And so, that's been a big focus of my work for that very reason as it should be, and so there are a lot of opportunities in that, either even just a nonslip surface on the bottom of the tub. It's hard for me to remember them all as I speak because there are just so many different things that are out there that can be of use.

Dave: Right. What about anything to help people? Because a lot of people in Texas particularly have pools. So, do you have some things that maybe to help folks still enjoy their pool?

Blythe: Absolutely. Kind of sad, I mean, if you're in a position of having limited mobility to look out your back window and have this beautiful pool back there and not be able to use it. So, I do install pool lifts as well, installing one this afternoon, as a matter of fact, and with that, there are different models available. [15:00.6]

But you can put a sling down in the bottom of someone's transport chair or wheelchair. When they've changed into appropriate bathing clothing, they can sit in that chair and then be pushed out, put out to the pool. And then, that slang is attached to a lift. They have manual versions as well as battery versions, and so it can lift them up. The assistant or helper can just swing them over the tub and then, boom, not boom, but then slowly move down into the water, so really great.

Dave: I just want to continue on that. So, then the lift separates from…so then they're in the water and then when it's time to get out, re-hook up the lift, right?

Blythe: Right. I mean, it's a swing, and so anyone that fits in that mobility capacity is going to be needing some sort of assistant around or flotation devices as well.

Dave: Sure.

Blythe: And so, that sling can just be done, replaced around them, reattached to the lift, buttons pushed, and they're up and out of the water. [16:05.5]

Now, the one I'm doing this afternoon actually is going to be in a corner where it's going to be able to let them drop into the pool, and if they swing in the other direction, they'll be able to drop into their hot tub. So, with one lift, they're getting access to both parts of their pool.

Dave: Okay.

Blythe: So, they're very excited about that. They have actually been out of the home and care. He never really cared about the pool. Now it's a huge opportunity for him to be able to get outside and to spread his wings, as you might say, so they're very excited about getting that one.

Dave: I bet. So, what other types of things, maybe like video doorbells?

Blythe: The video doorbells, I have put in several of those and the best story that I have with that one was my first one actually, and that client, their daughter was her primary, if not caregiver, but support system and manager. [17:01.9]

She lived in Seattle and Mom lived here in Grapevine actually, so we hooked her up with a ring doorbell that enabled the front door to be unlocked remotely, so Mom was able to be elsewhere in the home, not have to get up, can see who's there safely and push a button, and the front door unlocked.

But that also allowed the daughter to see who was coming to the home while she was in Seattle, and then even in Seattle, she could push the button and open the door for a caregiver or anyone else that might need to get access to the home. So, that gave him a whole new level of comfort and freedom, and ability to function with much more security and comfort level during that process.

Dave: So, someone is starting to realize or a family member is starting to think, We probably need some modifications, not really sure exactly what or how soon, or do I need a grab bar? Do I need a ramp? Obviously a ramp is more obvious. And they call you. So, you would come out and do what? [18:13.8]

Blythe: Basically, it's what we're doing right here. We just sit and have a visit, usually take a walk through the home at some point as well, but the biggest issue is talking through the situation. Unfortunately, a lot of people when left to their own decision-making, we fail to admit that we have a need. It's usually a spouse that sees the need, a caregiver that sees the need, and so by including everybody involved in that conversation, more opportunities to help them evolve.

So, it's awesome to have a conversation if Mom and Dad are there with their adult child or a caregiver is there. That outside influence and conversation piece helps a great deal in finding more ways to provide assistance. [19:05.0]

That's the number one thing I could give as advice out to your listeners. It’s to be open to hearing what people are telling you, whether it's your own family, whether it's someone like myself that can come in and help. We all need help at some time and it's one of the hardest things for a lot of us to be able to just raise our hand and say, Yeah, I need help, but when it's there, take it.

Dave: Sure. Certainly it helps them to stay in their home.

Blythe: Yeah.

Dave: Right? And it's a free evaluation.

Blythe: Absolutely.

Dave: And there's a real opportunity there. Maybe it's not we're going to do something tomorrow, but maybe it's maybe next year we need to do something.

Blythe: And that happens a lot, too. Maybe today they just need a couple of grab bars. That's fine. That's what we'll do. [19:53.7]

But especially if somebody has a known degenerative disease or affliction, we can talk about the things that might be needed in the future, and so that they're aware to start looking for those options and which route they want to take. But it's just very valuable to have that conversation to begin with so that you know there are options out there for you.

Dave: It sounds like the possibilities are unlimited to try to help modify the home, so people can stay in their home. If someone wants to find out more about what you do, what's the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Blythe: Call me directly. I like to answer my own phone. So, you can reach me at (817) 809-7890. If you want to look at my website, there's lots of pictures on there of a variety of different projects that I've done and items that I install, and that is SaferSeniorLife.com. Once again, my phone number—I know that's always hard to catch the first time—it’s (817) 809-7890. [21:04.2]

Dave: Great. Thanks, Blythe, for coming and spending some time, and letting our listeners know about what you do and what modifications they can make to their home in order to stay in their home.

So, this is Dave Parks with Home Care Assistance and you've been listening to It's My Turn To Care. And we always encourage you to go to our website HomeCareAssistanceFortWorth.com and find out more about what we do, or if you have any questions regarding your journey that you're on, we'll be glad to get you in touch with experts such as Blythe.
So, thanks so much and we'll talk to you next week.

Home Care Assistance knows the effort you already put into caring for a loved one and we would be honored to help you on your journey. Please visit our website at HomeCareAssistanceFortWorth.com and to sign up for our free caregiver survival guide today. [22:01.8]

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