I suspect that part of the problem about aging is that it’s an insidious process; it’s not like you wake up one day and suddenly you are ‘old’. It’s a gradual process noticeable by a series of small incremental changes; stiffness when you get out of bed on a morning that wasn’t present before, a memory that just isn’t as good at recall as it used to be and a fondness for reminiscence. I also know that for some older member of my family time starts to get stamped by loss; funerals become less unusual and more routine, if you can ever say a funeral is routine. What I mean is they appear more frequently in your diary as you lose family and friends.
For me it is important that I stay as independent as I can. I’m trying to exercise more, eat well and lose some weight. But there is likely to be a time when I need to take more steps to maintain my independence.
My Mother-in-law, Gill, is one of my role models. At 85 she is still independent and despite increasing problems with her mobility and the occasional fall she is adamant she will do what she can to cope. She has had bi-lateral hip and knee replacements and now her ankles are the problem and she can’t face 3 months in plaster that a fusion would mean. She also enjoys life most of the time and has a sense of humour.
So that’s why I encouraged her to have an Occupational Therapy (OT) Assessment. It seemed to me that OT’s are often brought into care far too late and after this assessment I am convinced I am right.
I asked Gill today what it was she wanted to achieve and she told me she didn’t want to fall and that she wanted to carry on doing things she liked to do at home, such as cooking meals for family and a bit of gardening. She is lucky; she already has help with cleaning but maintaining independence is more than existing, it’s also continuing to do things you enjoy, while staying safe.
So, what did the OT assessment show us?
It’s about marginal gains. There were no big shock recommendations just a reasonable list of things that collectively will improve Gill’s living experience; some handrails positioned correctly in the shower, removing all the loose rungs, a ‘perch stool’ in the kitchen, a small walker so she can carry things without risk of falling and some exercise classes in the local pool. She is going to try them all. A list of marginal gains that I hope will help her to reduce her risk of falling and feel safe.
Sadly we had to have a private assessment; this means other people who can’t afford this will miss out. Keeping people safe and well in their own homes should be a priority. I luckily found Lucy Leonard on Twitter (@lucyOTL) and she was fabulous. Gill loved her and the fact that she did a full assessment. She respected her professionalism and so do I.
So, aim for marginal gains and big it up for OT’s. If you have an elderly relative and can possible involve an OT, like Lucy, I whole heartedly recommend it.