Frank’s mother-in-law suffered a series of falls after which Frank ensured that her house was as hazard free as possible.
"My mother-in-law had a new knee about 15 years ago, and that leg was always bad. Part of the reason we wanted her to move nearer us was because we knew she was falling over sometimes - not that she’d admit it, but we saw marks on her face a couple of times. She moved to our village and she fell over on day one. We’d moved her in and we were just leaving when she fell over the patio doorway step and broke her hip.
Time to take action
From then on there were problems with her being able to walk and stand up. We moved all the rugs so she couldn’t slip. We also visited a specialist shoe shop to have her fitted with shoes that used Velcro and not shoe laces.
"We moved all the rugs so she couldn’t slip. We also visited a specialist shoe shop to have her fitted with shoes that used Velcro."
She wouldn’t let us move furniture out of the living room, though. She wanted the room layout to stay the same and we could tell there wasn’t enough room between the furniture for her to move about safely. She used it as a crutch, which did allow her to get about, but was preventing her from walking properly.
We bought an electric chair that reclines to get you down and up without having to struggle. That was pretty good, but sometimes she got very confused with and she’d go up and down like a yo-yo! She’d phone up to say she couldn’t get out of it, and I’d ask, ‘What button are you pressing?’ and she’d say, ‘I pressed all of them.’ And you think: that’s probably why it’s not working!
Professional organisations were also a great help. She wore an alarm around her neck, which meant that immediate contact could be made when she fell. She was also referred to the falls clinic where she received physio to assist her balance and, initially, being able to get up off the floor.
Bedroom and bathroom adaptations
Gladys said she couldn’t get out of bed easily, so we got her an electric bed. The back came up and got her at a comfortable angle and she could then swing her legs out. But she didn’t like it and in the end we moved her into a bigger room with her old bed. We fitted a bed lever with an arm half-way down, which helped her to swing round to get on and off.
We also completely changed the bathroom so it had a walk-in shower with handles to hold on to and so there was no step to walk out of it. We raised the toilet seat, plus fitted hand rails and grab rails.
"Downstairs I put grab rails on the front door and the back door and the toilet."
Supporting Gladys inside and out her home
Downstairs I put grab rails on the front door and the back door and the toilet. We fitted a second rail on the stairs so she could hold on to either side. We also tried as much as possible to reduce the height of steps, installing a slope to the front door and decking from the conservatory door to the back door.
We got Gladys a three-wheeled shopping trolley with a tray that she would balance on to walk around the house.
She had five or six falls, the ambulance was called out on two or three occasions because we were away and the people who found her couldn’t get her up off the floor. More times than not it was because of her trying to carry too much – she’d put her tea on a tray on the trolley and try to walk through to the living room instead of sitting down to eat in the kitchen. Carrying anything became a problem."
- Common causes of falls: if you have similar concerns about a relative, read this page for more advice.
- Financing home alterations: learn what options are available to fund home adaptations.
- Mobility aids: falls can often be caused by poor mobility; find out what help is available to help your relative.
Page last reviewed: January 2016
Next review due: January 2018