Helen Berry spent a great deal of her life caring for children.
Now her child is caring for her.
Berry, 81, well known for business Helen Berry Day Care, had a few health problems over the last few years. In February, she took a spill in her house that required her to move in with her daughter, Susan Imes, and her husband, Tim.
Mr. Imes' mother, Lola Imes, 87, already was living with her son and his wife, but Susan Imes found their home needed several changes and additions to accommodate her mother, who has mobility problems.
“We got a toilet riser and a potty chair and a walker,” she said. “I started doing 'the plan,'” she said, explaining she evaluated the layout of the house and change furniture around to make getting around easier for her mother.
For instance, she swapped the dining room with the living room; although it makes the living room smaller, her mother has a more direct route to the living room and into a new lift chair.
She also got a smaller bed for her mother and removed the box springs, making it easier for her to get into and out of bed, and moved a lightweight table away from the bed in case she reached out for it for balance. She replaced it with a small refrigerator to stow drinks and a snack basket on top of it. She also installed several grab bars for her to use for balance and a large television so her mother could watch from bed.
As a health care professional, Susan Imes, who teaches nursing at Marshall University, was aware of many products that could help her mother be safer in her home and she had several ideas on her own to better protect her mother.
However, she said because of the family's need, she did research locally and online and found other products and services that were helpful.
For instance, one of the home health providers for Berry sells bed rails that attach to the bed frame, giving her something to grab for balance when getting out of bed. It was something she needed that she and her daughter-in-law didn't know was available.
Falling is a major concern at the Imes house and Susan Imes found a company online that provides an invaluable service.
BeClose.com offers a wireless monitoring system for those with mobility issues. Not only does the patient wear a monitoring device, but sensors are placed throughout the house and alerts are sent to the caregiver, or a family member outside the area, if the system detects something “out of the ordinary.” The alerts can be sent to e-mail accounts or mobile devices and can be programmed for the patient's unique needs,
Liddy Manson, president of BeClose, started the company 14 months ago with the services of the security system alarm.com and with a technology expert.
“I had been looking at how technology can help make the aging process less painful for a while,” Manson, an advocate for aging in place, said. “What do you do when you discover your parnets can't live the way they used to?...The aging process is a much more painful process than it needs to be because the products just aren't out there and as a society, we haven't gotten to a place where we talk about aging development.”
Manson said her mother, a widow who is healthy and active, was pleased to have the BeClose system in her house and made choices as to how much monitoring she wanted and needed.
“A lot of people in that generation think, we made it through the Depression; we can make it through this,” Manson said. “They like being independent and they're not completely comfortable with technology.”
She said the system was perfect for her mother, who didn't want someone visiting her home frequently to check on her and didn't want to set up the system for checks there were too frequent.
Manson said the BeClose system operates on the premise that inactivity indicates a problem. It can be programmed to expect the client to arise at a certain time, go to bed at a certain time and detect all regular patterns so if the client doesn't observe those patterns, their caregiver will be alerted and the client can be checked on.
BeClose offers a device the client can wear, but that's optional.
“Research shows the device worn around the neck works 25 or 30 percent of the time,” Manson said. “That's because people don't wear them in the bath and most people don't want to wear them to bed. Also, they might be unconscious or for other reasons unable to push the button.”
Some local home health services will look over the house where the patient lives and make recommendations about products that would help ensure safety.
In Ashland, TLC Home Care, a non-profit agency affiliated with Masonic Homes of Kentucky, will help patients and their families find product and service providers that fit into their financial means.
TLC charges a fee based on a sliding scale for their service. They also will offer followup visits to re-evaluate needs for a percentage of the initial fee. The service is open to anyone, but members of the Masons and Eastern Star qualify for a discount.
Susan Imes also came up with some ideas to help make both moms more comfortable, including air-brushed signs on their bedroom doors with their names on it and a mention of the family dog, Duke.
“Duke naps in one room and sleeps in the other,” she said, explaining the signs not only indicate whose room it is, but which room the dog sleeps and naps in.
Berry's dog wasn't able to move to the Imes house with her, so one of her sons gave the dog a permanent home. Susan Imes makes sure the dog gets frequent visits at her house.
She said she also gets much-needed help from friends who help out, allowing her to run errands and get rest.
“I don't know what I would have done if I couldn't call on friends to stop by or pick up this and that,” she said. Between the BeClose system and changes and additions they've made to their house, she said she feels much better about the care of their moms.
“I can actually go to bed and get some sleep and feel safe they I'll get a call,” she said.
Both Tim and Susan Imes are especially close to their mothers, so their care is a crucial part of their lives..
“Tim and I both lost our fathers at an early age and were raised by single moms,” she explained. “Our mothers are so important to us.”
LEE WARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2661.
Woman redesigns house for safety after mother-in-law, mother move in
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