Family Caregiver Alliance

Question: I'm afraid my mother-in-law is going to fall—she's getting so weak and frail. Is there anything I can do to make her house more safe or work with her to make sure she stays safe?

Answer: Call her physician and ask for a home care physical therapist to come to her home and do an evaluation. This is free and covered under Medicare. Physical therapists can:

  • assess your home for safety hazards;
  • do an evaluation on how your mother-in-law walks to see if there are some assistive devices, like a walker or cane, that might help her;
  • give her some exercises that could increase her balance and strength.

There are pads you can buy designed to protect the hips in case of a fall; I am sure the physical therapist can tell you where to get them, or your local medical supply store should carry them. Finally, I would consider an Adult Day Health program where there is a physical therapist on staff. Your mother in law might go two to three days each week and get exercises that will reinforce the training you got at home.

Regardless of opportunities for help from a physical therapist, you should be checking her house for inadequate lighting, loose rugs, electrical wires, dangerous stairs, and other things in the home that may impact safety.

Top Tip

Ask simple, answerable questions. Ask one question at a time; those with yes or no answers work best. Refrain from asking open-ended questions or giving too many choices. For example, ask, “Would you like to wear your white shirt or your blue shirt?” Better still, show her the choices—visual prompts and cues also help clarify your question and can guide her response.

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