Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on November 11, 2010. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Help those with physical problems at the holidays
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Making daily tasks easier for people with physical limitations can be a meaningful gift to them at the holidays or anytime.
Routine tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and bathing are generally easy for those who can move freely. When health or age put a person in a wheelchair or a walker, accomplishing these tasks takes thought and planning. Changes in vision, hearing or speaking present even more challenges.
“During the holiday season, we often focus on tasks to be done and other demands on our time,” said Bonnie Carew, rural health program leader for the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “Taking some time to help someone who is permanently or temporarily limited in their mobility can add so much to that person’s holiday experience.”
For many people, the holiday season is a good time to refuel the spirit of altruism.
“The rewards of appreciation and the knowledge that small acts of kindness bring joy to the world are gifts that come the caregiver’s way,” Carew said.
There are many ways to help those in need. Some simple things can make a big difference in a person’s ability to function, Carew said. Carew and Ann Sansing, Extension community health coordinator, offered tips.
Offer to drive or arrange for transportation for those who no longer drive but need to make doctor visits, go grocery shopping or attend social events. Run errands, shop, mail bills or pick up medication for a person who has difficulty getting around.
“If the person has a pet, offer to take the animal to the veterinarian for a health checkup,” Sansing said. “Schedule visits and plan to take a game or swap jokes and stories to relieve boredom and stimulate the person’s mental well being.”
Make sure those with physical limitations do not have furniture, boxes, electrical cords or other objects blocking access to a room or cluttering a path through the living quarters. Be sure rugs and mats have nonskid backing.
Check rubber tips on the ends of walkers and canes for damage. Rearrange closets, cabinets and kitchen counters to provide easy access to household and personal items. Place items used daily, such as seasonings, coffee and tea, on the counter within easy reach.
“If the person with mobility issues lives alone, place a single set of plates and eating utensils on the counter,” Sansing said. “This provides easy access to these items and allows for cleanup without straining. Keep dish detergent near the sink, too.”
Those buying gifts for a person with limited mobility should think of items that can make that person’s life easier. A thick cotton-terry bathrobe is a good solution to drying off after a bath or shower. A sponge or scrub brush with a long handle is useful, and thick cotton towels can be used to pad a tub bench or as a bath wrap.
“These suggestions involve more time than money, and according to my parents, who are in their senior years, the thing seniors often appreciate most from their children, friends and other family members is the gift of time,” Sansing said. “A price cannot be put on this gift, but blessings will overflow for both the giver and receiver."
For more tips on making life easier for seniors and those with physical limitations, view the Extension Service’s Smart Aging: Healthy Futures information page.