My husband is a fall risk. Parkinson’s disease causes him to freeze, misread distances and depth, and shuffle rather than walk with feet raised high. And, research tells us that falling is the fifth-leading cause of death in seniors and expenditures related to fall injuries are expected to rise to $59.7 billion by 2020.

I knew I had to do something to keep my husband safe at home. But I did not want my home to look like a hospital or rehab center. I wanted my home to remain a welcoming retreat for us, our family, and our friends. I had no idea where to start.

Then I met with Carrie and Carrie, two physical therapists who seemed to know exactly what I wanted, and, importantly, what my husband needed. They formed a company, Stay Home Safely with the mission “to provide individuals of all ages with the opportunity to safely and independently remain in their home for as long as possible through home modifications.”

I was intrigued and set up a meeting with them. I had no idea what to expect and was surprised when they spent a morning with us and observed David’s efforts to move around our home. As physical therapists, they picked up on aspects of his mobility that I had not noticed. My husband is a proud man. He is reluctant to admit that he is not able to do all that he used to. Their gentle and professional approach melted his resistance, and he began to share his concerns with them.

What a difference their services made. Now, there are grab bars where he needs them, new ways for him to be seated at the table for dinner, and a re-arranged bedroom to make getting dressed in the morning easier and safer.  I have breathed a sigh of relief that he is as safe as possible.

Recently, I found this great checklist produced by The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a). It’s a simple way to evaluate your home for safety and includes tips from getting your eyesight evaluated to installing adjustable showerheads. Take steps today to help prevent falls at home.

Did you know that hospitals are beginning to think differently about the way they care for the elderly? Those of us who are caregivers know the importance of a holistic approach to caring for those we love. We know the importance of nutritious meals, of regular exercise, of mattering, of community. And, yes, we do everything in our power to keep our loved ones out of the hospital.

Going to the hospital conjures up images of cold rooms, lights that are too bright, well-meaning professionals who don’t really have the time to give the same level of care we give every day, and of a facility that is not sensitive tour loved ones’ unique needs.

But yesterday I learned there are a few enlightened hospitals that are developing programs to help you live your best life, regardless of your age. As patients enter the hospital at the Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC), they are asked an important question, “What matters to you?” The AAMC’s Institute on Aging is one of a handful of hospitals that are redefining hospital care for the elderly. I toured the 6th floor dedicated to seniors and found an age-friendly healthcare team. They formulated the “4 M’s” What Matters, Medication, Mentation (preventing, identifying, treating, and managing dementia, depression, and delirium) and Mobility.

Healing is as varied as the patients they care for. Professionally trained therapeutic musicians bring the healing power of music. Over 25 dog therapy volunteers visit with their pre-trained certified dogs. Some patients bring their pets with them to the hospital. Bringing patients together for a 40-minute group session helping them to heal faster than if they get PT in their rooms. Giving frail patients lightweight heated blankets rather than piling on heavy blankets that can break hips in the elderly.

I am certainly doing everything I can to keep my husband out of the hospital. And CareProvide’s caregivers do the same. But it’s comforting to know that if a situation arose that required hospitalization, there are hospitals that cater to the wide spectrum of needs the elderly present and deliver strategies that reduce the overall length of stay.