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tips for caregivers: Climbing Stairs

If your loved one has mobility issues, a flight of stairs can sometimes seem like an insurmountable obstacle. At the same time, being able to move freely (and safely) throughout the home is imperative for your loved one's independence. Plus, the social and emotional benefits of leaving the home from time to time should not be thwarted because a few stairs are in the way. Below are some tips for helping your loved safely navigate the stairs.

  1. Remove any hazards and make sure the stairway is safe. Make sure there are no articles left on the stairs. Repair or replace broken treads or loose carpeting. Make sure the handrail is secure. Make sure the stairs are adequately lit.

  2. Installing handrails on both sides of the stairway in the home may provide the extra support your loved one needs to safely navigate the stairs. If that's not an option, or if your loved one needs to climb stairs away from home, a folded walker or cane can be used to provide extra support while climbing stairs. Make sure the device is firmly planted on the next step before your loved one attempts to use it for support on the stairs.

  3. If your loved one has difficulty climbing down stairs, they may benefit from climbing down backwards. Not only will this eliminate the possibility of pitching forward and falling downstairs face-first, it can also reduce the load on the knee joint for those suffering from joint pain. Exercise caution If your loved one has vision problems to ensure they can see where they are placing their feet.

  4. If your loved one is physically unable to climb or descend the stairs, even using the tips above, it may be time to consider installing a stair lift. Check with your loved one's physician; lifts and other assistive devices prescribed by the physician as durable medical equipment may be covered by Medicare Part B or veterans' benefits.

    A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.