CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Even a small step up might deserve a grab bar. Steve Eulitt installed bars around Frances Moriguchi's Wailupe Circle home.
Home grab bars help the elderly avoid accidents
Such safety features are a necessity for seniors living at home, a specialist warns
When Steve Eulitt installed grab bars for his mother, Delma, to help boost her mobility after she had become weakened by illness, he had no idea that it would eventually lead him to a new full-time business.
"There was a need to be filled and this job chose me," said Eulitt, who now installs grab bars for former patients at Castle Medical Center, Queen's Medical Center, Kuakini Health System, St. Francis Medical Center and the Rehab Center of the Pacific.
Eulitt, who served as a caregiver to his ailing mother from 1975 until her death in 1997, now gives customers all over Oahu the same assistance that he gave to her. He said that he's seen his business and others geared to Hawaii's kupuna market grow steadily and expects that demand for these types of home care products to continue growing.
Since falls are the top cause of death for Hawaii's elderly, grab bars and other safety features have become necessities in homes where Hawaii's kupuna live, said Bonnie Osaki, a certified aging-in-place specialist for Graham Builders. Some nine out of 10 jobs that Graham Builders works involve seniors who want to continue living independently at home, she said.
"Grandparents, parents, kids all want to live and take care of each other," Osaki said. "Mainlanders view an adult child living at home as lacking ambition (think Matthew McConaughey in the movie Failure to Launch) but Hawaii's locals view the adult child with reverence. They understand this is a loyal child. This statewide approval makes it easy for adult children and their children to live with their aging parents."
The phenomenon has also been spurred by the limited availability of land in Hawaii and the trend toward longer life, Osaki said.
"Families will continue to grow. People want to live independently," she said.
"Care home and retirement facility living is too expensive for many. The demand for aging in place will continue until something revolutionary is discovered."
In the meantime, Hawaii homeowners must use aging-in-place construction and products to keep the main rooms available and accessible for kupuna, Osaki said.
"Based on the statistic that 1 in 5 people will be in a wheelchair at some point of their lives, you can see how this philosophy is smart for all homes," she said. "We even have people as young as 35 thinking about how to modify their homes for later."
Frances Moriguchi first contacted Eulitt to make her home more accessible for her late husband Raymond, who was physically challenged. Now a widow, Moriguchi still draws peace of mind from the grab bars installed in her home.
"My children are in California, so it's a big help to have the grab bars," Moriguchi said. "They give me a feeling of security. I hold on for dear life and they bring me immeasurable reassurance."
Safety in the golden years
These recommendations will enhance mobility in the home:
» Ensure proper lighting.
» Make floors non-skid.
» Install grab bars where there is danger of falling.
» Make the bedrooms, bathrooms, laundry room, kitchen and living area level with the parking area,
» Make doorways and hallways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs
» Consider new technology that makes it possible to raise and lower stoves, sinks and counters for easier access.
Source: Bonnie Osaki and Steve Eulitt