I,CAREGIVER: Childproofing for children and others
CAREGIVING is more than just physically helping an ill person get through the daily routines and visits to the doctors. It’s about organising schedules and looking at details to make the situation safe and efficient.
We often wonder about the safety of the outside world. We worry about things like ramps, parking and other facilities for those who need special care. What we often forget is the safety measures we have at home. What have we done to make our home safer for someone who is ill, who may need a wheelchair to get around, or is bedridden?
Where do we start? Think of making your house baby-safe. You would want to cover all the plug points, sharp edges of tables and beds. Some even put velcro strips on the refrigerator, so that a child does not leave the door ajar which would lead to the contents spoiling, but also to prevent him pulling out jars and bottles and possibly hurting himself.
You may also want to put velcro strips on drawers in the kitchen and bedrooms. Opened dresser drawers make wonderful ladders for a child who has just learnt to climb. File cabinets can also be dangerous especially when all drawers are open. They will topple over, believe me.
Bookcases are another hazard. We’ve been told that whatever can be bolted to the wall, should be. It’s not just dangerous for children. I have seen adults hold on to bookshelves to get up from the floor or to lift themselves off a chair.
The bookshelf teeters precariously, threatening to topple over.
I have learnt that having objets d’art on coffee tables or side tables can also be dangerous for children. We have all seen or heard about how some children have a tendency to finger these items or pick up coins, beads, paper clips and other small objects to stuff into the mouth, nose or ears. These can choke or injure them.
Toddlers may manage doorknobs and handles well, but not the simple latch. So it is typical for many of us to put a latch on the outside of the bathroom or kitchen door so that our little ones cannot go there unattended and get into trouble. What we forget is that toddlers grow up. The most recent incident in our family was when a relative got locked inside his bathroom for hours. It was his day off while his wife went to work. So it was just him and his daughter at home. He’s a diabetic with hypertension and needs medication on time, just as he needs to eat and drink at the prescribed times.
He had gone to the bathroom at about 10am and could not get out because his 3-year-old daughter had latched the door from the outside. He called to her to open it, but she could not manage to do so. He did not have his telephone with him and he could not call out to his neighbours because he lived in a bungalow with a big garden. They would not have heard him.
The bathroom window could not be breached and his bathroom door could not be broken. They were both solid. There wasn’t anything hard enough in the bathroom to break the door down, only shampoo, soap bottles and other plastic things. He was trapped.
His wife came home at 6pm to find a daughter soiled and hungry and a husband who was weak from panic and hunger and who had not had his medication. He drank from the tap to stay hydrated and had nothing else.
As their house was childproof (with that exception of the latch on the bathroom door), they were very lucky that their daughter did not have access to household poisons like detergents and pesticides. At worst, it would be the cat food and litter box.
So many things could have gone wrong that day. My relative could have suffered from hypoglycemia and his blood pressure could have shot off the charts had he not remained in control despite his helpless position.
Because nothing went awry, we could all laugh about it, and he had to suffer much ribbing whenever we met. However, we have learnt from this and now we all go to the bathroom with our handphones.
You may wonder why childproofing a house is important. Apart from the obvious, that of keeping your children safe at home, you need to remember that when you care for the elderly who suffer from illnesses like dementia or just old age, they tend to be childlike too. You have to keep them safe too, just like you would your child.