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Stay at Home Solutions blogs on topics such as aging in place, universal design, adaptive equipment, home modifications, accessibility, durable medical equipment, legislation, and caregiving.

Posts in home modification
Do I Really Need a Ramp as I Age?

This answer is: not really. It depends on how well you plan changes to your home!

Ramps are mostly a utilitarian tool for houses with steps to enter. I’ve never known anyone to say that they would LOVE to have a ramp attached to their house. More people would rather have a zero step entry.

But if life sneaks up on you and you have little time to plan, a ramp is a good option to keep in mind to keep that ability to get in and out of your house. Let’s go over what types of ramps exist!

Photo of modular ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of modular ramp by Upside Innovations

Modular ramp:

Modular ramps are cost effective in that they can be prepped in one location and assembled in another. They are reusable, which is great for low income families or people who need to move to a different home. Modular ramps are considered a temporary structure and require no permit to build.

Here’s a link for more information on how to build a modular ramp from a local non profit in Minnesota. You can even add stairs to this model!

Permanent ramp:

Photo of wooden permanent ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of wooden permanent ramp by Upside Innovations

You do need a permit from your city to build a permanent ramp. These ramps are typically made of aluminum, wood, or concrete. Consider building this type of ramp if you are planning to live in your home for a lifetime.

Permanent ramps are the most expensive ones on the list. Make sure that you are satisfied with the design of the ramp before you build! Any last minute changes could be VERY expensive!

I would also double check and make sure the surface of the ramp will resist feeling slick from rain or ice. Have you ever pushed or pulled something with wheels up a hill or ramp when it’s slippery? If you haven’t, it’s NOT easy! I don’t want my ramp to turn into a slide if I can help it!

Transportable ramps:

I grouped the following ramps together because they are all designed to be set up and taken down frequently over a few steps: telescopic, folding, and suitcase. They are typically made of aluminum and some sort of anti-slip tape or treads.

Photo of telescopic ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of telescopic ramp by Upside Innovations

Telescopic ramps have two separate troughs for the right and left wheels of a wheelchair. This is a bad choice for scooters due to the third wheel in the middle!

Photo of foldable ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of foldable ramp by Upside Innovations

Folding ramps come in a variety of different sizes and are either bi-fold or tri-fold. They are foldable in order to conserve space when stored. People typically use these ramps to get in and out of a wheelchair accessible van.

Photo of suitcase ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of suitcase ramp by Upside Innovations

Suitcase ramps are bi-folds with handles to make it less awkward to carry. They vary in length from two to six feet, which makes it convenient to throw in the trunk of a car if you’re travelling or visiting family or friends.

Always check the weight limitations that transportable ramps can support. For instance, power wheelchairs can weigh up to 250 pounds alone! You definitely want to have a ramp that can support the power wheelchair plus a person.

Threshold ramps:

Photo of threshold ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of threshold ramp by Upside Innovations

This type of ramp is used to maneuver over a small barrier, like a door threshold or a curb. They’re made of rubber or metal and are very lightweight. Threshold ramps work on heights from ½ to six inches, so please don’t try and stack them if you need a height exceeding that (speaking from experience!).

Rampscape:

Lastly, let’s talk about my favorite type of ramp, the rampscape. They incorporate landscaping and grading to create a gradual incline to the threshold.

Photo of rampscape by Innovate Building Solutions. It doesn’t look like a ramp!

Photo of rampscape by Innovate Building Solutions. It doesn’t look like a ramp!

In my case, I would love to make a rampscape to my back door, which is the main entry in and out of my house. I’m planning on grading the dirt and pouring a concrete sidewalk that will make a gradual slope to my back door. This will eliminate the steps and make my door a zero step entry!

Rampscapes are beautiful, have great curb appeal, and stand the test of time. If you put in a rampscape, then anyone with any ability can visit your home! I have relatives who have a hard time walking and climbing steps. A rampscape would allow my relatives and wheelchair users to effortlessly go in and out of my house.

How cool is it to be the house everyone can visit?

Let me give you two tips for consideration when using ramps. First, try to place an overhead cover above your ramp. This helps with weather protection, especially if your ramp becomes slick from rain, ice, or snow. Overhead covers keep you dry and comfortable while self propelling wheelchairs, fumbling for keys, opening the door, etc.

The second thing to remember is that ramps with a rise of one inch to one foot (1:1) is the most ideal.

Why is that?

Well, have you ever pushed anyone in a wheelchair up or down a ramp? If the slope is more than 1:1, you are working VERY hard. This leads to increased physical labor for caregivers and a higher chance of injury.

Heck, I feel my body working harder when I’m walking up a steep hill by myself! I don’t want to work too hard when I’m helping somebody else!

Make sure you have the space for the length of the ramp you need. The rise at my back door is 14 inches, which means I need 14 feet of length for my ramp to be 1:1. Personally, I have the space to do that in my yard.

Now, if you don’t have the space for that, you may need to install something else besides a ramp, like a vertical lift.

Your takeaway from this tip should be: steep ramps are pains in the BUTT! Make sure you’ve got the room to make a ramp with a gradual slope. Steep ramps make it hard to get in and out of the house, which makes it so people never want to leave the house. Not leaving the house is very bad for your health!

I hope this article helps you plan for a ramp (or NO ramp) in your future. Personally, I don’t want to have to deal with ramps to get in and out of my home EVER. With my experience as a caregiver and occupational therapist, I’ve found that ramps can be treacherous.

That’s why I’m planning my rampscape while I can easily climb stairs, not when I struggle getting in and out of the house.

Do you use ramps at home? What type of ramp do you have? Tell us what you think about it in the comments below!

Remember, you better do it before you need it!

(Thank you to Upside Innovations for their great article on types of ramps!)

Suction Cup Grab Bars: Good or Secretly Evil?

Today, we’re going to talk about a highly contested, controversial topic: suction cup grab bars.

Clarke Healthcare suction cup grab bars.

Clarke Healthcare suction cup grab bars.

More than likely you’ve seen one of these things at the store or in the home of someone you know.

A suction cup grab bar is a handle with suction cups at both ends. They come in a variety of lengths from 12 inches on up. You can place them on any flat, non porous surface. Just avoid grout lines!

People really like suction cup grab bars because you:

  • Can buy them at any big box retailer or Amazon.

  • Don’t need tools to install them.

  • Don’t need to hire a contractor.

  • Can put them at any height and angle in the shower. Customizable to the individual!

  • Can install them on fiberglass, tile, marble, acrylic, porcelain, etc.

  • Can remove them when you don’t need them anymore.

I get the appeal. I truly do. What’s not to love about all of those points?

Clarke Healthcare Quattro Power Support Suction Cup Grab Bar

Clarke Healthcare Quattro Power Support Suction Cup Grab Bar

Check out this type of suction cup grab bar from Clarke Healthcare! I mean, the attachments to this thing alone are very attractive.

Suction cup grab bars are advertised as steadying devices. They aren’t meant for people to push or pull their whole weight on them when getting in and out of the shower or on and off the toilet.

This creates a conundrum if someone were to slip in the shower and instinctively grab onto the suction cup grab bar while generating a minimum of 50-80 lbs per force. Now some suction cup grab bar manufacturers say they can sustain up to 500 lbs per force, BUT they quickly follow up with stating that suctions cups lose pressure over time and NEED to be readjusted.

We know that temperature changes going from cold to very warm cause a loss in pressure between the suction cups and the wall surface.

Would you want to remove and reattach your suction cup grab bars every week or so?

Installation is not a one and done process. Even Consumer Affairs wrote an article that discusses how suction cup grab bars are only as effective as the method in which they’re mounted. It’s hard for us to judge exactly how much pressure we put on the grab bar. The author mentioned that if a very heavy person were to have a grab bar drilled into a stud, the grab bar would still require extra reinforcement to give the proper support that person needs when getting in and out of the shower.

Unfortunately, I’ve worked with quite a number of people who’ve had the frightening experience of pulling suction cup grab bars and standard grab bars off the wall! Those people never thought it could happen to them.

Group of women sitting and talking. Photo by Pexels.

Group of women sitting and talking. Photo by Pexels.

The probability of falling at home is highest the moment you step out of the shower. Why wouldn’t you choose a more secure option to keep you safe?

Let’s talk about the benefits of installing a standard grab bar:

Stainless steel grab bar from Home Depot.

Stainless steel grab bar from Home Depot.

  • ONE and DONE. You install the grab bar one time! No need to remove and reattach!

  • Placing the grab bar at the height and angle that works for you. Again, customizable, but this also depends on the stud placement and if you need additional plywood in the wall behind the shower surface.

  • You can hire a professional, do-it-yourself, or have a family member install the grab bar.

  • Save money by buying equipment that won’t lose suction, fall off the wall, and break into 100 pieces.

  • Confidence in knowing the grab bar stays put EVERY single time you get in and out of the shower.

  • Available in every color and finish. There’s even grab bars designed to look like a soap dish in the shower!

  • Fiberglass shower? No worries! The solid mount is designed to hold your grab bar in place.

In my perspective, grab bars are a great investment in lowering the chances of a fall. On the other hand, suction cup grab bars are akin to fast food: they provide immediate gratification with unwanted consequences later on.

Let me illustrate this point with an anecdote. Ethel (names have been changed) was preparing to return home from rehab after fracturing her hip. When we visited her home, I noticed she had a suction cup grab bar in the shower. I explained to Ethel and her daughter, Liz, to consider replacing the suction cup grab bar with a standard grab bar to avoid removing and reattaching the suction cups. Liz did not realize suction cup grab bars lost pressure and became very alarmed.


“I can’t come over and reattach those all the time.”

Ethel lived home alone and said she would ask her neighbor to reattach the suction cup grab bars. Liz and Ethel decided they didn’t want to hassle with hiring someone to install grab bars in the shower.

Eventually, Ethel finished rehab and went home. She started to get back to her regular schedule and neglected to ask her neighbor to check the pressure on her suction cup grab bars.

You know in your gut what happened next.

Ethel slipped while getting out of the shower and fell onto the floor with the suction cup grab bar in her hand. She went back to the hospital and rehab, but instead of going home her daughter helped her move into an assisted living facility.

She moved out of her home not by her choice, but by preventable circumstances.

Don’t let this be you or your loved ones. You should decide how long you live in your home. Not a piece of plastic!

Some people ask me: do I really need grab bars right now at this point in my life? My answer is, if you find yourself reaching out to steady yourself as you get in and out of the shower, you need grab bars. Shower doors, towel rods, and sink vanities are NOT suitable to withstand your weight either. Don’t even get me started on how many people I know who’ve pulled their towel rods and sinks out of the wall!

Contact me or another occupational therapist to help you decide where you should place grab bars in your bathroom. Remember, you better do it before you need it!

What Do You Need? A Zero Step Entry!
Front entry with zero step entry. Photo by the Journal of Light Construction

Front entry with zero step entry. Photo by the Journal of Light Construction

A zero step entry is a doorway to get in and out of your house with ZERO steps.

You know what’s a shame though? Less than 3.5% of homes in the U.S. have one zero step entry according to Joint Center for Housing Studies (2011).

Now, of course, I hope that figure has gone up since 2011. But I highly doubt it!

When I drive around and see new construction for houses and apartments, you better believe I’m rubbernecking to see if they’re putting in one entryway with zero steps!

But here’s the unfortunate truth: I see steps to go inside the front door, back door, and garage door.

Why do builders do this?

Because they do what they know. Builders don’t obsess about accessibility the way occupational therapists like me do!

I understand people think that a couple, two, three stairs won’t hurt anybody from going in and out of their house. But it actually does in the long run.

Let’s try an experiment:

I want you to carry something that requires two hands, like a laundry basket, across level flooring for ten feet.

I’ll wait here. . .

Okay! You’re finished! Great! How much effort did you put into that? How hard are you breathing? Can you still hold a conversation? Are your muscles tired?

Now, I want you to carry that same object up and down at least two stairs. If you have more stairs, try carrying your object up and down all of your stairs.

After all of your stair climbing, how much effort did your body put in to carrying an object up and down the stairs compared to no stairs at all?

As we age, this “simple” task of carrying objects up and down stairs becomes more difficult. Even though I’m in my 30’s, I notice I exert more energy to carry things up and down stairs compared to carrying things across the floor.

I hate to burst your bubble, but there will be a day when it’s harder for you to carry things up and down the stairs. It may be due to a back injury, arthritis, heart condition, etc., etc. You just never know!

So if you DON’T have a zero step entry, what can you do NOW to make sure you’re set for the future?

Start planning your zero step entry for your home!

Front zero step entry with portico and rampscape. Photo by Sutton Group Preferred Realty

Front zero step entry with portico and rampscape. Photo by Sutton Group Preferred Realty

It can be any entry you desire! The front door, the side door, the back door, the garage door, etc. You pick what works best for you and your house.

You can convert an existing window into a zero step entry door! If you’re creating a door out of a non-existing door, make sure to have the doorway width measure 36 inches for plenty of room to maneuver in and out of the house.

An issue that may come up is the fact that the main level of your house is not the same as the ground outside.

I have that EXACT same issue! So let’s dive into the problem solving process for my humble abode.

This is my back stoop with uneven pavers and rubber mats! This is a work in process, my darlings!

This is my back stoop with uneven pavers and rubber mats! This is a work in process, my darlings!

The problem for my house is the front and back entryway both have stairs to go inside. I would choose to make my back door zero entry because it’s closest to our driveway. There are several options I can think of off the top of my dome:

Wooden ramp from driveway to front door. Photo by Wheelchair Special Needs Project.

Wooden ramp from driveway to front door. Photo by Wheelchair Special Needs Project.

1) Install a ramp at the back door and create a minimum 6’x6’ landing for space to open the door and walk inside and outside. The ramp incline would need to gradually rise one foot per inch from the ground level to the height of the door threshold.

In my case, I would need 14 feet of ramp to accommodate the 14 inches from the ground to the top of my threshold. I would also make the ramp width at least 60 inches to allow plenty of room for a wheelchair user.

2) Install a rampscape at the back door. Rampscapes are ramps made by grading dirt to make that gradual incline to the door threshold. They look very pretty when landscaped with whatever materials you choose. I would lay a 6’x6’ concrete patio by the door, a 60 inch wide concrete sidewalk on the rampscape, and add lots of plants around it!

Rampscape from the driveway to the front door using pavers with a gradual incline. Photo by Schafer Construction

Rampscape from the driveway to the front door using pavers with a gradual incline. Photo by Schafer Construction

3) Install a vertical lift. A vertical lift is a platform that takes you from ground level and elevates you to the main threshold, like an outdoor elevator! I would still create a 6’x6’ landing to allow enough room to open and close the back door. This option would definitely require an overhead above the vertical lift to protect it from rain and snow.

Vertical platform lift next to small porch with four steps to enter door. Photo by Mobility Express

Vertical platform lift next to small porch with four steps to enter door. Photo by Mobility Express

All of the options above would cost thousands of dollars. The most inexpensive option would be installing a ramp. Personally, I would install an overhang or portico to cover the landing above the back doorway to avoid all forms of precipitation, especially after witnessing Missouri imitating Siberia this year!

Although I don’t have the funds at the moment, I can discuss this with my family, look for ways to fund a zero step entry, and ask for bids to help me select the best option and plan. Creating a zero step entry is a three year goal for me.

If you’re looking into building a new home, then you will spend the least amount of money to create a zero step entry!

Let’s say you wanted your zero step entry to be your garage door. Tell your builder! They can grade the site to ensure you drive into your garage and effortlessly step in and out of your home.

Sometimes, people are concerned that the only style of house they can build to include a zero step entry is a patio home.

NOT TRUE.

If your builder is not willing to make at least one zero step entry and keep whatever style of house you choose, then they do not have the creativity or desire to move outside of their comfort zone.

You can build ANY style of house and have at least one zero step entry.

Whichever doorway you choose, remember: it’s best to have the doorway covered above and to make sure water will drain away from the door. Water is bad inside of the house.

Contact me to help you create a zero step entry! You better do it before you need it!

Do you have a zero step entry? Show us pics. If not, what are your plans? Share in the comments below!

3 Ways to Store Your Kitchen Goods!

Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering, has taken the nation by storm!

Very tidy personal belonging organizer sitting on counter top. Picture by Unsplash

Very tidy personal belonging organizer sitting on counter top. Picture by Unsplash

If you haven’t heard about Marie Kondo or her book, she teaches people how to sort through and organize their personal belongings at home. You only keep items that bring you joy. This process will result in feeling less stressed and more happy in your home!

Another bonus of this method is less cleaning!

Of course there are some people, like my husband, who are scared that the Marie Kondo method forces you to get rid of all of your stuff. Definitely not the point, babe!

You keep what sparks joy! Don’t get rid of everything!

Anyway, I digress. . .

I love the concept of tidying up your space at home because this process makes your belongings more accessible to you.

For instance, Marie Kondo encourages people to sort through their personal items by category starting with clothing. She taught me a new way of folding clothing and storing it where you can see all of your clothes at one time in a drawer, on a shelf, or hanging on a rack. That way you use every single clothing item more because you can see it. You’re reminded that it’s there.

So now, I fold all of my scarves like this:

Organized scarf drawer a la Marie Kondo method! Picture by Maria Lindbergh

Organized scarf drawer a la Marie Kondo method! Picture by Maria Lindbergh

Today, I can see all of my scarves, so I’ve been wearing more of them lately instead of my top two!

Tidying Up is inspiring me to rethink how I store my personal items in a way that’s accessible to me. Which brings me to my most troubled spot: the kitchen!

A huge problem I have is storing my cast iron skillets. I have like six of them in skillet, griddle, and biscuit mold form. They are super heavy!

Semi-organized cast iron skillets, pots, and bowls in lower cabinet. Picture by Maria Lindbergh

Semi-organized cast iron skillets, pots, and bowls in lower cabinet. Picture by Maria Lindbergh

I can’t store them in an upper cabinet because I’m klutzy and might drop them on the counter or my foot. I’d definitely break something.

At the moment, my cast iron cookware sits on the lowest shelf in my bottom kitchen cabinet out of pure fear of hurting myself.

The other problem is my lower cabinets are deep. They go way back! I have to practically put all of my upper body inside the cabinet to reach things I’m looking for.

Needless to say, I put the least used items in the back of the cabinet and more frequently used items up front. This is a go to strategy for organizing any household items: put the most used items within reach!

But my cabinets still seem cluttered and don’t fit my Marie Kondo aesthetic! It’s not pretty. See for yourself:

There are some excellent storage solutions for cabinets that work well to make things more accessible so that I’m keeping my pots and pans in their assigned place and not overreaching.

One of these solutions is pull out shelving! Click here to see a video!

Kitchen with lower cabinets, drawers, and open shelving. Picture by Unsplash

Kitchen with lower cabinets, drawers, and open shelving. Picture by Unsplash

Pull out shelving allows you to install a drawer-like system inside of your cabinet. That way you open the cabinet door and pull out the shelf inside to reach your things that are waaaayyyyyyy deep back in the cabinet.

You don’t have to worry so much about putting the least used items in the back. You simply select where on the shelf you want to put your stuff and you can pull everything out at once.

That makes it easier to see all of the things you own too! What a concept to use the stuff you already own more often!

Hell, I might bake more biscuits if I can see my cast iron biscuit mold more often! That would spark joy in my husband!

As with everything else, there are tons of different options for pull out shelving. You can really make a big difference with a small budget depending on if you want custom or made-to-fit organizers.

Since made-to-fit is less costly, I would simply measure out the dimensions of my lower cabinets. I could go online or to a retailer, like Home Depot or Lowe’s, to select the best pull out shelving for my cabinet.

Personally, I really like wire pull out shelving. Why? Because it’s easier to see everything you have.

Also, it doesn’t tempt to me store small, little items in the pull out shelving. I can’t stow away stuff in lower cabinets with the risk of them falling underneath the shelving and being stuck there for life!

If I have to bend down and pull out a shelf to retrieve something, it’s easier if the cookware is larger. Small kitchen ware would better be suited for drawers and organizers that are counter height so you’re not exerting as much energy.

Work smarter, not harder!

The second way to store your kitchen items is through pull down shelving for upper cabinets (AKA One of the greatest inventions ever of all time and space!) Click here for a video!

Man reaching into upper cabinet with standard shelves. Think about how nice it would be to have pull down shelving! Picture by Unsplash

Man reaching into upper cabinet with standard shelves. Think about how nice it would be to have pull down shelving! Picture by Unsplash

If you have any shoulder, neck, or upper back problems, you should really consider pull down shelving! Again, no overreaching here! You just pull down all of the shelves in your upper cabinet to the counter level.

You never have to worry about putting your most used items on the lowest shelf again!

For people who are average height or shorter, pull down shelves make it so I can get the things I need when I need it! I don’t have to wait for my six foot tall husband to help me.

Talk about independence!

Now, it seems as though pricing for pull down shelves are more costly. So you may want to do more shopping and research when selecting the best product for you.

The last and least expensive strategy for kitchen storage is using under cabinet organizers, under shelf baskets, or shelf risers. This allows you to maximize the space you already have in your cabinets by storing items vertically. Check out these examples from Bed, Bath, and Beyond (I’m not affiliated with triple B! I just like showing you examples!)

Galley kitchen with minimal cabinet and counter top storage. Shelf risers and under shelf baskets would work perfectly here! Picture by Unsplash

Galley kitchen with minimal cabinet and counter top storage. Shelf risers and under shelf baskets would work perfectly here! Picture by Unsplash

This is a great option for apartment living where you typically have small kitchens with minimal storage.

Do you have pull out or pull down shelving? What kind of kitchen organizers do you use? Have you been tidying up?

Tell us about your experience! Share pictures! We don’t care if your stuff is clean! (It’s not our kitchen!)

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Worried About Dad?
Grandma wearing glasses and hat scowling at camera. Photo by Unsplash

Grandma wearing glasses and hat scowling at camera. Photo by Unsplash

Oftentimes, it’s difficult to know exactly how to help your family member at home. You may have noticed Grandma starting to drop her spatula more frequently. You see Dad trip on the door threshold every single time he enters the house through the garage.

In the back of your mind you start to worry about your family member’s safety. What if Dad falls and hurts himself or what if Grandma drops something sharp on her foot? But then you brush it off with, “Maybe those problems will go away on their own.”

Are you sure those problems will disappear?

Or perhaps you do bring up your concern with your family member and they say, “I’m doing fine. I don’t trip all the time” or “I don’t drop stuff every day.” In almost the same breath, your Dad trips again. Grandma drops a ladle on the floor.

What’s going on?!

You’re fighting between pushing your family member to talk to a professional or letting go of the issue altogether.

It’s very difficult when your family member insists they’re okay. But deep down inside, you know they’re not.

I urge you to go with your first instinct! Encouraging your family to talk to a professional is a great start to figuring out how to keep dear old Dad or Grandma at home. But what kind of professional do you talk to?

Me on a windy fall day!

Me on a windy fall day!

The most bang for your buck would be talking to an occupational therapist. All we do day in and day out is problem solve ways for people to do their daily activities. In fact, click on this link to read research on how effective we are at helping people out! Occupational therapists figure out how to help Grandma stop dropping her spatulas and how to keep Dad from tripping when he walks into the house. (Of course, we look at other issues too!)

People tend to think, “Well, I may have a hard time with X now, but it’s not a big deal.” Wrong! This kind of everyday stuff seems little until it adds up to an injury at home.

Man laughing. Photo by Unsplash

Man laughing. Photo by Unsplash

Occupational therapists break it down by looking at your personal abilities, the demands of the task, and the environment. Let’s take Dad’s case of tripping when he walks into the house from the garage. An occupational therapist ( also known as OT) would assess Dad and find out his knees are worn out by years of playing flag football with his friends. Dad has neuropathy, a symptom of diabetes, and cannot feel his feet very well when he walks around. These two factors can make it more difficult to walk and regain your balance if you trip.

Walking into the house from the garage requires Dad to go up two stairs and over the door threshold. Upon examining the environment, the OT would see this entry is poorly lit, the threshold is 2 and ½ inches high, there is no handrail, and the depth of the steps are very shallow.

At this stage, the OT informs your Dad that although his knees will never be quite like the 6 million dollar man’s knees, he can make some changes to the doorway that will make it easier and safer for him to enter the home without tripping. The OT offers ideas like adding motion-sensor lighting, removing the door threshold, installing two handrails on both sides of the steps, deepening the steps, creating a ramp in the garage, installing a vertical lift, creating platform steps, etc.

Next, the OT coaches Dad to select the options that he likes the most. We know that people who choose their own solutions are more satisfied compared to people who don’t have the ability to choose.

Briefcase full of money. Photo by Pexels

Briefcase full of money. Photo by Pexels

Your dad is financially savvy and acutely aware that your mother wants to move to Florida in the next ten years or so. He doesn’t want to spend a ton of money and he wants to increase the value of the house.

Dad chooses to pull out the threshold and install platform steps with handrails and a motion-sensor light to help him get in and out of the house for years to come. “I have enough room in my garage after tidying it up!” #KonMari

After the garage entry is modified, you notice your Dad never trips when getting in and out of the house! Is this what peace of mind feels like?

OTs have the medical background and practical mindset to help your family stay safe in the home. We understand how medical conditions and aging can impact our ability to do the things we need and want to do!

In addition to our professional expertise, most of us have personal experience as caregivers with our own family. I helped my grandparents live in their home for thirteen years. We sympathize with your deepest desire to keep your family safe!

Despite the medical background, OTs never want your home to look like a hospital! We enjoy helping you create spaces that are functional for you without visitors ever knowing the reasoning behind your home design.

We’re also relentlessly optimistic, much to the chagrin of some people. There is never a problem too tough to solve.

“Yeah!!” written on a sign with confetti. Photo by Pexels

“Yeah!!” written on a sign with confetti. Photo by Pexels

The big takeaway is there are professionals to help you keep your family safe. Reach out to others and ask questions. If you can’t find an occupational therapist right away, talk to a social worker, case manager, your local area agency on aging, senior centers, or your county’s senior service department.

In the Kansas City area, you can visit the Mid-America Regional Council, Wyandotte/Leavenworth Area Agency on Aging, or the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging to learn more about resources available to help people live in their home and community as long as they like.

There is so much information available, sometimes it’s difficult to navigate through everything and keep a clear idea of who does what. Don’t worry! You will find the answers you need. But remember, you better do it before you need it!

Aerosmith Wants You to "Walk-er This Way"!

Have you ever thought about the possibility that you might need to use a walker someday? A walker is a type of mobility device used to help your balance. Other types of mobility devices are canes, rollators, wheelchairs, and scooters.

Unsplash

Unsplash

You may have a fleeting moment of insight that you’ll need something like that as you age. But you don’t give it more thought than that.

I bring up mobility devices today because they can be REALLY REALLY difficult to use at home.

Why?

Because your home is not set up to allow you and another object to seamlessly move around.

You’ve got the coffee table too close to the couch. The door frames are 27 inches wide. Your chest of drawers is 12 inches away from your side of the bed. I could go on forever!

You didn’t set up your house for a mobility device because you didn’t think you needed more room.

That’s okay! You and every other person on the planet has done the exact same thing. Now’s the time to make some changes!

I’m here for you! I think about mobility devices constantly because I’ve worked with many people on how to do what they need to do at home with the space they’ve got. I lovingly bring up the nitty gritty details on how to move around your home with your device to make sure you can live your life safely and comfortably.

Let me share what I did for one of my clients, Marge (names have been changed for privacy purposes!).

Marge had a terrible year. She was in the hospital for over a month and went to rehab for three months prior to going home. Before the hospital, Marge was able to walk around in her apartment and community with no problems. However after being sick for such a long time, she did not regain the strength in her legs to confidently walk like she used to.

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Marge’s thoughtful son saw his mother push herself in a manual wheelchair over high pile carpet flooring in her apartment. He heard Marge talk about how sore her arms were from pushing herself from her bed to the bathroom at night and how difficult it was to move around her furniture.

To make life “easier”, Marge’s son bought her a scooter to use in her apartment.

Little did Marge’s son know, scooters require a wide turning radius to allow the user to turn 180 degrees or less. On the market, the “best” scooter could turn with a 38” radius. This makes scooters terrible for homes because people typically place furniture under 38” apart meaning there is NO room for scooters.

What ends up happening is scooter users need to drive forward and reverse a lot when navigating their homes. This requires a skilled driver to avoid scratching walls, door frames, furniture, or running over people!

My point is very FEW people do well with scooters inside of their homes.

Scooters make moving in living rooms impossible! Photo by Unsplash

Scooters make moving in living rooms impossible! Photo by Unsplash

So what did I do for my dear friend Marge?

When I met with Marge, I assessed her physical abilities while getting on and off the scooter and her driving skills. I also looked at how she did using her manual wheelchair. Comparing the two devices, I noted that Marge was more safe and independent getting in and out of her wheelchair than the scooter. Marge did not bump against her furniture or walls in the wheelchair. She did hit a door frame and recliner while using the scooter.

I told Marge I did not recommend she use the scooter in her home. The scooter increased her chances of serious injury if she used it in her apartment.

I gave Marge a couple of options:

  1. Remove the high pile carpet and replace it with low pile carpet or another type of flooring like laminate. This requires less effort for a wheelchair user to get around.

  2. Use a power wheelchair. Power wheelchairs need 20 inches or less turning radius, depending on the skill of the driver.

The downside to power wheelchairs is the price. They can cost as much as a car and are just as lethal if the driver does not have good driving skills.

Medicare will SOMETIMES pay for the cost of a power wheelchair, but they need excellent medical reasoning and documentation from your doctor, an occupational or physical therapist, and a third party mobility device supplier. For instance, Marge would need to show she had a drastic decline with her physical status to qualify for a power wheelchair through Medicare.

If Medicare does pay for the power wheelchair, then you are SOOOO lucky! All you have to do is wait several months for receipt of your power wheelchair, which is very difficult to do since you probably needed the power wheelchair for everyday living already!!!

Good mobility device companies usually offer a loaner power wheelchair to rent while you wait for your power wheelchair though. Keep that in mind!

In Marge’s case, she had the funds to purchase a standard power wheelchair to use in her home and community. I trained Marge how to drive the power wheelchair and get in and out of it. We set up her charging station within reach of her bedside table to plug in the power wheelchair at night.

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I was happy to see Marge’s gleeful expression while she zipped around her apartment. Her son looked relieved when he saw Marge move around without taking off the door frame.

Sometimes, you need an objective eye to show you previously unknown options. Marge’s son was trying to help his mom the best way he knew how.

When it comes to safety at home, it’s best to consult a professional like me to help you find the perfect solution that fits you. I helped Marge find ways to live at home safely and independently. She doesn’t need a caregiver to push her in the wheelchair. She can take herself to the bathroom or living room or dining hall. Marge is her own person living happily in her home.

What do you want to know about making your home safer? What have you already done to prepare yourself for the future? All I know is you better do it before you need it!

Ways to Set Yourself Up to Age Where You Are

Foreword:

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We the people of Stay at Home Solutions fully believe that you should remain in your home and community as long as you like no matter the circumstances. Although we focus on home modifications, or making changes in the home, we understand that there are many components to helping people make changes for aging in place. Our lovely guest author, Hazel Bridges, shares a common mission with us.

Hazel Bridges is the creator of AgingWellness.org, a website that aims to provide health and wellness resources for aging seniors. She’s a breast cancer survivor and challenges herself and others to live life to the fullest.

Settling down in Florida isn’t as popular as it seems. In fact, almost nine out of 10 people over the age of 65 want to enjoy their retirement at home. Are you among them? If so, you likely have numerous reasons for staying put. You’ve been there for years, put down roots, and gotten so used to the locale that anywhere else would just seem foreign. Plus, you likely have plenty of relatives and friends nearby, and it would be too hard to bid them all farewell. Nonetheless, aging in place is more than just carrying on as you are. you need to adapt your home to the changes ahead so you’ll stay secure and comfortable well into your golden years.

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Establish a Budget

The renovations you make will likely run into the thousands of dollars, so it’s good to have a plan in place for how you’re going to pay for them, along with an upper limit so you don’t go over your budget. You may want to consider a home equity loan or reverse mortgage, both of which are popular means of financing an extensive remodeling. (For specific financial resources in Kansas and Missouri, CLICK HERE!)

Perform a Safety Check

Modifications should address whatever dangers are present in your home. Many of those are the same regardless of the age of the residents, such as a clogged chimney or faulty water heaters, so make sure those are addressed, as well as the ones that are related to your health condition in the future. You may need to call in the help of a professional.

Make a Plan

Having scoured the house for potential dangers and sources of discomfort, make a list of all the renovations you need to make, with the most important on top. You’ll need to interview potential contractors and apply for permits if you’re making any serious structural changes to the home. All of that takes time, so make room in your schedule for it.

Improve Mobility

This should be a major focus, as getting up and down stairs will be more difficult in the years ahead. A ramp at the entrance way would solve that problem nicely, though they generally run between $3,500 and $8,000 according to Networx. Doorways in the interior can be made more accommodating for much cheaper with the installation of expandable hinges.

Prevent Falls

Taking steps to prevent falls is equally as important as improving mobility, if not more. Focus on the kitchen and bathroom, both of which can be particularly hazardous largely due to moisture. Slip-free flooring would be ideal for both areas, whereas safety modifications such as grab bars, walk-in shower, and shower chairs make keeping clean a much less risky endeavor.

Enhance Overall Comfort

With your safety addressed, you can have a little fun, as your retirement is supposed to be enjoyable. Be creative. Awesome Inventions does precisely that in proposing doors that double as bookshelves or a shower area for you dog. While you’re at it, you could transform an entire room into a library or hobby space for paining, reading, and writing.

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Find Some Help

You may not need it now, but there are numerous professionals offering custodial care in your city. For a small fee, caregivers help out with whatever chores need doing around the house, as well as things such as bathing, dressing, and meal preparation. Familiarize yourself with the costs, as you never know when you’ll need the services.

Once you’ve taken these measures, there’s nothing to stop you from enjoying your retirement in safety without picking up your roots and moving. And that makes it a wonderful time to be alive.

Afterword:

Thank you, Hazel, for bringing up great points for people to consider! Money is one of the biggest barriers to home modifications, or making changes in the home. People balk at the price of remodeling for good reason! It’s pricey!

It’s important to look at home modifications as an investment for your health and safety throughout life. If you’re a Kansas or Missouri resident, click here to look at financial resources for our area. Be aware that home modifications do not always mean changing the structure of the environment, like ripping out a step in shower and putting in a barrier free shower.

Home modifications can also be home repairs, purchasing household items (i.e. a night lamp to see the pathway to the bathroom), and adaptive equipment, like a reacher or grabber. The big takeaway is you need an occupational therapist to help you decide what’s going to work the best for you. Occupational therapists save you money! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen time and money wasted on home modifications because there wasn’t an occupational therapist involved! I’ve seen grab bars put in the wrong spot for the person using it, slippery flooring, all white bathrooms (bad for people with low vision), etc., etc., etc.!

When considering making changes at home, call me to help you navigate the best option for you. I’m happy to work with the contractor of your choosing to customize your house to your needs. My favorite part about my job is helping people fulfill their ultimate wish: the ability to remain in the comfort of their own home.

Hooray for planning for a safe and independent future at home! Today’s the day! You better do it before you need it!

New Year Resolution 2019 for Your Home
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Happy New Year, my friends! Here at Stay at Home Solutions, we really enjoyed celebrating the holidays, but we’re even happier to get back on track with our purpose to serve the Kansas City area and beyond.

Our mission is to help people figure out what changes they need to live at home safely and independently as long as they choose.

What do I mean by making changes in the home? They could be as simple as putting an automatic sensor night light next to the bed or placing the most used dishes closer to your reach. Some changes in the home may be more extensive like installing a barrier free shower or making one entryway stepless.

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Believe it or not, many people don’t have the choice of living in their own home.

Falls and injuries in the home are often the culprit to why someone needs to move out of their private abode.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of well meaning friends and family members make the unwanted decision to move their loved one into a senior living community or a nursing home. It’s hard for every party involved in this situation. No one wants to have their loved one move into an institution.

Let me help you prevent this scenario in your life! There are many preventable actions you can take today to avoid having someone else decide when you move out of your house. Make it your resolve to call us to help you navigate what actions to take!

I’ll tell you what actions Esther took to help her live in her home safely. When I saw Esther, she explained that she barely took showers because she was scared to death of falling while getting in and out of her shower.

I didn’t blame Esther at all. Looking at the shower I wondered how she managed to get in at all! The shower required her to step up eight inches and had a small, slippery built in seat.

Now, I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you if you’ve never had problems moving around. But it’s a BIG deal to a lot of older adults.

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During my evaluation, I noticed Esther was weak and needed quite a bit of help from her caregiver to get in and out of the shower. The chronic pain in her back and legs made it more difficult to shower without falling at a moment’s notice.

Esther lives in a senior living community. The director of the community explained that the shower Esther had was newly installed. It was their version of a “walk in shower”. Naturally if Esther wanted a new shower, she could pay for it out of pocket.

Sidenote: Why don’t these communities consult with occupational therapists? We can help them save so much time and money by not installing these step up showers!

Not to my surprise, Esther was not interested in installing a barrier free shower with money from her own pocket. “What am I going to do? Not shower at all?”

During my assessment, I measured the dimensions of the shower and noted that a shower chair with a backrest and armrests could easily fit inside. The shower chair would provide firm seating for Esther instead of the slippery built in seat. I recommended she install a couple of grab bars: one outside the shower and one inside next to the shower chair.

Sadly, the bathroom did not allow enough space for us to make changes to the step up inside the shower. Esther said she would just deal with it, “Maybe it will strengthen my legs.”

Esther already had a long handled shower head to aim water wherever she needed while sitting down. Sitting down while showering saves energy and prevents falls. It also gives caregivers peace of mind to not worry about catching a slippery body!

When the contractor came to install the grab bars, I worked with him on the best placement based off of Esther’s height and reach.

I love customizing changes at home to the client’s exact needs!

Once the project was completed and everything was installed, Esther took her first shower. She gushed about it over the phone to me, “I love it so much! I feel much safer!”

On my next visit to Esther’s home, she was late to answer the door. I felt concerned at first thinking Esther had an accident and was injured. Much to my relief, Esther came to the door and told me, “I felt so good taking a shower this morning that I asked my caregiver to let me sit in there longer.”

I can’t describe how amazing it feels to help someone feel safer doing what so many of us take for granted. Every day, we bebop along getting dressed in the morning, making coffee, driving to work, vacuuming, etc. We don’t think about what it might look like when we get older or if we were to have an injury.

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Now, Esther takes more showers during the week because she feels safe and comfortable. Her caregiver doesn’t worry about her falling as much while getting in and out of the shower. My work helped two people and gave peace of mind to Esther’s sons.

This anecdote is just a small slice of what I do for people in my community. It’s amazing to tell people what I do for a living: I empower people to live in their home safely. This is my purpose on this planet.

I’m challenging you to make a resolution at the top of 2019 right now. Your resolution is to take one action step towards helping you live at home for a lifetime. That action step could be many things: call me, look at my blog for ideas, watch my videos, or learn about financial resources for home modifications by clicking HERE.

Just learning about your options for making changes at home can be tremendously helpful in the future when you need it. Why wait? Do it before you need it!

How to Make the Bathroom Safe: A Case Study

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

-Socrates

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In my line of work, I find that people fight “the old” constantly. I help people find ways to live at home as long as they want, no matter what happens to them in life.

Now you may think that I’m referring to “the old” as in old people. How dare you?! On the contrary, “the old” isn’t people who are getting older! “The old” is how houses are built and set up in the past and today.

Do you have arthritis? Did you get injured in a car accident? Did the doctor inform you that you have a chronic disease? I can help you live at home despite any of those things.

“Building the new” means a couple of things to me too! Of course, “building the new” could refer to professionals in the housing industry creating accessible homes right now. But “building the new” also refers to having a new way of thinking!

Instead of thinking, “Oh, I’ve lived in this house for thirty years, and I’ve always done things this way”, I ask people to be open to the idea that you can live in your house by making minor changes that ensure your safety and independence.

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One of my clients, let’s call him Tom, asked for a home evaluation to see what he could do to feel safer while using his bathroom. During assessments, I ask personal questions like, “Do you get tired when you’re showering?”

Tom told me he did feel tired while showering.

Hard fact per the CDC: the most falls that happen at home occur when people step out of the shower.

I told Tom that feeling tired while showering could make it easier for him to fall in the shower and get hurt! Tom quickly countered that he has always stood to take a shower!

My inner dialogue started engaging. I thought, “Oh no, Tom is not accepting the fact that his body is changing and he has different needs then he did decades ago.” Instead of panicking, I knew that I could come to a perfect solution for Tom to provide the support he needed.

During my assessment, I noticed Tom had no place to safely sit in his step in shower. Even if Tom did sit in the shower, the shower head would constantly spray him in the face and he would have no control of where to aim the water!

Well, I don’t want Tom to drown in his own shower!

Tom and I discussed different options on what to do with the shower. An inexpensive way was to use a shower chair that was not attached to the wall. This would allow Tom to stand or sit during the shower depending on how he felt that day. I let him know at least the shower chair would be there if he felt tired and needed to sit and rest. Shower chairs with backrests and armrests are ideal to let Tom lean back to relax.

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Next, I recommended Tom install a handheld shower head on a height adjustable mount. The handheld shower head allows Tom to aim water where ever he likes while sitting or standing in the shower. A height adjustable mount gives Tom the ability to put the shower head down and adjust the shower head at the height he wants. If Tom wants to stand and shower, he would adjust the shower head above his head. If he prefers to sit and shower, Tom would lower the height of the shower head.

Arthritis can be very nasty to our grip strength as we mature. To make sure Tom could always manage the water controls, I suggested replacing the water control that depended on twisting wrist action to a lever style handle. Lever style handles require very little effort to use.

As a rule of thumb, I help people prevent twisting their backs while reaching for soap and shampoo in the shower. I told Tom he would benefit from placing shower storage within reach in front of his body while sitting in the shower chair. Tom agreed and decided to install a corner shelf in the shower at his shoulder height. This is a great technique to prevent falls as well!

We also discussed installing one grab bar in the shower and one grab bar outside of the shower to give Tom stability while stepping in and out of the shower. Although the shower lip was only several inches high, it’s very easy for people to trip on the lip and fall. We placed the grab bars at heights that were specific for Tom’s anthropometrics. After all, Tom’s the only one using the shower!

I love customizing people’s homes!

Tom agreed to these inexpensive options. He liked the idea of being able to stand or sit when he wanted. Tom kept his freedom and dignity to shower while feeling safe at the same time.

I can’t express the satisfaction I feel when I help people get what they want. Tom chose the fixtures he wanted to keep in line with the aesthetics of his bathroom. Nothing looked like a sterile hospital or nursing home. If Tom had a visitor look at his bathroom, no one would have any idea that we made changes in order to prevent Tom from falling while showering.

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While we gather with our loved ones this holiday season, I encourage you to talk to your family members about how their needs may be changing. We know that you and your family are dealing with “the old”, or the way houses are currently set up to be inaccessible. Let’s talk about “building the new”, making those changes in the home that can allow your family members to live safely and independently at home.

Call me or email me for ideas on how to talk with your family members about how they are doing taking care of themselves and their homes. I hate to brag, but I’m very good at talking about these personal things with people! In fact, let me talk to your family members for you!

With that being said, I wish you all a lovely Holiday Season! I will see you on the blog in January!

Tis the Season for Granny's Holiday Gift Guide!
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Happy holidays, fellow adult children or adult grandchildren of the world! I created a lovely holiday gift guide for your consideration when purchasing a gift for dear Granny or Grandpa.

Naysayer: “You’re too late! Why didn’t you post this gift guide before Black Friday?”

Well, naysayer, I understand your frustrated cries, but I do know that there are procrastinators out there like me. If you’re taking care of yourself, your kids, and your parents, how do you even have time to plan Black Friday shopping? Haven’t you heard about how hard caregivers have it in life?

Or maybe you just need extra time to digest your holiday shopping options before making a money-based commitment. Either way, I’m trying to make it easier for you to get what your mature relatives need and want!

After much conversation with several grannies in my life, I compiled a list for your consideration this holiday season. Let the gift giving begin!

1) Roomba

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Amazon

The Roomba almost did not make the list this year because it’s a little controversial for people who have a hard time walking in the house.

You see, Roombas can be a little too quiet and difficult to see for grannies and grandpas. They could become a potential trip hazard! We don’t want to give the holiday experience of going to the ER!

The reasons why we decided to place Roombas on the holiday gift guide outnumber the risk for falls. As we get older, it can be harder to sweep and vacuum in your home. It’s nice to have a cute little robot scurrying around and cleaning up crumbs off the floor!

If you’re going with a Roomba for Granny this year make sure you pick one that is a contrasting color with her floor. For example if Granny has cream colored carpet, pick a black Roomba! That will help Granny see the Roomba and prevent her from tripping on it.

Also, the internet did not fail me when I researched different ways to decorate Roombas. I saw decal stickers in every color and Roomba costumes. My point is this: you can make Granny’s Roomba stand out while it works to keep her floor clean as a whistle.

Another idea is to copy off Tom from “Parks and Recreation” and mount an MP3 player to the top of Granny’s Roomba. This is like a double bonus because the Roomba is cleaning the house and entertaining your grandma with musical classics from her youth! Genius!

2) Traction cleats

Working Person’s Store

Working Person’s Store

Okay, this is a no brainer. It’s snowed in Kansas City like 500 times already this year. Granny needs some traction cleats to put on her shoes so she doesn’t slip outside!

Granny has a life, you know! She needs to get groceries, see the doctor, and show Dorothy who’s boss at Canasta. Don’t let the snow slow Granny down. Get her some traction cleats so she can make snow and ice her b****!

3) Mini Flashlights

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Zoro

For the past month or so, I’ve looked at my clock in the evening and thought, “Surely, it must be 10:30.” Then I come to find out it’s actually 6:45 PM!

It’s dark out early in the evening. And Granny wants to go to your kid’s school holiday performance and hear Messiah at the local community center. Granny needs more light when she is moving in and out of cars and buildings. She needs to clearly see every curb and uneven paving in the parking lot so she doesn’t fall!

Get her a mini flashlight to stow in her purse or coat pocket for her to take on the run! Granny will appreciate you helping her see the light! (High fives self for the pun.)

4) Magnetic Door Stop

Do you know what’s super annoying? Holding the door open while you’re trying to get in and out of the house with your arms full of stuff!

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Amazon

A magnetic door stop could make life a lot easier for Granny, especially if her balance is not as good as it used to be! Guess who’s not falling through the door (thanks to you!)? Granny’s not falling!

While you’re at it, grab a magnetic door stop for yourself!

5) Bidet Toilet Seat

Amazon

Amazon

It’s time for you to become Granny’s favorite family member. Behold! The bidet toilet seat!

This gem will transform Granny’s toilet time! A bidet toilet seat with an adjustable, self cleaning water hose and remote will help Granny feel fresh and so clean even more so than traditional toilet paper can. The adjustable water hose makes it easy for men, women, and children to accurately clean those tricky places. Some models even come with dryers that gently clean your bottom!

Why a remote and not a control panel that’s fixed on the side? Great question! The remote will make it easier for Granny to reach and use compared to a fixed control panel. The control panels are usually placed on the right side. That’s difficult for a left handed user or somebody with a shoulder that can’t reach to the side or back as far as they used to!

If there is no electrical outlet by the toilet, not a problem! There are non-electric options out there as well. Anything to help Granny stay independent with going to the bathroom!

Word of warning: little kids love playing with bidet toilet seats and may need supervision!

Ultimately though, the whole family might want to stop by and use Granny’s throne to try it out. You may feel hesitant right now. But once you try it, you’ll want to install one in your bathroom!

I hope this holiday gift guide will help you find the best gift for your Granny or Grandpa! If you already purchased something, tell us in the comments below! Would you consider buying any of the stuff listed above for your parent or grandparent? Would you buy it for yourself? Need more gift ideas? Contact us to help your parent or grandparent live at home for a lifetime!