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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 tagged home automation
Can't Open the Washing Machine (Or Dryer) Door?
Pexels

Pexels

I will admit to you all today that I sometimes struggle to open the washing machine or dryer door. There are instances where I do not grip the door handle well enough and my hand slips off! Occasionally, I attempt to open the door and need to tug on it two to three times before it opens! When I experience this I tend to think, "Oh my gosh, why is this so hard?"

Then my occupational therapy brain starts to kick in and think: "How can I solve this? How can I make it easier to open the washer or dryer door?"

Well my friends, let me share some ideas with you today! Let's go through and think about your current situation!

stay_at_home_solutions_laundry

Please go and look at your washer and dryer right now. I will patiently wait for you! (Side note: Hopefully your washer and dryer are on the main level of your house. If not, put that in your three to five year home modification plan! A washer and dryer on the main level of the house helps people age in place in their home!)

Ok, did you look? I am going to ask the following questions:

  • What type of washer and dryer do you have? Are they front or top loaders?

  • Are they a stackable washer and dryer?

  • What brand do you have? 

  • Which direction does the door open and shut on the washer and dryer?

  • Where are the control buttons on the washer and dryer? On the front of the machine? Towards the back on a panel?

  • Where is it located in the house?

The answers to these questions tell me a lot about how you are moving to do laundry. It leads me to other questions about you personally like:

  • What is your dominant hand? Right or left?

  • What is your grip strength?

  • Are you sitting or standing at the machine when moving loads?

  • Are you sitting or standing while folding clothes?

  • How far can you reach while sitting or standing?

  • Are you using equipment, like a walker or reacher?

  • When you do laundry, do you wear out after a short time or can you do everything without rest breaks?

  • Do you lose your balance when reaching for clothes inside the machine?

There are no right or wrong answers! Everyone does laundry a little bit different. Answering these questions helps me think about the best options for you when opening the washer and dryer door. It tells me what your needs are and the possible solutions to making it easier to open the door handle every time.

It is also really helpful to see you in action! Ask your local, friendly occupational therapist to watch how you open the washer or dryer door handle to find a way to make it better for you! Or another option is to have your family member or friend take a video recording. You know your teenage children or grandchildren would be happy to whip out their phones to video record you in action!

After considering all the information and how you open the washer or dryer door handle, perhaps your solution is as simple as switching the door hinges to swing from the right instead of the left or vice versa. Maybe you are able to add some texture around the handle of the washer and dryer door handle, like shelf liner or some other type of non slip grip. The solution varies from person to person!

Clarke Health Care grab bar

Clarke Health Care grab bar

I talked with another occupational therapist about trying a suction cup grab bar on the washer or dryer door. The handle of the suction cup grab bar would be easier to grip. However, the temperature changes on the surface of the machine's door could cause the suction cup grab bar to fall off after several uses. If you have tried to use a suction cup grab bar as a door handle on your washer or dryer, please comment down below! I am curious to hear your experience!

To be honest, this is one of the rare times I encourage people to use a suction cup grab bar at home! Please click here to read why I am skeptical about suction cup grab bars!

After doing some quick research, I found an ingenious way to fix a broken handle on a washer or dryer door. Click here to read this do-it-yourself article on how to change your washer/dryer door handle into a rope handle! I have never seen anyone use a rope as a door handle on the washer or dryer in person. Nevertheless, this option is appealing because it is inexpensive and straightforward to pull on the rope to open the door.

An alternative strategy is an autorelease, or automatic, washer or dryer door. The door would open as soon as the load finished, which lessens the need to open the washer or dryer door. I researched this option and only found it for a dishwasher brand. Manufacturers, hear my plea to be more creative with your washer and dryer handles!

Home Depot Samsung Washer

Home Depot Samsung Washer

In the same technology vein, I looked at several smart washers and dryers. I could not find any with a feature that made it easier to open the washer and dryer door. However, I encourage you to consider this type of appliance because smart washers and dryers cost around the same amount as other washers and dryers. Other benefits include smart washers and dryers running loads when energy usage in your neighborhood is low, monitoring machine parts that need replacement, and controlling the machine from an app on your smart phone.

Hopefully, these ideas will help you open the washer or dryer door effortlessly! These tips will help you stay independent while doing your laundry for years to come. Laundry is not the most pleasurable chore for people, but you deserve for it to be free of difficulty! Please share what you have done to your washer or dryer door handle. Tell me what technology, equipment, or parts that I'm missing! 

Shower Remodel Ideas for Every Age

(This article is written by Megan Crissey, an certified occupational therapy assistant and graduate of National American University in Independence, MO.)

Showering: it is most likely one of the first things you do in the morning to wake yourself up and get ready for the day. Imagine now that something has happened to you and you are unable to get in and out of the shower like you used to. How does this change how you get ready for your day? Is there any way you can fix this problem so you can feel “normal” again? YES, there are changes you can make in your bathroom, also known as home modifications, to make showering easier and safer for you! Making changes in your bathroom is important to prevent injuries while showering.

According to AARP, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house with 80% of all bathroom accidents resulting from a fall. If a person falls in the shower, they may have a fear of falling again. This increased fear may limit their movements while cleaning hard to reach areas, reduce the number of times they shower, or make someone stop using their shower altogether. How terrible is it for someone to feel unsafe showering in their own home? Occupational therapists are the professionals who can help you figure out the safest home modifications for you and your bathroom. AARP supports research in using occupational therapists for your home modification needs.

Research from the U.S. and Australia shows occupational therapists have a unique look on making your home a safe and livable space (Stark, Keglovits, Arbesman, and Lieberman, 2017). Occupational therapists are trained to look at each person individually and find ways to make their home work best for them. For example if your toilet is too low for you to safely sit down, don’t worry! An occupational therapist can find a way to raise the toilet to a comfortable and safe height that is just right for you.

Home is such a special place to each person. It is where you raised your family and made so many significant memories. Occupational therapists want to help you stay in this place for as long as you desire. Making simple changes in the home helped aging adults live in their homes longer and lessened the number of hospital stays due to falls and fall related injuries in a recent study in a community in Pittsburgh, PA (Dickson and Toto, 2018). Wouldn’t you like to stay out of the hospital? Find an occupational therapist today to help you stay where you are!

When looking for an occupational therapist, you need to find one who listens carefully to your wants and needs. While we have found that occupational therapy is the best fit for home modifications, research shows that clients and family members were more satisfied with occupational therapists who paid attention to their specific needs (Aplin, Jonge, and Gustafsson, 2014). What works for some may not work for others! Occupational therapists are skilled at matching your ideas and thoughts with the best home modifications for you and your family.

Now time for the fun stuff! I've got some great recommendations for you! Before you go on, remember to always include an occupational therapist in your home plans! Now read below to find out more!

If you are able to remodel your bathroom or build a new house, I recommend you put in a barrier free shower with non skid or slip resistant tiles on the bathroom floor. This type of shower eliminates the step into a tub shower combo or standard walk in shower. This means that barrier free showers work for people of all ages and abilities. For instance, they allow wheelchair users to roll in and transfer to a shower chair or bench with no difficulty. Barrier free showers drastically reduce fall risks! No shirking off showers because of a fear of falling! 

Albuquerque Stair Lifts, Ramps, and Mobility Scooters

Albuquerque Stair Lifts, Ramps, and Mobility Scooters

If remodeling is too expensive for you, there are cheaper ways to make your shower safe! Non slip coating, like SlipDoctors, can be applied to your existing bathroom floor or tub shower surface as well. Non skid decals or non skid bathmats on your shower floor will add traction to your feet while moving around. FYI: non skid decals or bathmats work in a similar way as non skid socks on hardwood floors. You can be fall free on a dime! 

 

Only 19% of American homes have grab bars installed near toilets and in the showers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). Grab bars on each side of the shower entrance and near any seating are great safety features because they allow you to hold onto a sturdy object for stability while you stand on one leg to get in or out. Grab bars are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to prevent falls in the bathroom. Recently, a client told me she had installed grab bars in her shower for safety and they were placed out of her reach. This client was unable to use the grab bars that were installed in her home! What a waste of time and money! If the client consulted an occupational therapist who specializes in home modifications, she could have avoided installing grab bars that are not usable. Don’t let this client be you! 

Adding a hand held shower head can make rinsing easier for those hard to reach places. Bending over while standing to rinse may make you lose your balance resulting in a fall. If you feel unsteady while standing, sit down and use a hand held shower head to rinse off your entire body. I would recommend installing a hand held shower head with a mount that allows you to adjust the height. Another benefit of installing hand held shower heads is the price; I found some as inexpensive as $10! Plus, hand held shower heads are easy to install! You unscrew the existing shower head then screw on your new hand held shower head. Easy peasy! 

Speaking of sitting while showering, consider placing a shower bench or stool in the shower to save your energy and reduce the risk of slipping and falling in the shower! Sitting down to wash your body will make it easier to reach different areas of the body like your legs, feet, or back. Thoroughly scrubbed feet and shaved legs gives us ladies the feeling of sweet relief!  Gentlemen, don’t discount the opportunity to sit and shave in the shower if you have a handy recessed shelf to store your shaving supplies.

Using a long handled loofah and long handled razor can make lower leg grooming more comfortable! Being able to reach your back and legs to wash with a long handled loofah can make showering help you feel cleaner. Consider adding a hook or shower storage rack to hang your supplies close to you. 

Adding automatic soap dispensers on the wall of the shower or bottles with pump handles can make getting shampoo, conditioner, and body wash effortless compared to trying to lift heavy, slippery bottles. Pump handles and automatic soap dispensers are easy on your wrists! Make sure the soap dispensers or hygiene products are within reach of you while seated to lessen back strain. Here are some examples below: 

Extra lighting in the bathroom is always a good idea. You can add lights inside the shower area to increase visibility and decrease the chances of slipping on something unexpected. Also consider adding natural lighting with skylights or windows with textured glass, shutters, transom, glass blocks, or hopper windows. Natural lighting is attractive and makes us happy!

As you can see, there are many different options to choose from when making changes to your bathroom. Occupational therapists can come into your home, evaluate how you are able to complete your daily routines, and offer you the best solutions to help keep you safe. Today is the day to take an action step towards empowerment and freedom to live where you want to live for as long as you want. Home modifications can be a simple way to take away your fear of an uncertain future and replace it with the confidence to live a happy, independent life.

Resources:

Aplin, T., Jonge, D. D., & Gustafsson, L. (2014). Understanding home modifications impact on clients and their family’s experience of home: A qualitative study. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal,62(2), 123-131. doi:10.1111/1440-1630.12156

Dickson, K. L., & Toto, P. E. (2018). Feasibility of integrating occupational therapy into a care coordination program for aging in place. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72, 7204195020. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2018.031419

Stark, S., Keglovits, M., Arbesman, M., & Lieberman, D. (2017). Effect of home modification interventions on the participation of community-dwelling adults with health conditions: A systematic review. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71, 7102290010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2017.018887

Hey, You Might Have Visitability Disorder!

Do you have a couple of family members who cannot visit your house because it’s hard for them to climb stairs?

Do you accidentally strain yourself at home while carrying things through narrow doorways and stairs?

Have you or a family member broken a bone and were forced to completely change where you sleep, bathe, and toilet in the house?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you suffer from “Visitability Disorder”. (Gasp!)

Goodness! What is that?

It is the inability for people of all ages and abilities to visit your home. It is a terrible affliction that affects more than 90% of current housing in the U.S.  (Journal of the American Planning Association).

I will confess to you all today that I too have “Visitability Disorder”. (Sobs into a handkerchief.) I feel your pain.

However, I have great news! There is a cure for “Visitability Disorder”! Visitability.org outlines what builders can do with new construction using three very important and INEXPENSIVE tactics:

Innovate Building Solutions

Innovate Building Solutions

1) Make one entry into the house a zero-step entrance. It can be the front door, side door, back door, from the garage, secret entryway, etc. Just choose one entry with no steps whatsoever! Bonus tip: you can add a zero-step entrance whether your house has a basement or not!

 

Pexel

Pexel

2) Build all doorways and hallways 32 inches wide or greater. This will eliminate the funny bone pain you get after slamming your elbow into the door frame while carrying groceries or a baby carrier inside the house.

 

Functional Home Living

Functional Home Living

3) Construct a half bathroom, preferably a full bathroom, on the main level of your house. Family and friends won’t have to trudge up the stairs to use the bathroom or shower.

Please please look at the other tabs and links on Visitability.org! It also provides stats, costs, resources, handouts, and real world applications. How cool is that?

 

Next, you may say to me, “Maria, I am not planning on building a new house. What can I do?” Unfortunately, the costs of retrofitting a house with these features is more expensive than new construction. That is the reality. BUT the benefits of having a bathroom on the main level, zero-step entry, and 32 inch wide or greater hallways and doorways are long-lasting for everyone!

If you are planning on remodeling parts of your house in the future, ask your contractor to widen the doorways and hallways 32-36 inches.

Add more space to a half bathroom by allowing at least five feet of turning radius to move around easier.

Create a gentle sloped sidewalk from the driveway to the front or side entry for a zero-step entry.

For more great ideas specific to you, call me! I’ve got your solution!


 

Pet Care for Life Recap!

This past Friday, I posted a video about how to make sure you are able to care for your furry friends no matter your age or ability. Click here to watch it!

Although my video was heavily geared towards dogs (you caught me), I did provide some tips that can help out you cat, bunny, guinea pig, chinchilla, etc. lovers out there! 

Remember, adult or senior pets can be ideal pets if you do not have the time or ability to train an energetic puppy. Animals of all ages need our love just like humans!

I covered changes you can make in your home to make pet care easier. For lots of pictures and examples, please click here to go to my Pinterest board, "Pets"! Personally, I am definitely going to install a pet washing station in my laundry room to avoid back pain while washing my 60 lb dog, Bea! She runs away from the hose outside! I need to confine her!

Cole Lindbergh, 2018  We need a dog door that prevents carcass entry.

Cole Lindbergh, 2018

We need a dog door that prevents carcass entry.

In the video, I also discussed pet care equipment that you will absolutely love. The top item that you all raved about was the smart phone triggered feeder by Petnet! Limit your reaching and bending to feed Fluffy by filling the container with her food. Now you control her meal time and portion size with your smart phone.

We also talked about good old-fashioned long handled food and water bowls like this one from Graceful Pets. You can find all different brands and prices on Amazon. This is particularly helpful for people with a knee or hip replacement!

I am a fan of saving my back and your back! Picking up a wiggly 60 lb dog is absolutely not happening for me. Luckily, there is a way for Bea to climb in the bed or car. Look into this for yourself!

Funny story: I worked with a client once who could not see very well. She owned a dog whose beige fur matched the beige carpet color exactly. This dog had its own unintentional camouflage, which made it a huge fall risk for my client with low vision! To avoid falls, we put a navy colored bandana on the dog to help Fido stand out from the carpet. This helped my client feel safer when walking around in the house.

Please comment down below and share tips you have to save your back and energy while caring for your pets! Make sure to follow me on Pinterest for more pins and ideas on taking care of our extended furry family.

Guess What? More Social Media!

I created an Instagram account, @stayathomesolutions, to share interesting information on home modifications, aging in place, adaptive equipment, smart home technology, durable medical equipment, and universal design. These topics will enhance independence for you or for people you may know in a fun way! I am a big proponent of enjoying your life no matter your ability or experience.

Social media allows me to better explain my ideas and thoughts. What social media platforms do you like to use? Are you mainly a Facebook user? Pinterest? Tell me in the comments below!

Please click on the links below to take a look at my other social media:

Pinterest

Facebook

YouTube

As always, please message or call me if you would like for me to delve into a specific topic or product!

Video Doorbells

Video doorbells are a combination of a doorbell and video camera that syncs to your smartphone and allows you to see and speak to the person at your door. Video doorbells are rising in popularity and largely viewed as a form of security for people's homes. This allows people to answer the door virtually from different parts of the home or work by using an app on a smartphone. When the visitor rings the video doorbell, you can see them but they cannot see you. If someone is delivering a package, you can instruct them where to leave it to prevent theft from "porch pirates".

Last week, Amazon announced the purchase of Ring, the video doorbell company, for over a billion dollars. Amazon is looking for strategies to deter people from stealing packages delivered while the recipient is not home. The company is hoping to integrate the technology of Ring's video doorbell with Amazon Alexa to make it even easier for home owners to track and receive Amazon orders. According to Statista, there are 90 million Amazon Prime members in the United States as of September 2017. Amazon and Ring could make it safer and easier for millions of people to receive orders from delivery workers.

Adults of all ages will benefit with the Amazon and Ring merger. In January 2017, Pew Research reported 42% of adults 65 years and older own a smart phone. Without a doubt, that number has already climbed higher since last year. Personally, I have noticed an increase in my clients using smart phones to purchase items and services from Amazon. I know that the next step is for older adults to use their smart phone to monitor who is visiting at their front door. Video doorbells can bring peace of mind to family members concerned about their loved ones being potentially taken advantage of at all hours of the day.

Amazon and Ring are encouraging the path towards consumers setting up their homes with smart technology, otherwise known as home automation. Smart home technology allows people to use their smart phones to control smart devices throughout the home like turning lights on and off or changing the temperature. It is easy to see how this would help a wide variety of people such as a person with chronic back pain. The possibilities of video doorbells and smart devices are endless! Stay at Home Solutions can help your family members choose the most appropriate video doorbells and smart home devices for their needs. We also provide installation services to make the process easy and quick for you.