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Posts tagged occupational therapist
6 Ways to Garden for Life!
Garden photo by Unsplash

Garden photo by Unsplash

“Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years.”

-Unknown

I’m an enthusiastic amateur gardener! It makes me feel happy and alive to watch my plants attract wildlife.

Interestingly enough, gardening helps you feel good in your mind and body. People who garden tend to be active in later years and retain their strength and balance. It’s one of the best types of gentle exercise!

I love gardening most of all because it’s a great option to help you live at home for a lifetime!

You don’t have to be an experienced, master grower with a massive amount of land to reap the benefits of gardening. Whether you’ve got a couple of plants or a quarter acre, you’ll benefit from six tips to help you garden for life!

1) Warm Up Those Muscles!

I just mentioned that gardening is a form of exercise! Let’s not pull any muscles today! Before heading outside, stretch those major body muscle groups: back, shoulders, chest, legs, and glutes. If you need some stretching inspo, check out this 3 and ½ minute video from Go4Life!

2) Wear the Right Clothing!

Mother Nature invented some gnarly looking plants! Sometimes the thorn bushes and trees at my place remind me of the hellscape in my nightmares!

Long sleeved shirt by J. Crew

Long sleeved shirt by J. Crew

To properly protect my skin from scratches and too much sun, I wear light-weighted clothing with long sleeves and pants. I also wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep those sun spots away from my face!

Some people tell me, “I don’t want to wear long sleeves because I’ll sweat more.”

Well, guess what? In Missouri and Kansas, you’re going to sweat a lot regardless of what you’re wearing! Check out athletic long sleeved clothing that wicks away moisture from the skin. This type of clothing seems to be ubiquitous at every large retailer!

Lastly, keep in mind that gardening before 10 A.M. and after 2 P.M. helps you avoid the strongest sunshine! You’ll stay cooler gardening early in the morning or late in the evening.

3) Water, water everywhere!

Sip water before, during, and after gardening! Dehydration is super sneaky, especially in warmer weather! I’m a coffee drinker in the morning, but the problem is the caffeine makes me lose water faster when I’m gardening in the sun!

I make sure I have my 30 oz water container on hand when working outside. I try to take sips every 15-30 minutes to replace the water I’m losing through this type of exercise.

Sorry to gross you out, but I need to share a great tip! A good way to see that you’re getting enough water is to look at the color of your urine when you use the bathroom. If your urine is clear to light yellow, congratulations! You’re drinking enough water!

If the urine is a dark yellow, you better drink, drink, drink!

Bonus: My water breaks allow me to rest my body at the same time! Resting the body is equally as important as keeping it active.

I’m not getting an injury from a repetitive gardening task!

4) Choose Ergonomic Tools

Ergonomic garden tools by Radius Garden

Ergonomic garden tools by Radius Garden

Although gardening is exercise, we don’t want to work TOO HARD! Use gardening tools with long, curved handles for easier grip and leverage. These types of tools will prevent injuries, like wrist strain.

You can find ergonomic tools at most stores and online shopping. If the budget is tight, see if you can build up the handles on your existing tools using materials like foam tubing or an old t-shirt. It’s amazing how a little change to the handle can improve your ability to grip the tool!

5) Dust off that Radio Flyer!

Use a wagon to carry your equipment around. Carrying around a lot of tools and plants at once is hard no matter how big of a garden you’ve got! Work smarter, not harder, and put your equipment in a wagon.

Wagons also help you keep track of your tools better. Just place the tool you’re not using inside the wagon and you won’t have any stragglers!

6) Working on the Knees?

Kneeler stool photo by Gardeners.com

Kneeler stool photo by Gardeners.com

It doesn’t matter what your age is, gardening on your knees can be rough! Knee pads, chair cushions, and foam pads can protect those bony prominences from rocks and hard surfaces.

Need a little more help getting up and down from the ground? Try using a kneeler stool! These stools are typically double sided where you can kneel and sit on it depending on if it’s right side up or upside down. The handles are mounted on either side for your hands to push against. It’s a nifty invention!

Have you considered other knee-saving solutions? Raised beds or container gardening allows you to bend less and work in a sitting or standing position. You can create raised beds between one foot or as high as your waist! Instead of spending a lot of money constructing new raised beds, I use outdoor furniture to raise certain plants up higher for me to easily trim.

Raised garden bed photo by DIY Network

Raised garden bed photo by DIY Network

Vertical gardening works the same way, although you may be working with specific types of plants that like to creep upwards, like cucumber and melons. I’ve seen other people use material like posts or fencing to help plants climb while they grow. It seems as though plants can be pretty determined and will climb almost anything. You don’t need to garden a lot of different types of plants to get great exercise!


It doesn’t matter if you garden two or 22 plants, gardening is excellent for your health! Gardening maintains the physical fitness you need to stay at home for a lifetime! You don’t need intense exercise programs to get the same benefits! Gardening is the right amount of work for me!

Share your tips on how you make gardening easier in the comments below or on our social media! We love hearing your stories on how gardening has impacted your life. You never know, your experience may help someone else in a positive way!

Remember, you better do it before you need it!


7 Ways to Take Care of You and the Household for Life

I’ve worked with a lot of determined people. These are people who live at home and want to take care of themselves and their own things in their household. They want to be in charge of their lives.

Two people sitting and watching the sunset. Photo by Unsplash

Two people sitting and watching the sunset. Photo by Unsplash

Truth be told, I’m one of those people too.

At the same time, I’ve come to the realization that barriers to taking care of my daily needs and my house eventually come into existence. It’s possible for me to have an accident, a progressive disease, or just basic aging that will make it more difficult for me to manage my household.

I won’t always have the energy and strength to take care of my needs and my house.

All of these possibilities can make me start to fear and worry about the future. Who will take care of the yard and change the furnace filter? How will the cooking and cleaning be done?

The antidote to fear is to plan on making changes in case life throws me a curveball. Here are seven painless ways to help you take care of your daily needs and household.

1) Move to the main level in your home.

Think about the places at home that you need to use to take care of yourself and the house.

Living room and kitchen. Photo by Unsplash

Living room and kitchen. Photo by Unsplash

In my case, I use the main entry (my back door), bedroom, bathroom, laundry, and the kitchen, all of which are on the main floor in my house. This eliminates the need for me to use time and energy to walk up and down stairs to do a daily activity. For instance, I don’t have to ask my husband to carry laundry up and down the steep basement stairs because I’m afraid I’ll fall. I can just do the laundry on my own time.

Sidenote: Although I don’t launder my clothes and linens daily, I do laundry once a week to keep things fresh! It still helps to keep laundry on the main level of the home as opposed to the basement.

Once you’ve identified the places you use the most at home, try to do as many daily activities as you can on the most accessible level. For example, let’s say your bedroom is on the second floor and you always sleep in the recliner in the living room on the main level. So do you really need a separate bedroom and living room? You could convert the living room into the bedroom and use the bedroom for a different purpose.

I know some of you may find this to be radical speak, but honestly, think about it. Humans are creative. We can make our homes whatever we want and need them to be.

If making a simple change, like moving our everyday activities to the main floor, ensures that you’re able to manage the household and take care of your physical well being, then what’s the problem in that?

2) Store seldom used items in the basement or attic.

What are younger family members for? To help out with physical labor when necessary! That’s an evolutionary fact!

When you store seldom used items, like seasonal holiday decorations or sentimental items, in the basement or attic, it gives the main floor in your home more room to keep things you need on a daily basis.

Don’t use the linen closet to store your inflatable Santa! Use the linen closet for storing linens, cleaning supplies, or pantry items. This way you’re not wasting time and energy shoving Santa to the side while looking for a clean washcloth.

Tip: Try to store infrequently used items in clear plastic totes or label opaque plastic totes in order for people to know what’s inside.

3) Make cleaning equipment accessible.

On the main level of your home, put your cleaning equipment within reach, not on high shelves or shoved in the back of stuffed closets.

Some easy ways to do this would be to:

  • Install pull down or pull out shelving in top and bottom cabinets.

  • Hang brooms and mops on the inside or back of doors, closets, or cupboards.

  • Designate a cleaning caddy to make it easier to carry supplies with you to different rooms.

  • Store specific cleaning supplies to the room, like leaving bathroom cleaning supplies in the bathroom.

4) Store cleaning solutions in smaller bottles.

It’s easier to handle smaller bottles than great big gallon sized bottles. Think about the cleaning caddy, would you want to lug a gallon sized bottle of cleaner around the house or a pint sized one? You save energy and reduce the risk of injury when you use smaller bottles for everyday tasks.

This reminds me of watching my grandmother struggle to pour a 32 oz bottle of dish soap just to wash dishes. I asked my mother to buy smaller bottles or pour dish soap from a large container into a small bottle. Granny doesn’t need to struggle with washing dishes and neither do you!

5) Use ergonomic designed cleaning supplies.

When looking for ergonomic designed cleaning supplies, consider the following:

Pump handle on soap bottle. Photo by Unsplash

Pump handle on soap bottle. Photo by Unsplash

  • Pump handles on bottles

  • Lightweight brooms, mops, dusters

  • Grips on handles made of rubber

  • Tools that do more than one thing: multifunctional

  • Handles that are length adjustable

  • Long handles on equipment like dust pans (so you don’t bend so much!)

All of these qualities will help make your job taking care of the household much much easier! Work smarter, not harder!

6) Reduce the amount of things you own.

People don’t like to hear this tip because they automatically don’t want to give up their possessions. I understand. But the more stuff you own, the more work, time, and energy you need to devote to take care of it!

You just need to get super honest with yourself and ask questions like: do I really need informal and formal dining room sets?

As pretty as the formal dining room is, the answer truly is “no”. Pick one set and use it every day.

I’m not trying to be mean and tell you to give away everything you love. I’m raising the awareness on how owning a LOT of things can make it difficult for you to take care of your household for your lifetime.

7) Decide who can help care for your household.

Family and friends smiling at camera. Photo by Unsplash

Family and friends smiling at camera. Photo by Unsplash

If there’s an elective surgery or an accident that leaves you unable to care for your household, you need another option to make sure the laundry and dishes are done.

Ask your friends and family if they’re willing to help with specific tasks. It helps if the household task is something they like to do (and do well!). In my grandparents case, my uncle helped with yard work while my mother cooked complicated meals with my grandmother. Communicate on what’s going to work best for your family member, because in the end that’s going to work best for you!

Make sure two people aren’t doing the same thing! For instance, assign your pharmacist granddaughter to take care of medicine while your son mops the floors. Establish how often these things need to be done up front. Don’t leave people guessing how frequently you do your household tasks.

Inform family members and friends where to find things they need to do the task. It’s frustrating when you’re trying to help someone and you don’t know where their cleaning supplies are located!

Another reasonable option is to hire a professional service. Have a list ready with the things you’ll need assistance with, like vacuuming, mopping, changing bed linens, etc. Be aware of pricing and add the cost to your monthly budget. Also, price several different companies and ask other people about their experience with that service.

If you start planning these changes now, the chances of you being able to care for yourself and household for a lifetime will improve. I understand that not every tip will 100% pertain to your situation. However, you can take the ideas you like the most and apply it right now.

Sometimes life makes you feel completely out of control. These tips will help you feel a little more grounded and more certain about taking care of your home. Share what you’ve done to make household management easier in the comments below. You better do it before you need it!

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!)