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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 walker
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! 

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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Unsplash

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.

Unsplash

Unsplash

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!

KC, Are You Slipping and Sliding? Seven Tips to Prevent Winter Falls!
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Unsplash

One of my favorite topics of all time is how to prevent falls when there’s ice and snow out the door! If you live in the Kansas City metro, I reckon you’ve noticed some of the white stuff sitting outside your door.

It’s incredibly important to me to repeat repeat repeat how to prevent falls in the winter. That’s because more falls happen in the winter resulting in injuries and even death! Think about it: are you walking a little faster to get out of the cold? If you are walking faster, it’s easier to miss potentially dangerous ice on the ground!

The word is there’s going to be even more ice and snow soon. So with that being said, let’s talk about how to prevent falling while getting to and fro during this time of year!

1) Before you leave home, what’s on your feet? Athletic shoes, crocs, or slip on shoes should not be the answer! (Unless you WANT to fall on your butt!)

You need sturdy footwear that will combat against slippery ice! I recommend shoes with a rubber sole to create friction when contacting ice.

Wear shoes with rubber soles, but please make sure to tie the laces!   Photo by Unsplash

Wear shoes with rubber soles, but please make sure to tie the laces!

Photo by Unsplash

I also LOVE traction cleats because you can put them on shoes you already have at home. The traction cleats keep your body upright no matter what you’re walking on. I ain’t scared of no hilly driveways or sidewalks!

2) Put ice melt or kitty litter in sandwich bags when you’re on the go! If you drive or walk to a place that has a patch of ice, take out your bag and throw the ice melt/kitty litter in front of you. It’s a convenient way to make sure you don’t fall at the drug store or doctor’s office when you’re running errands!

Besides, you’ll be a hero to others who walk on the same pathway. Look at you!

3) Carry a small flashlight or use the light on your cell phone to lighten dark places.

You probably won’t be traversing through the wilderness. Although, it’s still nice to have a flashlight!    Photo by Unsplash

You probably won’t be traversing through the wilderness. Although, it’s still nice to have a flashlight!

Photo by Unsplash

Who likes black ice? No one does. We hate driving and walking on it because it’s completely invisible to us. Increase your chances of seeing black ice while walking outside by flashing a light in front of you. You may see some reflection or wetness on the ground that will let you know you need to be careful!!!!

I like flashlights that are small enough to stow in my purse, backpack, coat pocket, or attach to my keys. How could you ever forget a flashlight that’s attached to your key ring?

If you’re more tech savvy, using the torch function on your smart phone is a really easy way to light up the darkness. How could anyone ever forget their smart phones nowadays?

4) Speaking of light, make sure your outdoor lights are on at home when it’s dark. I love automatic motion sensor lights that simultaneously conserve energy and ensure your safety. You shouldn’t work extra hard to see where you’re walking when you leave or come home!

Don’t have outdoor lights? Contact me so I can help you locate the best places to add outdoor lighting! (Remember, I’m a Missouri Medicare provider!)

5) Rethink how you get in and out of the car.

When you get out of the car, place both feet flat on the ground outside the car before standing. This helps your balance! Getting in the car? Sit down on the seat first before turning your body to put both feet inside on the floor board.

Balancing on one leg while getting in and out of the car spells trouble for falls! I can’t tell you how many people I know (including myself) fall getting in and out of the car on one leg! What is this? Cirque du Soleil? I don’t think so!

6) Do you use a cane or walker? No problem! There are cane tips for ice that you can place on your cane/walker to grip the ice and snow better when you walk outside. The cane tips look like little spikes! Your cane/walker is now a legitimate weapon and tool to keep you on your feet!

People tell me they feel very secure when they don’t feel their cane slipping all over the place. And a few individuals shared how powerful they felt with their spiky canes!

7) Add a cover over your main entry door to protect you from the elements.

Unsplash

Unsplash

Who can identify struggling to place your key to unlock your door while it’s snowing, sleeting, or raining? What a miserable time! You feel frozen and frustrated while trying to simply get inside of your home!

A simple solution is placing a cover over the doorway to provide dryness while unlocking the door. I am a huge fan of porticos, which are usually an extension of the roof over the entry. You could also look into an awning, but I would be careful to see if it can withstand the harsh conditions of winter!

Unsplash

Unsplash

I hope these seven fall prevention tips will help you stay safe and intact! I’ve worked with people who’ve suffered horrific injuries from falls in the winter. Sometimes the injury is so life changing, that people cannot return to living at home like they used to! Since my goal is to help you stay at home, I need you to try at least one of these tips today to keep from falling.

After you try one the tips, contact me and let me know what you think! Did it work? Did you change something about the tip? What other ways do you prevent falls in the winter?

Remember, the best way to avoid falls and injuries is to follow these tips! Share this information with your friends and family. Be proactive! You better do it before you need it!

Look at My Garden Design!

I love gardening! As an occupational therapist, I feel delighted when my clients tell me they enjoy gardening as well. Since gardening is a great activity to stay healthy and strong, I like to help people figure out how to stay engaged in it.

I found that most of the time, people stop gardening because they can no longer access their garden beds at home. These people can not get down to the ground and stand back up. They find it difficult to walk on uneven ground in their yards. Reaching for weeds or tools on the ground can cause people to lose their balance. Nobody wants to take a tumble in front of the neighbors!

These gardening problems are caused by losing strength and balance over time as we age. When we stop doing certain activities, we lose the ability to participate in that task. Of course, I could tell people, “Just start exercising”, but in all actuality very few clients follow through on that suggestion.

Other hurdles to gardening include arthritis pain and joint problems. These two common complaints make my clients feel unable to resume gardening how they used to. So with these biological barriers blocking my clients from enjoying time outdoors with their plants, what am I going to recommend to them?

I wrote an article in May, “Easy Gardening Tips”, that focused on tool and self care recommendations when gardening outside. Today, I am going to go into detail about the physical changes you can make in your yard to access the garden easier!

Let me give you an example about my own garden. My husband and I want to make a raised 16'x16' garden bed for produce in our yard. We wanted to include a path in the garden bed to be able to walk and reach plants in the middle. Here is a picture of the design my husband created:

Design by Cole Lindbergh

Design by Cole Lindbergh

We call it a "Big Garden" because we are amateur gardeners, okay people? Sometimes I kill plants unintentionally, but I always love to try growing them.

To make the garden accessible for most people, I asked my husband to make the entry and garden path inside of the square 36 inches wide. This will allow plenty of room for any person with a walker or cane to come look at my plants or weed for me (for free of course). Anyone who walks will have no problem carting a wagon of tools around a pathway this size. My clients who find it difficult to lean and reach for items will like this type of design to avoid losing their balance.

The garden path width will also allow a wheelchair user to come inside, BUT this would be a very tight squeeze for that person when you include hand rims. Ideally, the width of the path would be 60 inches or have one spot that is 5'x5' to turn in any direction. My garden design works for people with smaller width wheelchairs and only gives them the ability to go forwards or backwards.

The other bone of contention is my power wheelchair user friends would not be able to come into the garden. They would need a 6'x6' turning space to safely navigate my garden without bumping into the bed walls. Power wheelchairs can often cost the same as a car! So we wouldn't want to accidentally damage my friend's mode of transportation!

Another thing to consider is how tall to make the garden bed walls. The minimum recommended height for raised garden beds is one foot for plant roots to spread. There is no rule for a maximum garden bed height, but be wary of the need to reach up too high to tend to your plants. For our purposes, we are going to make the bed walls two feet high. If that is too low, we can certainly add on to the wall height in the future. 

Building taller raised garden beds, like four feet high, will work better for people who feel pain while bending to the ground. I would recommend bringing a light stool in your garden wagon in order to sit and work on the plants. Sitting to garden conserves energy, limits pain, and improves your balance. You can also use a raised garden bed with legs that will give more room for your lower body while sitting to tend to plants like the picture below.

Costco

Costco

Lastly, it's important to think about the material to use for the garden pathway. For obvious reasons, dirt and grass will make it very hard for someone to walk or push a wheelchair in the garden. Mud is a mortal enemy to power wheelchairs and is incredibly hard to clean off of wheels!

You want the garden pathway material to be non slip and smooth for wheelchair users and people who use walkers or canes. The ability for a wheelchair user to access certain areas depends on their equipment and upper body strength. Some ideal materials include crusher run, concrete, or asphalt. Wood pathways are another option, however, you need to make sure they are sealed properly to avoid the pathway to become slippery when wet and to prevent the wood from breaking down from the elements.

Do not be tempted to put in brick or other stone pavers! They look really pretty, but cause unnecessary bumps for wheels. Also, I cannot tell you how many times I watched people with walkers get stuck in the spaces in between pavers and sidewalk cracks. Bumps and cracks on pathways can easily lead to falls in the garden. Again, we don't want the neighbors to watch us fall!

If you are interested in learning more about making gardens accessible for all, please check out Enabling Gardens: Creating Barrier Free Gardens by Gene Rothert. Mr. Rothert is a wheelchair user and gives first hand experience on how to make gardening available to people of all ages and abilities.

Everyone deserves to enjoy what they like to do, including gardening. If you or someone you know has a hard time with gardening, try some of these tips to get back outside! Comment down below if you have tried ways to make gardening easier for you!