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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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!