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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.

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4 Tips for Buying a Lift Chair

First of all, what’s a lift chair?

Have you even seen those recliners that slowly raise or lower the seat with the touch of a button? If you know what I’m talking about, those are lift chairs. If you still don’t have a clue, click here to watch a quick video (Sidenote: I just picked this video to show you what lift chairs do. I do not endorse this particular brand).

Lift chairs are fantastic for people who struggle to stand up from recliners, sofas, couches, etc. It helps people retain their independence and move around freely!

Lift chairs remain stationary in that they don’t swivel side to side. They only move up and down. This makes it easier to prevent falls!

Also, if you or your loved one has any health conditions that make the legs and feet swell, a lift chair could reduce the the swelling by lifting up your feet when you recline.

Older female adult smiling at camera. Photo by Pexels

Older female adult smiling at camera. Photo by Pexels

Case in point, my grandmother developed congestive heart failure in her late eighties. She would sit in a bat wing recliner with her feet on the ground for most of the day— this is called a dependent position. Blood pools in your legs which leads to swelling.

Grandpa would very sweetly struggle to move a clunky stool along the carpet and place it under Granny’s heels to raise her legs. Watching a person with a heart history work so hard physically to move a stool was very strenuous on my heart!!!! Because it was a difficult task to do, Granny’s legs were not raised very often during the day which resulted in continuous swelling of her legs.

Mom and I talked to Granny about buying a lift chair in order for her to raise her legs whenever she wanted without the danger of Grandpa dragging furniture across the ground. Granny readily agreed to a lift chair and delighted in using it every day. Incredibly, the swelling in her legs went down quickly after a week of use!

My grandmother was a very petite person. She had to have been around 4’10”! So finding a suitable lift chair for her size was at the top of the list for us.

If you are purchasing a lift chair or helping a family member, here are the top four tips to remember when you’re shopping:

1) Sit in the lift chair.

Man sitting in recliner outside near trash. Obviously, don’t do this, BUT do try sitting in a lift chair to make sure it’s comfortable for you! Photo by Pexels.

Man sitting in recliner outside near trash. Obviously, don’t do this, BUT do try sitting in a lift chair to make sure it’s comfortable for you! Photo by Pexels.

You (or whoever is using the lift chair) need to go to the store of your choice and sit in the chair. This will help determine if the seat depth and the seat back length will work for you! If you’re petite like my Grandma, you’re bottom and legs are probably not long which means you don’t need a deep seat. When I see petite people sitting in deep seats, I observe them scooting a lot to get in and out of the chair.

Have you scooted on your bottom in a seat lately? It’s a workout! Especially if you have arthritis all over your body!

It’s beautiful that people come in all shapes and sizes. We all have different needs and feel comfort through various means.

Remember that recliners come in small, medium, tall, and extra wide. You really don’t know what will work best until you actually sit in the lift chair and feel it out!

2) How far back do you want the recliner to go?

Some recliners stop at 45 degrees while others go farther. It really depends on how you think you’ll use it.

Do you see yourself taking lots of naps in the lift chair? Or will the chair be used primarily for reading and watching TV?

If you’re sleeping a lot in the lift chair, you may want to choose the type that reclines 90 degrees.

3) Take measurements of the space you want to put the lift chair to make sure the chair in the store will fit!

Bright living room. Photo by Unsplash

Bright living room. Photo by Unsplash

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen lift chairs placed in rooms where the chair can’t even recline all the way! What a travesty! No nap for you, Grandma!

If it doesn’t look like the lift chair will fit in the space at home you had in mind, do you have the ability to move around the furniture? Or do we need to think of a different seating option?

4) Buy a SIMPLE lift chair remote with easy to push buttons or toggle switch.

There are so many fancy, schmancy remotes for lift chairs out there. I’ve seen remotes with the option to massage or move individual parts of the lift chair, like the knees for example.

At the end of the day when our memories start to work a little harder, how bad do you want to fight with the remote to lower the legs of the lift chair?

I mean, I don’t have the time to push 800 buttons to figure out how to get out of the damn chair. Do you?

Make it as easy as possible and purchase a lift chair with a remote with TWO options: up and down. That’s all you need.

Besides, I hate when chairs “massage” you. I feel like I’m being violently shaken. It’s not relaxing whatsoever.

Person holding up smiley face. Photo by Unsplash

Person holding up smiley face. Photo by Unsplash

Overall, a lift chair can be a great investment. I know some therapists frown on lift chairs because it doesn’t give that person the opportunity to “stay strong” through their legs, back, and arms if the chair pushes them up.

But to that point I argue that you can still set up the lift chair like a normal chair when standing up. It depends on the self-discipline of the individual. I appreciate lift chairs for helping people stand quickly when they have an emergent need, like going to the bathroom. Also, like I mentioned up top, they keep people independent in positioning their bodies.

Whatever your reason is for buying a lift chair, I hope these tips will help you in your journey as a consumer. You better believe I’m getting one in the future! Except it definitely will be without the massage feature!

Have you experienced purchasing a lift chair? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Remember, you better do it before you need it!

Shower Remodel Ideas for Every Age

(This article is written by Megan Crissey, an occupational therapy assistant student at 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

Do You Wish You Had Eight Arms When Leaving Home?

Sometimes, it can truly be a struggle to get out the main door of your home. Close your eyes and imagine putting your shoes on while juggling your keys, drink, purse, bag, coat, hat, sunglasses, umbrella while opening and closing the door to lock it behind you. Wishing you had extra limbs? This is a common daily occurrence for most people. It can lead to dropping everything on the ground or worse. . . falls. And if your house is like mine, there are steps right out the door. Toppling out the door and down the stairs would lead to a more disastrous fall resulting in more injuries.

Pexels

Pexels

With the U.S. spending $50 billion dollars a year on fall-related injuries (Centers for Disease Control), let’s think about helping ourselves out a minute! Take a look at the main door in your house. Where is it? For some people, the main door is in the garage or the front door. In my case, the back door is our main door to our house because it’s closest to the driveway and does not have steep steps like the front door.

Next, consider how much space you have beside the door. A lot? A little? Here’s a SIMPLE solution: put a bench or chair next to the door inside the house. The bench or chair would allow you to sit while putting on your shoes, place your purse on the seat or floor, take off or put on your coat, find the key to lock the door, rest while you wait for your ride, etc., etc. The benefits are too numerous to list! This would also be helpful for sitting and resting when feeling tired after coming home.

Long lost chair? Pexels

Long lost chair? Pexels

You do not need any money for this project! Look around the house and see if there is a lonely, unused bench or chair available. Are there any in the basement or attic? Spare bedroom? If so, ask a younger relative or neighbor to move it for you, especially if you have stairs.

Or if you desire a pretty new piece of furniture, shopping can be a fun option! A bench or chair with armrests would be a premium choice to help you push yourself up using your arms and hands. While you’re at it, think about looking for a floating shelf, buffet, or some other furniture that could be used to place items on while you manage the door and lock.

Make life easier for yourself and get yourself a bench or chair by the door! You will thank yourself as soon as you use it! For more ideas, watch my video for suggestions on what to put next to the door outside the home! Please comment below if you have already tried this tip and describe the furniture you used.