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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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What Do You Need? A Zero Step Entry!
Front entry with zero step entry. Photo by the Journal of Light Construction

Front entry with zero step entry. Photo by the Journal of Light Construction

A zero step entry is a doorway to get in and out of your house with ZERO steps.

You know what’s a shame though? Less than 3.5% of homes in the U.S. have one zero step entry according to Joint Center for Housing Studies (2011).

Now, of course, I hope that figure has gone up since 2011. But I highly doubt it!

When I drive around and see new construction for houses and apartments, you better believe I’m rubbernecking to see if they’re putting in one entryway with zero steps!

But here’s the unfortunate truth: I see steps to go inside the front door, back door, and garage door.

Why do builders do this?

Because they do what they know. Builders don’t obsess about accessibility the way occupational therapists like me do!

I understand people think that a couple, two, three stairs won’t hurt anybody from going in and out of their house. But it actually does in the long run.

Let’s try an experiment:

I want you to carry something that requires two hands, like a laundry basket, across level flooring for ten feet.

I’ll wait here. . .

Okay! You’re finished! Great! How much effort did you put into that? How hard are you breathing? Can you still hold a conversation? Are your muscles tired?

Now, I want you to carry that same object up and down at least two stairs. If you have more stairs, try carrying your object up and down all of your stairs.

After all of your stair climbing, how much effort did your body put in to carrying an object up and down the stairs compared to no stairs at all?

As we age, this “simple” task of carrying objects up and down stairs becomes more difficult. Even though I’m in my 30’s, I notice I exert more energy to carry things up and down stairs compared to carrying things across the floor.

I hate to burst your bubble, but there will be a day when it’s harder for you to carry things up and down the stairs. It may be due to a back injury, arthritis, heart condition, etc., etc. You just never know!

So if you DON’T have a zero step entry, what can you do NOW to make sure you’re set for the future?

Start planning your zero step entry for your home!

Front zero step entry with portico and rampscape. Photo by Sutton Group Preferred Realty

Front zero step entry with portico and rampscape. Photo by Sutton Group Preferred Realty

It can be any entry you desire! The front door, the side door, the back door, the garage door, etc. You pick what works best for you and your house.

You can convert an existing window into a zero step entry door! If you’re creating a door out of a non-existing door, make sure to have the doorway width measure 36 inches for plenty of room to maneuver in and out of the house.

An issue that may come up is the fact that the main level of your house is not the same as the ground outside.

I have that EXACT same issue! So let’s dive into the problem solving process for my humble abode.

This is my back stoop with uneven pavers and rubber mats! This is a work in process, my darlings!

This is my back stoop with uneven pavers and rubber mats! This is a work in process, my darlings!

The problem for my house is the front and back entryway both have stairs to go inside. I would choose to make my back door zero entry because it’s closest to our driveway. There are several options I can think of off the top of my dome:

Wooden ramp from driveway to front door. Photo by Wheelchair Special Needs Project.

Wooden ramp from driveway to front door. Photo by Wheelchair Special Needs Project.

1) Install a ramp at the back door and create a minimum 6’x6’ landing for space to open the door and walk inside and outside. The ramp incline would need to gradually rise one foot per inch from the ground level to the height of the door threshold.

In my case, I would need 14 feet of ramp to accommodate the 14 inches from the ground to the top of my threshold. I would also make the ramp width at least 60 inches to allow plenty of room for a wheelchair user.

2) Install a rampscape at the back door. Rampscapes are ramps made by grading dirt to make that gradual incline to the door threshold. They look very pretty when landscaped with whatever materials you choose. I would lay a 6’x6’ concrete patio by the door, a 60 inch wide concrete sidewalk on the rampscape, and add lots of plants around it!

Rampscape from the driveway to the front door using pavers with a gradual incline. Photo by Schafer Construction

Rampscape from the driveway to the front door using pavers with a gradual incline. Photo by Schafer Construction

3) Install a vertical lift. A vertical lift is a platform that takes you from ground level and elevates you to the main threshold, like an outdoor elevator! I would still create a 6’x6’ landing to allow enough room to open and close the back door. This option would definitely require an overhead above the vertical lift to protect it from rain and snow.

Vertical platform lift next to small porch with four steps to enter door. Photo by Mobility Express

Vertical platform lift next to small porch with four steps to enter door. Photo by Mobility Express

All of the options above would cost thousands of dollars. The most inexpensive option would be installing a ramp. Personally, I would install an overhang or portico to cover the landing above the back doorway to avoid all forms of precipitation, especially after witnessing Missouri imitating Siberia this year!

Although I don’t have the funds at the moment, I can discuss this with my family, look for ways to fund a zero step entry, and ask for bids to help me select the best option and plan. Creating a zero step entry is a three year goal for me.

If you’re looking into building a new home, then you will spend the least amount of money to create a zero step entry!

Let’s say you wanted your zero step entry to be your garage door. Tell your builder! They can grade the site to ensure you drive into your garage and effortlessly step in and out of your home.

Sometimes, people are concerned that the only style of house they can build to include a zero step entry is a patio home.

NOT TRUE.

If your builder is not willing to make at least one zero step entry and keep whatever style of house you choose, then they do not have the creativity or desire to move outside of their comfort zone.

You can build ANY style of house and have at least one zero step entry.

Whichever doorway you choose, remember: it’s best to have the doorway covered above and to make sure water will drain away from the door. Water is bad inside of the house.

Contact me to help you create a zero step entry! You better do it before you need it!

Do you have a zero step entry? Show us pics. If not, what are your plans? Share in the comments below!

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

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!

Easy Gardening Tips

Okay, Kansas City! The weather has consistently been non-wintry, and it’s making me want to garden outside every day again.

Gardening has a lot of excellent benefits. It’s a form of exercise, lifts the mood, gives you Vitamin D from the sun, relieves stress, prevents illness, lowers risk of dementia, makes your yard beautiful, and grows yummy produce! Gardening: everybody’s doing it.

So why don’t you get back outside using these gardening tips I painstakingly researched? Keep reading to pick up knowledge!

Since gardening is a form of exercise, be sure to warm up your muscles and stretch. For inspiration, click on this link for Go4Life

Next, you need to wear the proper attire. Put on lightweight clothing, long sleeves, and a hat to protect against the sun. Remember folks, we need the sun in moderation just like anything else. Too little sun, you get sick all the time. Too much sun, you become a dehydrated raisin. If you garden before 10 a.m. and after 2  p.m., you will avoid this problem.

Take sips of water while gardening. No pop or soda or coke (depending on where you hail from)! Caffeine + sun = even more dehydrated raisin. Make sure to take breaks every 15 to 30 minutes in the shade. This will give you a chance to drink the water!

Choose tools with long handles or curved handles for good leverage and grip. I know gardening is exercise, but I don’t need to work too hard! Look out for tools like ergonomic pruners that can prevent wrist strain. If you have a lot of pruning, keep your wrist in a neutral position and remember those breaks we talked about earlier!

Use a wagon to carry plants and tools to save time and muscle strain. You can paint the wagon and tools bright colors to stand out from your green and brown garden. Let’s see, I would paint my tools a neon yellow or pink. Maybe neon pink with yellow dots! What colors would you choose?

Kneeling on the ground while gardening can become tricky! If you do kneel, place one knee and one foot on the ground like this. 

DIY Network

DIY Network

Consider a kneeler stool to help the back, hips, and knees! It has handles for you to use your arms to help push to stand. You can also flip it over and sit on the stool portion. Anyone whose legs fall asleep while kneeling can raise their fists in victory!

The best back savers are raised garden beds. They can be as tall as one foot or waist high. It doesn’t matter the height, as long as it guarantees your ability to garden. Vertical gardening is another terrific option for gardening, especially with plants that love to climb like cucumbers and melons!

If you have any gardening tips to add, please share them with me! Gardening is an activity for a lifetime that goes hand in hand with your home for a lifetime. Why don’t you do it before you need it? Contact me to help you find ways to garden easier!

Resources: DIY Network, University of Missouri Extension, Agrability, Era Living.

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.

Tips to Prepare When Relatives Move In with You

In today's economy, many people are choosing to move in with their relatives to save money. For instance, it can be very beneficial for your parents or grandparents to move in with you to share in utility costs, mortgage, rent, or groceries to name a few. If you have children, relatives can become inexpensive in-home babysitters for you to run errands or experience a night on the town.

We know that the cost benefit of living with relatives can be huge. However, we want to make sure our homes are safe for mom or grandpa to live comfortably. I provided a short list of easy home modifications to help you with your relative's move into your home.

Lighting:

Falls in the bedroom and bathroom can easily be prevented with motion sensor lighting. No one needs to walk in the dark across the room to turn on a light switch or fumble down the hallway to the bathroom. I would recommend placing motion sensor lights underneath the bed, closets, cabinets, or along the base of wall in the hallway. 

Bathroom:

The falls and injuries most likely to happen in the bathroom are standing up from the toilet and coming out of the shower. The simplest changes you can make are making the toilet taller, adding grab bars by the toilet and in the shower, and making wet floors slip resistant. If your relative becomes tired easily, replace your old shower head for a hand held shower head and put in a shower chair.

Entryways 

Everyone can benefit from handrails while entering and exiting the house to avoid falling. Promenaid is a hand rail company that makes hand rails for indoor and outdoor use. 

We understand that relatives moving in can feel overwhelming at times. For more information on how you can prepare your home for your relatives moving in, please contact us!

The Falling Monologues
Stay_At_Home_Solutions_Fall_Prevention

The Fall Prevention Center of Excellence created "The Falling Monologues" to tell stories about the experience of older adults after falling at home or in the community. The video can be viewed all at once or in segments, especially if it is watched in a group setting. The purpose of "The Falling Monologues" is to encourage discussion about fall prevention and delve into the thoughts and emotions of the individual who experienced the fall. Please check out the "Fact Sheets" resources related to this video, which are available in multiple languages.

Read the blog article from last Tuesday about how to reduce falls while entering and exiting the bathroom. Make sure to check out the "Winter Fall Prevention" blog article for more tips for fall prevention. 

Something that can be extremely helpful is wearing a medical alert device, like Lifeline or Life Alert, to call for assistance if you fall or have an emergency. Contact your local county senior services department to determine if you can qualify for a low cost or free subscription. Veterans and spouses receive a free medical alert device and subscription service from the Veteran's Administration.

Give the Gift of Living in Your Home Forever

This holiday season, I encourage you to sit down with a hot drink of your choice and talk to your family about your current and future living situation. I would like for you to consider your dreams and goals for your life. Do I want to live in this house? Do I want to move? When I am older, do I want to do my own housework or hire someone to do it for me? Do I want to mow the grass in my seventies? Who will help me manage my finances? Should I move the washer and dryer to the main level of the house?

This kind of conversation can be overwhelming, however, it can lead to an honest exchange with your loved ones about the life you want to live as you age. Talking about where and how you want to live in the future can also help your parents share what options they would prefer. Some family members may not take it well, "I don't need to worry about that right now," although that same person may ponder on their future since you mentioned this topic.

If you need any assistance facilitating this conversation, please contact me to help consult you or your family member on how to remain living in the home for as long as you wish. My gift this holiday season is helping you and your family have the freedom to live independently in the community.

Winter Fall Prevention!

The National Council on Aging provided a handout on preventing falls in the winter to include fall-proofing gifts for adult children to give to their parents. The handout suggests purchasing winter shoes with rubber bottoms, installing automatic lights over stairways and entrances, placing a table next to the door to set down bags while finding keys, and attaching mini flashlights to a coat, hat, or keys to use in dark places. Click on the link above for more information and share these tips with friends and family.

Modular Ramps: Good for Short-Term or Long-Term Use

The Ramp Project is a program through the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living in St. Paul, Minnesota. Members designed an inexpensive, durable modular ramp that can be put together in a garage then assembled at a client's home. The modular ramp is made of pressure treated lumbar and has both stairs and a ramp: read more details about the modular ramp here. It is important for the modular ramp to lead to a doorway that is 30 inches wide in order for the wheelchair user to enter and exit safely.

Since the modular ramps are so easy to set up and take down, they are a great option for people in need for a temporary amount of time. Likewise, they are made of materials meant to sustain Minnesotan weather for a long period of time, so modular ramps would fare well in Kansas City. Modular ramps are a great low cost option when finances are the driving factor in deciding what will work for your family.

HomeFit Guide

AARP created a HomeFit Guide as an educational tool kit for people to turn their homes into "lifelong homes". The HomeFit Guide gives suggestions and solutions to make changes for the home to be more livable. For those who are concerned about aesthetics, the guide gives ideas on how to keep your home stylish!