Today, we’re going to talk about a highly contested, controversial topic: suction cup grab bars.
More than likely you’ve seen one of these things at the store or in the home of someone you know.
A suction cup grab bar is a handle with suction cups at both ends. They come in a variety of lengths from 12 inches on up. You can place them on any flat, non porous surface. Just avoid grout lines!
People really like suction cup grab bars because you:
Can buy them at any big box retailer or Amazon.
Don’t need tools to install them.
Don’t need to hire a contractor.
Can put them at any height and angle in the shower. Customizable to the individual!
Can install them on fiberglass, tile, marble, acrylic, porcelain, etc.
Can remove them when you don’t need them anymore.
I get the appeal. I truly do. What’s not to love about all of those points?
Check out this type of suction cup grab bar from Clarke Healthcare! I mean, the attachments to this thing alone are very attractive.
Suction cup grab bars are advertised as steadying devices. They aren’t meant for people to push or pull their whole weight on them when getting in and out of the shower or on and off the toilet.
This creates a conundrum if someone were to slip in the shower and instinctively grab onto the suction cup grab bar while generating a minimum of 50-80 lbs per force. Now some suction cup grab bar manufacturers say they can sustain up to 500 lbs per force, BUT they quickly follow up with stating that suctions cups lose pressure over time and NEED to be readjusted.
We know that temperature changes going from cold to very warm cause a loss in pressure between the suction cups and the wall surface.
Would you want to remove and reattach your suction cup grab bars every week or so?
Installation is not a one and done process. Even Consumer Affairs wrote an article that discusses how suction cup grab bars are only as effective as the method in which they’re mounted. It’s hard for us to judge exactly how much pressure we put on the grab bar. The author mentioned that if a very heavy person were to have a grab bar drilled into a stud, the grab bar would still require extra reinforcement to give the proper support that person needs when getting in and out of the shower.
Unfortunately, I’ve worked with quite a number of people who’ve had the frightening experience of pulling suction cup grab bars and standard grab bars off the wall! Those people never thought it could happen to them.
The probability of falling at home is highest the moment you step out of the shower. Why wouldn’t you choose a more secure option to keep you safe?
Let’s talk about the benefits of installing a standard grab bar:
ONE and DONE. You install the grab bar one time! No need to remove and reattach!
Placing the grab bar at the height and angle that works for you. Again, customizable, but this also depends on the stud placement and if you need additional plywood in the wall behind the shower surface.
You can hire a professional, do-it-yourself, or have a family member install the grab bar.
Save money by buying equipment that won’t lose suction, fall off the wall, and break into 100 pieces.
Confidence in knowing the grab bar stays put EVERY single time you get in and out of the shower.
Available in every color and finish. There’s even grab bars designed to look like a soap dish in the shower!
Fiberglass shower? No worries! The solid mount is designed to hold your grab bar in place.
In my perspective, grab bars are a great investment in lowering the chances of a fall. On the other hand, suction cup grab bars are akin to fast food: they provide immediate gratification with unwanted consequences later on.
Let me illustrate this point with an anecdote. Ethel (names have been changed) was preparing to return home from rehab after fracturing her hip. When we visited her home, I noticed she had a suction cup grab bar in the shower. I explained to Ethel and her daughter, Liz, to consider replacing the suction cup grab bar with a standard grab bar to avoid removing and reattaching the suction cups. Liz did not realize suction cup grab bars lost pressure and became very alarmed.
“I can’t come over and reattach those all the time.”
Ethel lived home alone and said she would ask her neighbor to reattach the suction cup grab bars. Liz and Ethel decided they didn’t want to hassle with hiring someone to install grab bars in the shower.
Eventually, Ethel finished rehab and went home. She started to get back to her regular schedule and neglected to ask her neighbor to check the pressure on her suction cup grab bars.
You know in your gut what happened next.
Ethel slipped while getting out of the shower and fell onto the floor with the suction cup grab bar in her hand. She went back to the hospital and rehab, but instead of going home her daughter helped her move into an assisted living facility.
She moved out of her home not by her choice, but by preventable circumstances.
Don’t let this be you or your loved ones. You should decide how long you live in your home. Not a piece of plastic!
Some people ask me: do I really need grab bars right now at this point in my life? My answer is, if you find yourself reaching out to steady yourself as you get in and out of the shower, you need grab bars. Shower doors, towel rods, and sink vanities are NOT suitable to withstand your weight either. Don’t even get me started on how many people I know who’ve pulled their towel rods and sinks out of the wall!
Contact me or another occupational therapist to help you decide where you should place grab bars in your bathroom. Remember, you better do it before you need it!
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!
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Oftentimes, it’s difficult to know exactly how to help your family member at home. You may have noticed Grandma starting to drop her spatula more frequently. You see Dad trip on the door threshold every single time he enters the house through the garage.
In the back of your mind you start to worry about your family member’s safety. What if Dad falls and hurts himself or what if Grandma drops something sharp on her foot? But then you brush it off with, “Maybe those problems will go away on their own.”
Are you sure those problems will disappear?
Or perhaps you do bring up your concern with your family member and they say, “I’m doing fine. I don’t trip all the time” or “I don’t drop stuff every day.” In almost the same breath, your Dad trips again. Grandma drops a ladle on the floor.
What’s going on?!
You’re fighting between pushing your family member to talk to a professional or letting go of the issue altogether.
It’s very difficult when your family member insists they’re okay. But deep down inside, you know they’re not.
I urge you to go with your first instinct! Encouraging your family to talk to a professional is a great start to figuring out how to keep dear old Dad or Grandma at home. But what kind of professional do you talk to?
The most bang for your buck would be talking to an occupational therapist. All we do day in and day out is problem solve ways for people to do their daily activities. In fact, click on this link to read research on how effective we are at helping people out! Occupational therapists figure out how to help Grandma stop dropping her spatulas and how to keep Dad from tripping when he walks into the house. (Of course, we look at other issues too!)
People tend to think, “Well, I may have a hard time with X now, but it’s not a big deal.” Wrong! This kind of everyday stuff seems little until it adds up to an injury at home.
Occupational therapists break it down by looking at your personal abilities, the demands of the task, and the environment. Let’s take Dad’s case of tripping when he walks into the house from the garage. An occupational therapist ( also known as OT) would assess Dad and find out his knees are worn out by years of playing flag football with his friends. Dad has neuropathy, a symptom of diabetes, and cannot feel his feet very well when he walks around. These two factors can make it more difficult to walk and regain your balance if you trip.
Walking into the house from the garage requires Dad to go up two stairs and over the door threshold. Upon examining the environment, the OT would see this entry is poorly lit, the threshold is 2 and ½ inches high, there is no handrail, and the depth of the steps are very shallow.
At this stage, the OT informs your Dad that although his knees will never be quite like the 6 million dollar man’s knees, he can make some changes to the doorway that will make it easier and safer for him to enter the home without tripping. The OT offers ideas like adding motion-sensor lighting, removing the door threshold, installing two handrails on both sides of the steps, deepening the steps, creating a ramp in the garage, installing a vertical lift, creating platform steps, etc.
Next, the OT coaches Dad to select the options that he likes the most. We know that people who choose their own solutions are more satisfied compared to people who don’t have the ability to choose.
Your dad is financially savvy and acutely aware that your mother wants to move to Florida in the next ten years or so. He doesn’t want to spend a ton of money and he wants to increase the value of the house.
Dad chooses to pull out the threshold and install platform steps with handrails and a motion-sensor light to help him get in and out of the house for years to come. “I have enough room in my garage after tidying it up!” #KonMari
After the garage entry is modified, you notice your Dad never trips when getting in and out of the house! Is this what peace of mind feels like?
OTs have the medical background and practical mindset to help your family stay safe in the home. We understand how medical conditions and aging can impact our ability to do the things we need and want to do!
In addition to our professional expertise, most of us have personal experience as caregivers with our own family. I helped my grandparents live in their home for thirteen years. We sympathize with your deepest desire to keep your family safe!
Despite the medical background, OTs never want your home to look like a hospital! We enjoy helping you create spaces that are functional for you without visitors ever knowing the reasoning behind your home design.
We’re also relentlessly optimistic, much to the chagrin of some people. There is never a problem too tough to solve.
The big takeaway is there are professionals to help you keep your family safe. Reach out to others and ask questions. If you can’t find an occupational therapist right away, talk to a social worker, case manager, your local area agency on aging, senior centers, or your county’s senior service department.
In the Kansas City area, you can visit the Mid-America Regional Council, Wyandotte/Leavenworth Area Agency on Aging, or the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging to learn more about resources available to help people live in their home and community as long as they like.
There is so much information available, sometimes it’s difficult to navigate through everything and keep a clear idea of who does what. Don’t worry! You will find the answers you need. But remember, you better do it before you need it!
[This post is written by Sharon Ugochukwu, a former occupational therapy assistant student from National American University.]
Now you’re home after a stay in rehab after breaking your leg. You realize how hard it is to get around the home. A friend recommended you have an occupational therapy evaluation to make it easier to do what you need to do. The occupational therapist listened to your needs and gave great ideas for home modifications (i.e. changes in the home). You are excited to turn those ideas into reality.
Now, all you have to do is find the right contractor for the job. It’s important for the occupational therapist and contractor to work together to make the changes that are customized to you. Although the occupational therapist knows contractors to work on your home, you want to find one.
Even when you decide you want to find a contractor on your own, the thought of doing this can be overwhelming. Leon Harper of AARP states, "While there's a growing need [for home modifications], there's also been a growing fear, as a result of the unfortunate work of a few unscrupulous contractors.” People choose to scrap the plans for home modifications because of this fear.
For instance, you heard Susie’s story of the contractor who took her money and was never seen again. Uncle Bill’s contractor left a huge hole in the roof and a toilet that fell through the floor. No one wants to have these experiences! So how do you wade through the sea of contractors to find one who is honest, trustworthy, and does quality work? In this blog, we will give you eight steps to do just that!
1) Organize your project on paper. First, make a list of what you want done. Be specific regarding what changes you want in which rooms. What materials are you interested in using? List them by priority to you. This will help keep you focused and determine what kind of contractors you need.
2) Compile a list of contractors. Next, ask friends or relatives for their recommendations on contractors. Talk to employees at a lumber yard or hardware store if they know of anyone reputable. Ask a trusted realtor who they call first to fix homes. Social service agencies often partner with reputable contractors. Contact a few and get recommendations. In the Kansas City area, call up Rebuilding Together and United Way.
Rebuilding Together works with these Kansas City contractors:
Climate Control Heating & Cooling
Clinton County Trailer Sales
C. M. Mose & Son
Full Nelson Plumbing
Homes By Chris
Larry Brown Excavating
Liberty & Northland Plumbing
Paul’s Heating & Cooling
Professional Pest Solutions
Richard Huber Plumbing
Western Specialty Contractors
3) Choose contractors willing to work with your occupational therapist throughout the entire process. Research shows that occupational therapists are the most effective at home modifications for you in your home because of their medical training (Stark, Keglovits, Arbesman, & Lieberman, 2017). Occupational therapists work with you on your priorities. We are a client-centered profession! Not to mention, clients report more satisfaction with home modifications if an occupational therapist is involved.
Contractors + occupational therapists = SUPER TEAM! Together, these professionals can help you live safely in your home!
Bonus tip: Some contractors receive specialized training for remodeling a home to fit different needs and stages of life. These contractors are called certified aging in place specialists also known as CAPS. Several websites where you can find them are listed below:
National Association of the Remodeling Industry
Certified Aging In Place Program (CAPS) members can be found here:
4) Don’t allow yourself to be pressured by family members. Ah, families! Do you have a cousin, Mike, who tells you, “I do great work and can beat anybody’s price out there,” but really doesn’t? Yeah, that’s a difficult spot to be in. It can be hard to turn them down. But after all, you are paying money for your home modifications and want to stay safe in your home. Let’s not compromise the work in any way! You can just say, “Thank you, Mike, for offering your services. I want to check with a couple more contractors. I will get back with you” or, “I appreciate your offer, but I prefer not to do business with family” and leave it at that.
5) Make some calls. Once you have assembled a list, make a quick call to each of your prospective contractors and ask them some quick questions (Tom Silva, 2018):
• Do they take on projects of your size?
• Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers or banks? (Here you want to find out if they paid their suppliers on time and if they are maintaining a bank account in good standing. This will give you clues on their business, money management, and an idea how they will handle what you are paying them.)
• Can they give you a list of previous clients?
• How many other projects would they have going at the same time?
• How long have they worked with their subcontractors?
Per Tom Silva, “The answers to these questions reveals the contractor’s availability, reliability, how much attention they'll be able to give your project, and how smoothly the work will go.” If a contractor seems defensive or does not want to answer these simple questions, they are probably not a contractor you want to work with.
6) Narrow your list. From that list, pick at least three contractors you liked. You will invite these contractors to your home to ask more questions such as:
How long have you been in business?
Do you have experience in doing home remodels for people who want to stay in their home as they age?
Are you licensed, bonded, and have worker’s compensation insurance? Check for proof.
Get a written bid from each contractor.
7) Call the references! Ask previous clients what their experience was like with the contractor. Some questions to ask include:
1) What were the contractors work habits on your job?
2) Did he/she stick to the contract?
3) Did your project stay on budget, or at least close to budget?
4) Did anything go wrong?
5) What was the working relationship like between the contractor and any subcontractors?
8) Compare. Now compare the responses, provided references, and bids of these contractors. You should be able to decide on the contractor to work in your home!
Some final words:
Expect the good contractors to be busy and not immediately available. Good contractors are the busy ones!
Avoid contractors who just show up at your door offering services at an unbelievably low rate. A common ploy is for contractors to come to your house and say they just finished a job down the street. They have some leftover supplies and wanted to offer you a great deal! More than likely it is not trustworthy. These people are often scammers.
Do not work with a contractor who asks for the entire cost or even half of the cost up front. They could end up taking your money and disappearing. Experts recommend you pay no more than 10% of the cost up front (Tom Silva, 2018). Scheduled payments should be made at particular points along the home modification process.
Do not make a final payment unless the job is 100% complete and you approved the work. Contractors have been known to leave the final touches unfinished after a final payment.
You can’t depend solely on online reviews to choose a good contractor. Some companies pay people to post a positive review. This should not be a substitute for checking references!
Likewise, you cannot depend on the online referral lists, such as Angie’s List. Companies are supposed to be listed on this site according to their performance. However, Consumer Reports wrote that a contractor can move up the list of preferred contractors by paying an advertising fee (McGrath, 2013).
While nothing is guaranteed, these steps will help you choose a trustworthy contractor with the skills you need for your home modifications. Rest assured you will be confident while choosing the right team to make your home beautiful and accessible. Tell us about your experiences with contractors! What tips do you have to add?
McGrath, M. (2013, September 19). Why Consumer Reports Says You Can't Trust Angie's List. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2013/09/18/why-consumer-reports-says-you-cant-trust-angies-list/#920de771bfa7
Stark, S., Keglovits, M., Arbesman, M., & Lieberman, D. (2017, March 01). Effect of Home Modification Interventions on the Participation of Community-Dwelling Adults With Health Conditions: A Systematic Review. Retrieved from https://ajot.aota.org/article.aspx?articleid=2601471
Top 8 Pro Tips on How to Hire a Contractor. (2018, January 06). Retrieved from https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/top-8-pro-tips-how-to-hire-contractor
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.
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.