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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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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!

Shower Remodel Ideas for Every Age

(This article is written by Megan Crissey, an certified occupational therapy assistant and graduate of 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

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.

Do It Before You Need It!

How old are you? Never mind! Doesn’t matter! Want to live in your home for a lifetime regardless of your age or ability? I DARE you to start making changes to your home today! Either watch this short video or keep reading down below!

Check out AARP’s HomeFit Guide by clicking here. It gives suggestions room by room to improve the safety of your home. The guide ranges in simple do-it-yourself tips to more complex ones that you may want to leave to a professional. My most favorite part of the HomeFit Guide is the recommendation for an occupational therapist to come to your house (That's me. Don't wait! Click here!).

AARP HomeFit Guide

AARP HomeFit Guide

The Lifetime Home by USC Leonard Davis

The Lifetime Home by USC Leonard Davis

Next take a look at The Lifetime Home by USC Leonard Davis. This website is for anyone, including professionals! Show it to Joe or Josephine, the handy person, for them to understand the work you want them to do. It tackles common problems in each room of the house and provides solutions in an easy to understand manner.

Lastly, give me a call. If you live in the KC Metro area, you have no excuse not to contact me. I am here to empower you! Allow me to come over (I am very courteous and tidy), do a quick evaluation, and give you tips to transform your home into a home for a lifetime.

That is a MUCH better option than moving into a facility.

I don’t care how nice the facility is. It’s still a facility. Let your home maintain your freedom, not dictate what you can and can’t do!

Make this a family affair by sharing this blog with your family members! I tell people, “Hey, I’m in my thirties and making changes in my home. Why aren’t you doing it?” Do it before you need it!

Guess What? More Social Media!

I created an Instagram account, @stayathomesolutions, to share interesting information on home modifications, aging in place, adaptive equipment, smart home technology, durable medical equipment, and universal design. These topics will enhance independence for you or for people you may know in a fun way! I am a big proponent of enjoying your life no matter your ability or experience.

Social media allows me to better explain my ideas and thoughts. What social media platforms do you like to use? Are you mainly a Facebook user? Pinterest? Tell me in the comments below!

Please click on the links below to take a look at my other social media:

Pinterest

Facebook

YouTube

As always, please message or call me if you would like for me to delve into a specific topic or product!

Never Give up Sports! Ever!!

On Friday, I posted a video on Facebook that gave tips on how to “Never Give up Sports! Ever!!” Kaitlyn McManus graciously shared her experience with helping children with low vision ski independently. She wrote an article for OT Practice detailing how she assisted one particular child in his goal to ski on his own using supports tailored for him. Kaitlyn also discussed a couple of simple ways for people of all ages to continue cycling and playing tennis to minimize stress on body joints.

Pexels

Pexels

In addition to the video, I wanted to share inspirational stories from older adult athletes from this Reader’s Digest article. I am particularly fond of Anna McGowan, an avid participant in long jump, shot put, and discus. She has competed in the National Senior Games since 1987 and took up sports to help cope with the loss of her husband at the age of 50 years old. Anna McGowan said the secret to healthy aging is, “doing what you feel like doing.” Another great article is from CBS, which highlights 43 athletes from the 2011 National Senior Games. After reading these stories, I personally felt my heart strings tug and a strong desire to take my dog on a brisk walk in the neighborhood.

Pexels

Pexels

If you consider yourself a beginner at working out, Reader’s Digest published an article encouraging people to first talk with your doctor and complete a physical exam to rule out any conditions that may put you at risk for harm. Your doctor will suggest certain physical activities and ways to monitor vitals such as your pulse and breathing. Next, consider consulting with a personal trainer to find exercises or group classes that meet your interests and physical health. Beginners are invited to go slow during workouts to build endurance and strength and to avoid injury. For more tips on how to make exercise a lifestyle change, check out the National Senior Games Association and American Council on Exercise portal at https://nsga.acefitness.org/.

Stair Lifts Costs

[This article was initially published on the blog August 15, 2017. I checked current payment options for residents of Missouri and Kansas.]

I recently encountered a client who was unable to walk up the stairs in her home to access her bedroom and bathroom. Unfortunately, my client has no bathroom on the main level of the house. My client has the following options: 1) Use a bedside commode and portable shower in the living room. 2) Install a stair lift or inclined wheelchair lift to access the second floor. The client opted to remain in a facility until gaining more independence with her ability to care for herself.

A stair lift or elevator is a viable choice for people who want to remain living in their home. However, lifts can cost thousands of dollars and can be difficult for most people to pay up front. For adults 65 years and older, Medicare will only pay a small sum if the stair lift has an elevated seat. People eligible for Medicaid will find coverage varies by state and may not cover the entire cost of the installation. Read my blog post, "Payment Options for Home Modifications" to learn more about Missouri Medicaid.

Lastly, the Veteran's Administration will pay for a stair lift or inclined wheelchair lift for a veteran who is a wheelchair user with a service connected disability. This will occur after a home visit and functional skills assessment by an occupational therapist. 

It is important to note that I always recommend using a company who specializes in lifts and elevators, such as KC Lift, in able to assure you purchase the most appropriate and safe lift for your needs. If you purchase a lift off of the internet, you do not have the guarantee the lift is properly installed.

If you were unable to move on your own, would you be able to live in your home? Please contact me on Facebook (@stayathomesolutionskc) or email me to let me know what your options would be!

3 Ways to Future-Proof Your Bathroom

Because we spend so much time in the bathroom, it is worthwhile to consider investing in a bathroom to serve your needs for a long time. Pinterest and other design resources are encouraging people to think about creating a spa-like atmosphere for the bathroom. We all like the idea of relaxing in a luxurious bathroom now and in the distant future. From an occupational therapist perspective, you can marry the functional demands of a bathroom with aesthetics to create a bathroom that performs for any age or ability.

Photo: Pexels

Photo: Pexels

1) The first step when planning a future-proof bathroom is to contemplate: who is going to use the bathroom? How many family members will be using the bathroom daily? Consider the ages of family members, their height, weight, and their abilities. What is the daily routine? What tasks will be completed in the bathroom?

Here is an example of what that may look like. Jim and Pam are planning on redesigning their bathroom. The couple works full time and enjoy staying active outdoors. They are thinking about retiring in five years to visit their son across the country more often. Jim and Pam want a double sink in the bathroom to avoid waiting while getting ready for work. Jim has a history of back injuries which he attributes to his 6'4 height and bending over to kiss Pam who is 5'3. They also want the bathroom to accommodate visits from their grandchildren, ages one and three, and their closest friend who uses a cane to walk.

Photo: Pexels

Photo: Pexels

2) Consult with an occupational therapist.

Photo: Cole Lindbergh

Photo: Cole Lindbergh

There are many factors when designing a future-proof bathroom that include ergonomics, function, and anthropometrics. You do not want to risk squandering money or a low quality outcome. Occupational therapists consider how the environment affects a person's ability to perform tasks and how a person's needs will differ from the next person. Occupational therapists collaborate with other professionals, such as contractors, builders, architects, and interior designers to list a few, to create the bathroom that will fit your needs for the long term. You will find guaranteed satisfaction with the result of the bathroom remodel if you include an occupational therapist.

 

3) Consider bathroom ideas that work for all ages.

Make the bathroom bigger. Oftentimes, the bathroom is one of the smallest rooms in the house. You will be happier if an external wall can move to dedicate more space to the bathroom.

Photo: Pexels

Photo: Pexels

 

Lever-style handles on the sink and shower faucets will make turning water on/off, adjusting water temperature, and changing water pressure easier for people of all abilities.

Install a 3 in 1 shower head with a handheld shower head on a sliding rail for options for someone to stand or sit on a shower bench or chair.

Think about creating a wet room that includes the bathtub and shower with a waterproofed floor with a drain. A shower spray could reach water throughout the wet room and floor for cleaning purposes. You can separate the bathroom into a wet room and dry room to allow people to use the sink. This also saves money from waterproofing the entire bathroom! Read more about wet rooms by clicking here from Houzz. Or click on the picture below to go to HGTV's article on wet rooms.

Photo: HGTV

Photo: HGTV

Accommodate the toilet height and bathroom counter height for the user. In our example above, Jim and Pam may benefit from a double sink that allows flexibility in height to accommodate Jim's 6'4 stature and Pam's 5'3 frame. The couple would benefit from a comfort height toilet to make it safer for Jim and Pam when standing up after toileting.

Lastly, install nonslip surfaces in all areas of the bathroom: floor, shower pan, and bathtub. You can choose materials with nonslip properties or use products like Slip Doctors anti slip coating to prevent falls in the bathroom. Read more about Slip Doctors in my article from September 2017.

Social Media Alert!
stay_at_home_solutions_maria

Stay at Home Solutions has two big announcements! The first is our brand new Pinterest account: Stay at Home Solutions. Pinterest allows users to save images or "pins" on boards where you can organize your ideas and make them easy to find. Stay at Home Solutions has boards for different rooms inside and outside the home and a board on universal design. Feel free to look at our pins and save them on your boards in order to give you ideas to age in place!

The second newsworthy item is we are going to broadcast on Facebook Live at noon every Friday with tips on how to age in place! Check out our first Facebook Live video by clicking on this link! Forgive us for posting the video in portrait instead of landscape.The Facebook Live videos are also posted on Youtube in landscape. Please like and follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos on aging in place and home modifications!

Please feel free to give tips or suggestions on how you would like to interact with us on social media.

 

 

Let Me Help You Prevent Falls!

Every 20 minutes an older adult dies from a fall at home in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research shows three things can help prevent falls at home and in the community: home modification, physical activity, and medication management. Stay at Home Solutions can help you address all three ways to prevent falls with our skilled occupational therapy services. 

For some people, engaging in physical fitness can be more challenging. An example of this is people with Alzheimer's disease. Check out this article for caregivers on how to help a loved one with Alzheimer's stay physically fit!

Please contact us to help you, a friend, or family member find the best way to prevent falls!