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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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Eight Steps to Find the Right Contractor!

[This post is written by Sharon Ugochukwu, a former occupational therapy assistant student from National American University.]

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Pexels

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.

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Rebuilding Together works with these Kansas City contractors:

Always Plumbing
Bart’s Electric
Billings Construction
Climate Control Heating & Cooling
Clinton County Trailer Sales
C. M. Mose & Son
Full Nelson Plumbing
Geiger Ready-Mix
Homes By Chris
Jamison Plumbing
L&M Electric
Larry Brown Excavating
Liberty & Northland Plumbing
Moffett Electric
Owen Homes
Paul’s Heating & Cooling
Professional Pest Solutions
Richard Huber Plumbing
Rite-Way Gutters
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

Find remodelers in Missouri

Find remodelers in Kansas

Certified Aging In Place Program (CAPS) members can be found here:

Missouri

Kansas

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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.

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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:

  1. How long have you been in business?

  2. Do you have experience in doing home remodels for people who want to stay in their home as they age?

  3. Are you licensed, bonded, and have worker’s compensation insurance? Check for proof.  

  4. 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:

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Pexels

  • 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?

References:

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

How to Make the Bathroom Safe: A Case Study

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

-Socrates

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Unsplash

In my line of work, I find that people fight “the old” constantly. I help people find ways to live at home as long as they want, no matter what happens to them in life.

Now you may think that I’m referring to “the old” as in old people. How dare you?! On the contrary, “the old” isn’t people who are getting older! “The old” is how houses are built and set up in the past and today.

Do you have arthritis? Did you get injured in a car accident? Did the doctor inform you that you have a chronic disease? I can help you live at home despite any of those things.

“Building the new” means a couple of things to me too! Of course, “building the new” could refer to professionals in the housing industry creating accessible homes right now. But “building the new” also refers to having a new way of thinking!

Instead of thinking, “Oh, I’ve lived in this house for thirty years, and I’ve always done things this way”, I ask people to be open to the idea that you can live in your house by making minor changes that ensure your safety and independence.

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Unsplash

One of my clients, let’s call him Tom, asked for a home evaluation to see what he could do to feel safer while using his bathroom. During assessments, I ask personal questions like, “Do you get tired when you’re showering?”

Tom told me he did feel tired while showering.

Hard fact per the CDC: the most falls that happen at home occur when people step out of the shower.

I told Tom that feeling tired while showering could make it easier for him to fall in the shower and get hurt! Tom quickly countered that he has always stood to take a shower!

My inner dialogue started engaging. I thought, “Oh no, Tom is not accepting the fact that his body is changing and he has different needs then he did decades ago.” Instead of panicking, I knew that I could come to a perfect solution for Tom to provide the support he needed.

During my assessment, I noticed Tom had no place to safely sit in his step in shower. Even if Tom did sit in the shower, the shower head would constantly spray him in the face and he would have no control of where to aim the water!

Well, I don’t want Tom to drown in his own shower!

Tom and I discussed different options on what to do with the shower. An inexpensive way was to use a shower chair that was not attached to the wall. This would allow Tom to stand or sit during the shower depending on how he felt that day. I let him know at least the shower chair would be there if he felt tired and needed to sit and rest. Shower chairs with backrests and armrests are ideal to let Tom lean back to relax.

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Unsplash

Next, I recommended Tom install a handheld shower head on a height adjustable mount. The handheld shower head allows Tom to aim water where ever he likes while sitting or standing in the shower. A height adjustable mount gives Tom the ability to put the shower head down and adjust the shower head at the height he wants. If Tom wants to stand and shower, he would adjust the shower head above his head. If he prefers to sit and shower, Tom would lower the height of the shower head.

Arthritis can be very nasty to our grip strength as we mature. To make sure Tom could always manage the water controls, I suggested replacing the water control that depended on twisting wrist action to a lever style handle. Lever style handles require very little effort to use.

As a rule of thumb, I help people prevent twisting their backs while reaching for soap and shampoo in the shower. I told Tom he would benefit from placing shower storage within reach in front of his body while sitting in the shower chair. Tom agreed and decided to install a corner shelf in the shower at his shoulder height. This is a great technique to prevent falls as well!

We also discussed installing one grab bar in the shower and one grab bar outside of the shower to give Tom stability while stepping in and out of the shower. Although the shower lip was only several inches high, it’s very easy for people to trip on the lip and fall. We placed the grab bars at heights that were specific for Tom’s anthropometrics. After all, Tom’s the only one using the shower!

I love customizing people’s homes!

Tom agreed to these inexpensive options. He liked the idea of being able to stand or sit when he wanted. Tom kept his freedom and dignity to shower while feeling safe at the same time.

I can’t express the satisfaction I feel when I help people get what they want. Tom chose the fixtures he wanted to keep in line with the aesthetics of his bathroom. Nothing looked like a sterile hospital or nursing home. If Tom had a visitor look at his bathroom, no one would have any idea that we made changes in order to prevent Tom from falling while showering.

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Unsplash

While we gather with our loved ones this holiday season, I encourage you to talk to your family members about how their needs may be changing. We know that you and your family are dealing with “the old”, or the way houses are currently set up to be inaccessible. Let’s talk about “building the new”, making those changes in the home that can allow your family members to live safely and independently at home.

Call me or email me for ideas on how to talk with your family members about how they are doing taking care of themselves and their homes. I hate to brag, but I’m very good at talking about these personal things with people! In fact, let me talk to your family members for you!

With that being said, I wish you all a lovely Holiday Season! I will see you on the blog in January!

Midwest Ability Summit Experience and EXCITING Announcement!
Photo: Amanda Pearman

Photo: Amanda Pearman

(FYI: This post is an overview about my experience at the Midwest Ability Summit this last Saturday. BUT if you want to skip down to the bottom to read my exciting announcement, I wouldn’t blame you!)

Oh my! This past Saturday was fantastic! I had a booth at the Midwest Ability Summit at the Overland Park Convention Center in Overland Park, KS. This event is an ability expo that showcases various resources in the Kansas City metro for people with disabilities, their family members, caregivers, and health care professionals. There were educational classes, non-profit organizations, service providers, and tons more from law groups to home health companies!

Check out midwestabilitysummit.org to see all of the exhibitors from this year! Also, click here to learn more about the purpose of Stay at Home Solutions!

Personally, I felt so happy for my booth to sit right next to the KSDS Assistance Dogs because I got to sneak over and pet the doggies in training! For you animal lovers, there were also adorable therapy mini ponies at the summit. Never discount the health benefits of our four-legged friends!

Photo: David Groves

Photo: David Groves

There were many other sights to take in at this event. I enjoyed watching the tennis demonstration area directly across from my booth. The happy expressions on the children and adults lobbying tennis balls to each other felt palpable! In fact, I tossed a couple of stray balls back into action. In addition to a sports viewing, I saw children and adults test recumbent bikes and power wheelchairs and standing frames around the convention center floor with huge grins. Everybody was having fun!

To add to the festivities, my booth offered candy amid other freebies like pens, sticky pads, and chapstick. I heard many parents bemoan the fact that the summit was like Halloween because of the vast amounts of candy within reach for the children! My booth neighbors came and grabbed candy for a quick snack every once in a while in between people. Visitors hauled tote bags full of goodies and information around the venue while talking to exhibitors.

The summit impressed me with the consideration of their guests! For instance, they provided a quiet/ sensory friendly area for people who needed a break from the stimulating sights and sounds. The displays were fantastic too! My friend and frequent project collaborator, David Groves of Accessible RehabWorks, set up a barrier free shower, patio, and wooden ramp. It looked amazing and added to the atmosphere of this event.

I was also delighted to see organizations represented at the summit that contribute excellent services to the community and I deeply support, like Minds Matter!

I felt so pleased to have many people come visit at my booth! I was happy to answer questions about my business and home modifications. Here are some of the most frequent ones:

Question: “How far out do you visit people?”

Answer: I see everyone in the Kansas City area in about a 50 mile radius. I am willing to Skype or do some other type of video communication with people who live outside of the area. For people who live outside Kansas City, I offered to help find home modification occupational therapists for people, like in Texas and Colorado.

Question: “Do you read blueprints?”

Answer: Yes, I do! I am happy to consult for people planning on building houses in order for them to live safely and independently.

Question: “I live in an apartment/townhouse. Can you help me?”

Answer: Absolutely yes! The Fair Housing Act ensures landlords allow reasonable accommodations be made for their residents. I recommend home modifications that will benefit you and make your landlord happy.

Question: “Do you see people of all ages?”

Answer: Yes, I am happy to see everybody! Everyone deserves to live in their home safely and independently without worry of moving to a facility!

Photo: Amanda Pearman

Photo: Amanda Pearman

Question: “Do you take insurance?”

Answer: I take Missouri Medicare and am able to bill all of the managed care insurance companies for Medicare beneficiaries like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Coventry, etc.

Question: “Are you an occupational therapist?”

Answer: Why yes I am!

There were visitors who asked specific questions about their home. For example, I helped a lady problem solve how to prevent water from spreading all over her bathroom floor from her barrier free shower. Another couple discussed options for downsizing their current home to make sure they could age in place in the community as opposed to going to a facility. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to people and learning about their needs and concerns for staying at home.

Photo: Pexels

Photo: Pexels

Hear ye! Hear ye! Okay, now are you ready for my EXCITING announcement!

I have a RAFFLE for a FREE home evaluation! This is for all ages! If you win, I will come to your home and give you options on what you can do to live safely and independently! There are no prerequisites for a home evaluation (like a history of falls or disability). Every single person on the planet benefits from a professional like me to come give you ideas!

How do you enter? Like my Facebook page (@stayathomesolutionskc) by August 30th at 9 PM to enter the raffle! If you have already liked my Facebook page, please follow me on Instagram (@stayathomesolutions) or Pinterest (Stay at Home Solutions) to enter the raffle! Remember, I also post videos on YouTube at Stay at Home Solutions.

If you win the free home evaluation and you would like to gift it to a friend or family member, you sure can!

The winner will be announced this Friday, August 31st at noon on Facebook! Tune in to see who wins this amazing prize! Contests like these make me feel so excited!

I promise to shoot the Facebook video in landscape this time!

Lastly, I just wanted to say how honored I am to be included in the Midwest Ability Summit. The organizers are lovely, big-hearted people to create a one-stop shop for people of all different conditions and backgrounds. The summit was all inclusive and fun for attendees! I look forward to being a part of this event next year!

Can't Open the Washing Machine (Or Dryer) Door?
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Pexels

I will admit to you all today that I sometimes struggle to open the washing machine or dryer door. There are instances where I do not grip the door handle well enough and my hand slips off! Occasionally, I attempt to open the door and need to tug on it two to three times before it opens! When I experience this I tend to think, "Oh my gosh, why is this so hard?"

Then my occupational therapy brain starts to kick in and think: "How can I solve this? How can I make it easier to open the washer or dryer door?"

Well my friends, let me share some ideas with you today! Let's go through and think about your current situation!

stay_at_home_solutions_laundry

Please go and look at your washer and dryer right now. I will patiently wait for you! (Side note: Hopefully your washer and dryer are on the main level of your house. If not, put that in your three to five year home modification plan! A washer and dryer on the main level of the house helps people age in place in their home!)

Ok, did you look? I am going to ask the following questions:

  • What type of washer and dryer do you have? Are they front or top loaders?

  • Are they a stackable washer and dryer?

  • What brand do you have? 

  • Which direction does the door open and shut on the washer and dryer?

  • Where are the control buttons on the washer and dryer? On the front of the machine? Towards the back on a panel?

  • Where is it located in the house?

The answers to these questions tell me a lot about how you are moving to do laundry. It leads me to other questions about you personally like:

  • What is your dominant hand? Right or left?

  • What is your grip strength?

  • Are you sitting or standing at the machine when moving loads?

  • Are you sitting or standing while folding clothes?

  • How far can you reach while sitting or standing?

  • Are you using equipment, like a walker or reacher?

  • When you do laundry, do you wear out after a short time or can you do everything without rest breaks?

  • Do you lose your balance when reaching for clothes inside the machine?

There are no right or wrong answers! Everyone does laundry a little bit different. Answering these questions helps me think about the best options for you when opening the washer and dryer door. It tells me what your needs are and the possible solutions to making it easier to open the door handle every time.

It is also really helpful to see you in action! Ask your local, friendly occupational therapist to watch how you open the washer or dryer door handle to find a way to make it better for you! Or another option is to have your family member or friend take a video recording. You know your teenage children or grandchildren would be happy to whip out their phones to video record you in action!

After considering all the information and how you open the washer or dryer door handle, perhaps your solution is as simple as switching the door hinges to swing from the right instead of the left or vice versa. Maybe you are able to add some texture around the handle of the washer and dryer door handle, like shelf liner or some other type of non slip grip. The solution varies from person to person!

Clarke Health Care grab bar

Clarke Health Care grab bar

I talked with another occupational therapist about trying a suction cup grab bar on the washer or dryer door. The handle of the suction cup grab bar would be easier to grip. However, the temperature changes on the surface of the machine's door could cause the suction cup grab bar to fall off after several uses. If you have tried to use a suction cup grab bar as a door handle on your washer or dryer, please comment down below! I am curious to hear your experience!

To be honest, this is one of the rare times I encourage people to use a suction cup grab bar at home! Please click here to read why I am skeptical about suction cup grab bars!

After doing some quick research, I found an ingenious way to fix a broken handle on a washer or dryer door. Click here to read this do-it-yourself article on how to change your washer/dryer door handle into a rope handle! I have never seen anyone use a rope as a door handle on the washer or dryer in person. Nevertheless, this option is appealing because it is inexpensive and straightforward to pull on the rope to open the door.

An alternative strategy is an autorelease, or automatic, washer or dryer door. The door would open as soon as the load finished, which lessens the need to open the washer or dryer door. I researched this option and only found it for a dishwasher brand. Manufacturers, hear my plea to be more creative with your washer and dryer handles!

Home Depot Samsung Washer

Home Depot Samsung Washer

In the same technology vein, I looked at several smart washers and dryers. I could not find any with a feature that made it easier to open the washer and dryer door. However, I encourage you to consider this type of appliance because smart washers and dryers cost around the same amount as other washers and dryers. Other benefits include smart washers and dryers running loads when energy usage in your neighborhood is low, monitoring machine parts that need replacement, and controlling the machine from an app on your smart phone.

Hopefully, these ideas will help you open the washer or dryer door effortlessly! These tips will help you stay independent while doing your laundry for years to come. Laundry is not the most pleasurable chore for people, but you deserve for it to be free of difficulty! Please share what you have done to your washer or dryer door handle. Tell me what technology, equipment, or parts that I'm missing! 

Guess Who's on My OT Spot?
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Pexels

Holy moly! My OT Spot posted my article here! Take a look at it!

My OT Spot is a fantastic website dedicated to people interested in becoming occupational therapists and current practitioners to learn how to succeed and thrive in this field! The article I wrote gives occupational therapists a list of highly recommended home modifications for their clients when they go home from rehab.

At the end of the day, I want to help people stay at home safely and independently. I love love love helping my fellow occupational therapists serve their clients! 

If you read this article, please comment down below on what you think!

6 Reasons to Reconsider Buying a Walk-in Tub
theseniorlist.com

theseniorlist.com

People often ask me about my opinion on walk-in tubs. Walk-in tubs look like tall bathtubs with a door that allows a person to step inside or sit on a seat to slide into the tub. After you close the door, you fill up the tub with water and bathe as usual.

Walk-in tubs seem ubiquitous! Every time I turn on the TV, I see a commercial showing a smiling older adult confidently stepping out of the walk-in tub. The announcer explains how easily walk-in tubs could replace your current tub shower and how this product improves your safety and independence.

“Imagine closing your eyes while soaking in a luxurious walk-in tub.”

Marketers harp the ability for people to enjoy showering or bathing for their lifetime with these great, quality walk-in tubs. However, I think it’s a good idea to take a step back and look at the overall picture of walk-in tubs. In my experience as an occupational therapist working with clients from all backgrounds, I am not convinced walk-in tubs are suitable for everyone. I present to you six reasons to reconsider buying a walk-in tub!

1) Safety Features:

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Pexels

If you are contemplating buying a walk-in tub, make sure you ask for safety features like grab bars and non slip flooring and seating. Paying a little more up front will save money in the long run compared to the cost of an emergency room visit and hospitalization! Of course, you could add non slip decals or coating to surfaces after purchase, but that may violate the manufacturer’s warranty. Although you are stepping or sliding into and out of the walk-in tub, surfaces feel slippery when wet. Remember, the number one cause of falls in the bathroom is slipping while stepping out of the shower!

2) Customize to the Client:

Contractors are great at installing and building things, but their job does not include considering the size and reach of the client. If you have a hand held shower head installed along with the walk-in tub, you want it to be within your reach while you’re sitting down, right? Well my friends, sometimes the hand held shower head is installed out of the reach of the person who would like to use it.

I worked with a woman who shared her story of installing a walk-in tub at home. She also requested to have a hand held shower head installed to rinse her hair while using the walk-in tub. My client felt dismayed when she discovered she could not reach the hand held shower head while sitting down. The shower head sprayed water all over her bathroom dousing the floor and walls! Talk about a fall risk! This particular client is very petite, which means standard measurements for hand held shower head placement do not work for her.

I encouraged her to contact the company who installed it and request to place the hand held shower head in a different location. My client’s experience also highlights the fact on why it is a good idea for occupational therapists to be involved with home modifications, like installing a walk-in tub, in order for projects to be customized for the use of the client.

3) Mr. Freeze:

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Pexels

This same client brought up another problem: she felt “frozen” while the walk-in tub filled up with water. Unfortunately, people need to sit inside the walk-in tub and close the door completely shut before you can turn on the water. Walk-in tubs do not come with any type of heating system, like radiant heating in the ceiling, and rely solely on hot water to warm the client.

Walk-in tub companies report their faucets and drains move water quickly to lessen the client’s experience of feeling cold. But that still means you are going to feel cold while waiting for the water to fill the tub and empty out! Do you really want to pay thousands of dollars to feel uncomfortable?

4) Energy:

Installing a radiant heating system in the ceiling will increase the overall price of installing the walk-in tub. As people age, it is easier to feel cold, especially in your birthday suit! Many customers want a heating system for comfort. Make sure to look for a system that uses energy efficiently. Some heating systems can use a lot of electricity keeping you warm while you bathe in the walk-in tub.

I found that people who feel cold or unsafe with walk-in tubs shower less frequently or not at all! These type of people “sponge bathe” or bathe at the bathroom or kitchen sink. It does not make sense to install a walk-in tub that is seldom used!

5) Medical Conditions:

If you have a progressive medical condition, walk-in tubs will not be safe in years to come. Progressive medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s or dementia, cause people to lose the strength and ability to move as well as they used to. Walk-in tubs require people to have a certain amount of balance and strength to open/close the door, step or slide inside and out, lean, reach, and sit/stand upright. When you lose the ability to do those things, the walk-in tub becomes completely obsolete to you. In fact, walk-in tubs become dangerous to try and get in and out!

Dangerous to get in and out to take a bath? Inconceivable! Sad, but true!

There are instances where people with progressive medical conditions have slipped off the seat in the walk-in tub to the floor. They were unable to push and lift themselves off of the floor of the walk-in tub! It’s terrifying when you consider that you cannot open the door until you drain the tub! Not to mention, it’s hard for rescuers to help people stuck in the tub because of slippery skin and bathroom surfaces. It may take hours for rescuers to successfully help a person out of the walk-in tub. Can you imagine being in the position?

6) Caregivers:

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Pexels

Walk-in tubs are not good for the caregiver (i.e. family, friends, or paid workers). From an ergonomic perspective, caregivers may feel more back pain from assisting a person in/out of the walk-in tub and the extra bending and reaching over to help with bathing. For instance, it takes more effort for a caregiver to reach over and help a client with lower body bathing. Don’t be surprised if a caregiver will object to you installing a walk-in tub in your house!

7) Bonus Reason!

Walk-in tubs are very pricey for a lot of people. They can cost up to $20,000 depending on the model and accessories. If installed and you don’t like it, it will cost thousands to remove and replace it.

Many people I know simply do not have the finances to install a walk-in tub. Perhaps that is for the best. I do not see walk-in tubs as a cost efficient option for the majority of the population because of the potential problems they cause. I really only condone them if a person has the finances and space in the house to install a walk-in tub in addition to a tub shower or barrier free shower.

Look, I am not here to bash or put down walk-in tubs. I just feel like they are marketed as the solution for people who cannot get in and out of the tub. That is not the case: walk-in tubs are not the solution for every person!

At the end of the day, I urge you to thoroughly consider all the factors when looking at a walk-in tub. List out your expectations and needs and then look at all of your options. Will walk-in tubs really meet your standard over the long term? Have you researched other options such as barrier free showers? If you find yourself in need of some extra guidance, look into consumer reviews of walk-in tubs and call up an occupational therapist! Ask your friends and family if they have installed a walk-in tub. What did they think about it?

For the cost and time to install a walk-in tub, I encourage you to be an informed consumer and make the best decision for you. I hate to see people completely dissatisfied with a product that affects their ability to bathe! I want to hear your thoughts or experience with walk-in tubs below in the comments. Tell me what you think!

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!