Last weekend we had the pleasure of speaking with people from across East Tennessee to discuss how they could modify their home to make it more accessible for them at the Knoxville Home Remodeling Show. Many family caregivers came by to learn how they can empower their parents to remain in their home safely. We also heard from many of you who are soon realizing that you won’t be able to remain in your home long-term without home modifications like stair lifts to maintain access.
We were grateful for all who came out to hear our seminar Accessibility, the Key to Living in Your Home and want to share with our Homecare Advocate readers 3 key elements to creating an accessible home.
In earlier posts, we talked about the 5 key conversations to have with your physician on how to prevent falls. This truly is the foundation for preventing falls and creating a safe living environment. Secondly, it’s important to look at your physical house layout and to take an assessment of each room. At the Home Remodeling Show we distributed a Home Safety Checklist that you can pick up at either of our stores (or e-mail me at advocate(at)lambertshc.com and I’ll send you one). There are a variety of solutions for your home access needs ranging from easy access door handles to grab bars, from shower stools to walk-in bathtubs, ramps to stair lifts, and so much more. It was such a rewarding weekend to see people’s faces light up as they learn that there are products out there that will truly help them remain in their home and living independently.
After 3 straight days discussing home accessibility with people, a third component became very evident if one is going to create a safe living environment–acknowledging the need. We often found that those who were in greatest need were the very ones who couldn’t accept that they needed it. It was often the family caregiver who was trying to persuade their loved one to incorporate practical home accessibility options into the home, reminding them of the risks they live in each day.
Anais Nin once said, “We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” This was the case for many at-risk individuals who were stuck psychologically seeing adaptive technology as unnecessary or a physical sign of losing independence. Perhaps they didn’t realize how little by little they’d given up on being able to fully use every room and floor of their house. Perhaps they clung to the idea that they were once able to do everything and could still if they moved slowly enough or carefully enough–or they convinced themselves they didn’t really want full accessible living anyway. Whatever it is, these psychological barriers were preventing them from seeing how the opportunities these assistive devices offered to be enablers for independent, healthy living.
We all use devices to empower us, so why are these seen differently?
Think of Peyton Manning for example. He’s one of the greatest athletes of all time, yet he relies on the assistance of cleats to keep him from slipping and falling on the field. He knew what he wanted to do, and he found what he needed to get him there. And look at what’s happened as result! It’s the same with the assistive devices that you’ll use in your home. These products are tools that enable you, enhance your experience, and empower you to live fully, safely, and with confidence as you get to do so much more with greater ease and assurance.
Just think of how many assistive technologies we use every day without a second thought:
- Cars to get us to our destinations faster.
- Cell phones with reminder calendars to help us keep up with appointments.
- Ovens and microwaves to cook our food quickly and evenly instead of cooking over a built fire.
- Computers to type and store documents instead of writing everything by hand.
It’s the same thing with assistive technologies like stair lifts to allow you to safely travel from one floor to the next in your house if you have hip/knee/ankle troubles or are at risk of falling. It’s the same thing for walk-in bathtubs to provide a safe, therapeutic bathing experience that relaxes muscle tension, improves circulation, and eases pains of arthritis without worrying about slipping in the bathroom and laying nude as you wait for someone to come pick you up.
So what does it mean to have home accessibility, really?
It’s bathing with dignity and privacy. It’s using the basement again. It’s living in the home you love . It’s peace of mind so that you aren’t constantly worried about a loved one. It’s avoiding rehabilitation after a fall. It’s all of those things and more. Proactive, preventative measures you can take to improve your quality of life.
There ARE options. There IS hope. Seeing our fellow exhibitors at the Home Remodeling Show was proof that there are numerous resources available to you as you look to create a safe living environment that will suit your short- and long-term needs as you grow older. Talk to local companies who specialize in proper lighting on pathways, counters and cabinets that are wheelchair-accessible, barrier-free thresholds, and other access issues you have in your home. Learn from companies like Lambert’s who help troubleshoot problem areas every day from people like you from the community.
Your home is supposed to be a safe haven. A retreat for you, with everything centered around your preferences, style, and needs. But to be these things it must accommodating for you, both for today and tomorrow. I encourage you to look around your house this weekend and evaluate how well it works for you. Sure you can sell your house and move somewhere that has been built with your needs in mind. But most people I talk to prefer to stay where they are, where the walls tell their history like a gently loved, well-worn photo album. AARP did a study revealing that 89% of seniors want to remain in their homes for the rest of their lives. If you’re one of those 89%, look for real solutions. Use the cleats and create the home you grow old in.