Mobility-Challenged Aging Parents: From Rehab Center to Home for Thanksgiving at 97

The Ingredients to Make it Happen 

Our Thanksgiving celebration, like that of many, brings together family members and one or two very close friends and their families. We span generations. This year the youngest is 5 months old and  R is 99.

R has never missed our Thanksgiving gatherings be they in the East or in the West. But year before last–on September 30th–she broke her hip. Attending Thanksgiving dinner that year was questionable. After hip surgery for a broken femur, doctor’s orders were no weight bearing on leg for 90 days….and she was in a rehab center.

There were times leading up to Thanksgiving when R didn’t think she could make it; but in her heart of hearts she wanted to come. The rehab center people said if she wanted to come, we all would be trained, keeping in mind she could only put weight on her good leg. Here’s how:

1. The physical therapist worked with R, sitting in her wheel chair with brake set, getting up on her good leg, teaching her to make a small turn using both arms and one leg, holding someone’s hands for stability. She kind of hopped on her good leg and turned on her heel so the back of her leg touched the car door frame on the passenger side. Then she lowered herself onto the car seat (body facing opened door) and with her good leg she moved herself around so she was facing forward and ready to go.

2. The physical therapist and R practiced this particular maneuver for several days preceding Thanksgiving. We watched how she did it. We knew R would have no problem leaving the rehab facility because if she was having problems, there were professionals at the rehab facility to help her into the car.

3. The bigger challenge was our helping her out of the car and into her wheel chair, when we got home, then into the house (with carpeted floor) and over to the dining room table. We debated whether she should/could transfer to a chair once at the table; and ultimately decided not to try–if the wheel chair would go up to the table and fit nicely. It did.

4. My husband and I were instructed how to help R get into, then out of, the car. Two memories are better than one. R remembered very well also. We knew what to do, but our insecurity (which it turns out wasn’t necessary) was being able to do the reverse to take R back to rehab. It was important to take R back before she was too tired to do her part.

Although R was clearly tired from the outing, joining everyone for Thanksgiving dinner was uplifting.  We began taking her out for short drives soon after–always affirming for her. It was a mental boost–a reality– that she was making progress.

Since there are several days until Thanksgiving, R’s experience may be useful right now. And since the percentage of older people who can expect to fall and sustain a broken hip is soberingly high, remembering R’s experience could be important in the future.

Obviously talking with the professionals at the rehab center begins the process, which in R’s case, was a jump-start to getting back to normal.

2/20/13 Help! Aging Parents again was 1st runner-up, this time joined by 3 additional  blogs for this honor. Check them and all finalists out on  And many thanks again for your vote.

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