Search engines connect to countless websites offering renovations to help aging parents and others remain in their homes when muscles, joints, and limbs become “ify.” Mobility problems may instantly flash “candidate for assisted living” in the minds of many and rightly so.
The flip side for others, however, is the cost (literally and emotionally) of moving vs. remaining in one’s home. Clearly, if mental capacity has become impaired, remaining at home is risky. When aging parents still have a “good head on their shoulders” and are adamant about remaining in their home, values and a philosophy of life come into play. And so it was for Sr. Advisor R, now 99.
Readers know she still lives, without daily help or a companion, in the 1-story home she and her husband built in the mid-1940’s. From the minute she left the hospital after surgery for a broken hip two years ago (she lost her balance and fell after making a quick turn to straighten out a picture her cleaning woman had turned around), going home was her only goal. After 4 months “of very hard work” (she’ll tell you) in a rehab center, she went home alone, refusing all offers of anyone’s staying there with her. But she couldn’t go home without a physical therapist visiting her home and making specific recommendation to make her home as accident proof as possible.
R is smart, reads widely, orders through catalogs, and had already taken the initiative to have some of the usual grab bars, easier-to-grip handles for faucets etc. installed well before breaking her hip. She was limber enough before her fall to get in and out of a bath tub with help from the grab bars. But after hip surgery a shower became an easier option. That entailed updating her previously not-often-used shower.
The shower is about 4′ x 6′ and grab bars were installed on 3 walls: 2 horizontal and 1 vertical. Looking in one sees a high step up. A vertical grab bar is unseen on the right wall, just as you step in (or out) and a left horizontal bar above the bench is easily grabbed when stepping into the shower. The 2nd horizontal bar plus a soap dish are within easy reach. Turning the corner, the shower control comes into view. The tile floor is from the ’40’s and would not be recommended today because of its somewhat slippery finish. R is very careful. Doesn’t stand to shower and doesn’t do much walking in the small confines.
Next, the shower control (on the wall opposite the bench) and the long metal shower hose hanging down for the hand-held sprayer attachment (there’s no shower head–only a vertical bar the sprayer could be attached to if used as a shower head, which it isn’t). The sprayer faces the shower controls but actually fastens into a holder on the 4th wall abutting the shower door and near grab bar. R. says the sprayer attachment is heavier than she would have liked but, she says, “I wasn’t consulted.”
I have a Kohler spray attachment that I love. (Check it out, [e-faucets was least expensive a year ago]); I researched well before getting it. It’s as powerful as the big ones–good for a female, someone with small hands, or someone who wants/needs something relatively light and small. No doubt we’ll make that a gift (Mother’s Day will be here before we know it), but we will check with R first to make certain she’d like it.
Having a small bathroom and small shower made this “update” simple, but “expensive–around $1,000″–according to R. Moving to assisted or independent living would have been quite expensive. Much more money for much less space. Plus, she’d be leaving a home and neighbors that have been–and are–an important part of her life.
As long as R’s mind continues to be good, she will call the shots (and enjoy her refurbished shower). To do otherwise would be to undermine all that she has done to remain independent. As we try to help parents age well, we stop and ask ourselves: Is it easier/better for us or easier or better for them?”
Related: Bathroom Safety Checklist: http://afriendlyhouse.com/17/Safety-checklist–Bathroom/ I found this article several months after writing this post. R’s hands have no problem with the dial shower control mechanism.
Changing weekly: “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities, plus some free and some fun stuff–to help parents age well.