Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming eBook, Caring for the Sandwich Generation at Home. In our tour of a typical living environment, our focus turns to the access points of the home, condo, townhome, or apartment.
Entering/Exiting the Home
Getting Out. The number one question here is: can you get out of your living space by yourself safely in the event of an emergency? If not, please fix the problem today or never stay at home alone without a capable caregiver who can assist you in exiting the home!
Can you reach and operate the door handle and locks independently? If the door handle is too stiff to turn then you might try: 1) tightly wrapping rubber bands around the handle to widen or improve your grip or 2) installing lever handles. Remove loose rugs and all objects obstructing a clear exit path. If you must have a rug, please follow the guidelines noted in the Fall and Injury Prevention section earlier. Allow plenty of room around the door and surrounding area, especially if you are using an assistive device such as a cane, walker, or wheelchair. If anyone in the home is using one of these assistive devices, create a 5-foot turning radius (free of furniture or other obstacles around the area covered by the swing of the door). Does the landing require a secure ramp with a railing to avoid tripping over a step? How about a grab bar?
Further, how is the lighting inside and outside the door? This is a fine location for a photosensitive or motion-activated nightlight. Do not hang pretty things on the door handle or back of the door that can fall off, alter your ability to quickly grasp the knob, or trip you in the event of an emergency. And if there is a keyed deadbolt on the inside surface of the door, please consider always keeping the key in the lock. It’s easy to fumble with keys, hooks, or forget where the key is in the panic of an urgent situation. Have a wandering toddler or older member of the household that you need to keep from leaving the home unassisted? As a last resort, place this key adjacent to the door but not right next to the lock within their view. (See also the section: Let’s not forget memory, behavior, and mood considerations.)
Getting In. The same considerations apply to getting into your living space as getting out of it. Please also refer to the Home Security section earlier. Sometimes it’s hard to open a screen door, unlock a door, and get inside when use of our hands is restricted either by injury or the things we are carrying. Consider tying a loop around the outer door handle and installing a hook along the wall or a nearby railing. Just securely fasten the loop to the door handle and use it to hold the door open until you can get inside and set things down. Be sure to unhook the loop and relock the main door afterwards of course!
While I could write an entire manual on navigating steps outside, the installation of ramps, winter/wet weather considerations, and more, let’s go with some general suggestions here. Please also refer to the eBook for extensive discussion on Hallways, Lighting, and Home Security.
Author Bias: ramps are best installed by a professional installer. I have seen many pieces of plywood lying dangerously and loosely across the steps of front porch, ramps steeper than an amusement park ride, absence of railings, and walkway widths no bigger than a goat path to
contribute to this opinion of seeking a professional! In general, securing the ramp and using a 1:12 rise-to-length ratio in your ramping configuration are the standards. All of the materials used in constructing a ramp need to be sturdy enough to bear user, equipment, (and caregiver) weight under all intended uses, all kinds of weather conditions. It must not collect water. And all of these guidelines apply to portable, removable ramps as well.
In the United States, check the following excellent guides for improving indoor and outdoor accessibility:
Americans with Disability Act (The 2009 updated guidelines are summarized nicely from Stepless by Guldman in the following summary: ADA Ramp Codes)[http://www.guldmann.net/Files/Billeder/GuldmannProdukter/Stepless/Transportable%20ramper/Shared%20files/US/ADA%20Ramp%20Codes_US.pdf]
National Association of Home Builders Consumer Link
Wood Ramp Design from The Center for Universal Design at the NC University College of Design
Please note that tenants have similar “resident” rights as a renter that an owner has, through your local housing authority. Sometimes moving to a first floor apartment is all you need to do to eliminate excess stairways or moving to a unit closer to the front door of the building; the latter avoids having to navigate excessively looooong hallways.
From another perspective, to shorten distances or conserve energy is where rolling walkers with built-in storage seats or a rolling/folding grocery cart can be very handy as well. Does Craig’s List have what you need? How about your local home medical equipment supplier? Is there a lending closet in your town through the Department on Aging, larger churches, and non-profit organizations (for example, Easter Seals, American Cancer Society, and Rebuilding Together)? Got a carry-on suitcase with wheels that could substitute for a shopping cart? Be sure to inspect and repair used equipment carefully before first use of course. You get the idea.
And if you do obtain used or donated equipment, refer to the Checklist for Used or Donated Equipment to avoid common pitfalls that could end up costing you your money and your safety!
Now that we have covered the main parts of a typical living environment, let’s see if we can make some of our activities of daily living a little easier too. Be sure to “FOLLOW” this blog for the next installment in this tour of a typical home. Friends of Two Step Solutions will receive a Coupon Code for a free copy of the entire eBook, Caring for the Sandwich Generation. Now that’s a win-win for sure!
Take care, Julie, O.T.