I had a client recently whose elderly mother lived alone. Her mother had the various usual ailments that come with old age, including arthritis, moderate high blood pressure and diabetes. However, she was still fairly independent, doing her own cooking, shopping and minor household chores. From time to time her daughter would come over and help with some of the more tedious tasks.
One day my client’s mother suffered a stroke. After some time in the hospital, and then in rehab, she was scheduled to be discharged and insisted on returning to her own home, even though she could not walk on her own. Her daughter was positive that she could convince her mother to live with her, at least temporarily, but her mother would not hear of it. What to do?
The first thing I advised the daughter to do was to go to her mother’s home and live there for at least one day, maybe two, if necessary. While there she was to imagine that she had her mother’s handicap and try to go about the tasks that her mother would have to do when she returned home, even if she had an aide helping her. The following are the items I advised her be concerned about:
How would she move about? Would a cane, walker, wheelchair or motorized cart be best for her in her particular living environment? Perhaps a combination of items would be appropriate?
How would she enter or exit her home? Were there stairs at the entrance? Would she need a ramp built, either temporary or permanent?
If she needed a wheel chair to get around her home, how would she be able to get herself from the chair onto the toilet or into the shower or bathtub? How many transfer aids such as safety rails would be needed and what would be the best place and position to install them?
How would she go up to her bedroom on the second level? Would she need a chair elevator installed on the stairs to the bedroom or would she need a bedroom created on the first floor? Creating a first level bedroom often only requires the relocation of furniture.
Did she intend to do her own cooking? Would the stove have to be lowered to help her with placing and removing items to and from it? Would the kitchen have to be reorganized to have items, such as dishes and food stuff in the pantries or closets, lowered so she could more easily access them. This concept would be true for the entire home. Make every attempt to ensure that all the items she would need most frequently be positioned within reach in the closets, dressers, and other storage areas.
These are just a few of the mobility concerns to be evaluated very carefully. Having the home well-lit and an emergency response system such as Life Alert, which she can activate when she becomes incapacitated or is in an otherwise seriously distressed situation that she cannot handle. Additionally, it is important that there be no clutter on or near the floor level which can cause a fall or cause a walking aid to get entangled.
As we all know, everything in life comes with a price tag. If you or your loved one is very well off and only the very best item(s) will do, then the task becomes a little less daunting in providing the ideal solution for your loved one’s mobility problems. Many people are, unfortunately, in a more difficult financial situation and providing the necessary mobility options must be evaluated and often trade-offs must be made between the ideal solutions and the best affordable ones. Also entering into the equation is the issue of whether the handicap is likely to be temporary or permanent. The period of time that the options will be required will influence the choice of options.
My client called medical supply companies, geriatric care management companies and home health care service companies who provided her with specific cost information and suggestions to optimize her mother’s quality of life given her unique circumstances. Although the situation was not ideal in the beginning, as time went on additional cost-effective methods were found to handle those items that arose after her mother had lived at home for a while. Her mother is still living alone except for an aide who comes in for a few hours a week to help and both the daughter and her mother are very happy with the situation.