When we found out my father had a stroke we were devastated. As the patriarch of our family he always provided support for all of us. How in the world are we going to be able to take care of him? Seeking out the right support was important for my mother and fathers needs. We needed to make sure the house was in order and accessible for his wheelchair and that he could be as independent as possible. Multiple times he told us that he would rather pass away then to become dependent on anyone else. We knew in order to keep his sanity along with moms things in the house needed to change.
We got advice from other wheelchair users and found many independent people that are mobile dependant on a wheelchair. Their tips help narrow down specific targets for us to take care of out of the gate. Knowing that we will have other modifications down the road does not scare us it is just the knowledge that his perception upon coming home has to be that of an independent lifestyle or he will fall into a depression.
The bathroom was the first area of interest. We knew this is where my father would want the most independence and privacy. We started by removing the bathroom door and replacing it with a curtain that easily glides closed. Next we replaced his low lying toilet with a new toilet designed with extra height for the ease of transferring it would provide him. Installed on the side of the toilet was a grab bar that was actually bolted to the floor for the ultimate amount of stability. Next a removable shower head was put into place along with a bath chair and new easy to maneuver faucets. The sink was at an acceptable height already but the turn knob faucet was replaced with a levered one and removed the cabinet doors so that we could “pull” right in.
People warned us that carpet would be difficult for his wheelchair to maneuver on. To remedy this we went out and purchased plastic floor runners and strategically placed them throughout their home. The throw rugs that had been placed around the house were removed. The plastic will make sure the wheelchair is met with little resistance when moving about the home.
My father did not want to sleep apart from my mother. He convinced us that a hospital bed was not in his best interest and we agreed. In order to help him get in and out of bed we had another grab bar installed into the floor along the side of his bed. A large platform was constructed to help him transfer onto the bed without too large of a gap between the bed and the wheelchair.
Getting in and out of his home was another issue. We purchased a metal handicap ramp. This was easily installed and will not only be easier for my dad but as my mom ages will take pressure off her knees that the stairs would present in the future. Handicapped ramps were easy to find and inexpensive. For the door walls in the home we were able to purchase mini handicapped ramps called threshold ramps. The thresholds will not be an obstacle with these in use.
In order to keep him active on his computer and crosswords we bought larger size writing utensils and an extra large button keyboard. We were also informed that fine motor skills would be difficult so purchased an electric can opener and an electric jar opener so that he could cook independently. It was also brought to our attention that a crock pot would be the easiest way to cook for him and a food processor instead of a cutting board. The other thing we did is bought him a cell phone so that he could use the speaker and could take it around with him as he goes about the house.
Truly the point of looking into making the house more accessible for his wheelchair is to make him independent. My mom is not home all the time when he is around and will not be able to cater to his every whim and he really would not like this even if she was. There will be things that come up that are not a simple as installing a handicapped ramp or levered faucet and we will be there to come up with unique solutions to keep him mobile and independent.