Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Into Everyone's Life A Little Rain Must Fall"

The expression "into everyone's life a little rain must fall" can be interpreted in various ways from somber and gloomy to just rolling with the punches when things don't seem to go as we think they should occasionally.

From an aging-in-place perspective, we can use this mantra for planning purposes. It seems that nearly everyone - why not make that everyone? - has needed at one time or another over their lifetime (or will if it hasn't happened yet) some assistance or encountered some difficulty in going about their daily routine.

Many of us take what we term the activities of daily living for granted - being able to get out of bed, use the bathroom for showering and toileting, groom ourselves and brush our teeth, and feed ourselves.

Nevertheless, there are many things we experience - from just a few minutes to a a few days or even longer - that impact our ability to stand, walk, move, lift, step, or perform other actions that we normally do without giving them much thought. Once they become momentarily difficult for us to do, we gain a new appreciation for how we may need some temporary assistance or support.

This is where the addition of a strategic grab or assist bar near the entrance to a tub or shower becomes an essential home improvement item. This is a universal design feature that needs to be in every home - a short (12"-15" or longer if desired) decorative bar installed vertically at a comfortable height to be reached when the arm is outstretched.

Likely no one can say that there hasn't been at least one time when they would like to have had such a feature to use for support. It could be from something that came on unexpectedly and quickly such as a foot of leg cramp to meant that they couldn't stand, support themselves well upright, or put their full weight on that leg for a brief period of time. Without something there to support them, they would have to try to support themself by using the wall, towel bar, shower door, or whatever else seemed handy at the moment - none of which were designed for this purpose. They may have had to hobble or hop to a place they could sit until they were able to place weight on their foot or leg again.

It could be a muscle pull or strain in the back, thigh, or hip brought on by overexertion, exercise, or illness. It could be a sense of dizziness or light-headedness from muscle tension in the neck, an illness, a cold, sinus infection or congestion, or standing too quickly.

It could be something more chronic such as a sore knee from an old sports injury or auto accident.

Maybe a cut foot or stitches from an injury or minor surgery prevents putting weight on the foot or ankle.

We may also benefit from having a seat or bench in the shower - one built-in or installed that is there all the time or a fold down one that be deployed when it is needed and then fold flat against the way when it isn't needed anymore.

The grab bar is a must, and the seat is a real close second for adding safety to the bath and shower area. Any of us can identify with the potential need to use either or both of these aids.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.