Saturday, December 23, 2017

"Life Comes At Us Fast, So We Need To Be Ready"

As we - and our clients - go through life, we are prepared to handle many of things that come our way, but some catch us unaware or off-guard. We know that such events can happen, but we hope that we can avoid them. Most are not catastrophic and fall into the annoying category of aches, pains, and temporary afflictions and setbacks.

From an aging in place perspective, we can appreciate that nearly everyone has or will need at one time or another over their lifetime (if it hasn't already happened) some assistance or consideration 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 lasting a few minutes to a running 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 (and the ones we work with) 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 (not optional) home improvement item. This is a universal design feature that needs to be in every home - a short (12"-15" is fine but it can be 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 or leg cramp that hampered their ability to put weight on that leg or stand, or interfered with their ability to support themselves well upright. Without something there to support them, they would have to try to use 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 can 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.

There are many more improvements that we can benefit from and suggest for our clients that aid in using a home safely that equip us to be ready for life's unexpected challenges. Doorways, thresholds, flooring, and lighting are just of the places where these improvements can occur.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging in place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.