dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Respecting Your Physical Limitations: Be Honest, Cautious, and Accepting

I want to offer a warning that is often hard to hear. We all have health issues that limit us in some way, and we know when we push our bodies too hard bad things can result. Recently, I saw that happen to someone else and it was so traumatizing I want to share it. My aim is to remind us all to be honest about our limitations, cautious in our environment, and to accept the aids & assistive devices that we need (even when we don't want to).

I had just finished swimming & chatting with a friend at the warm water pool. She is in her 70s and uses a walker, but like all of us with physical issues & stubbornness (I'm raising my own hand here) she doesn't use it all the time. She was moving around the changing area and scuffed her shoe where the floor slightly slopes downward to a drain. She tried to recover but kept stumbling forward. She smashed her head into the wall with an awful sound, trapped her shoulder between a bench and the wall, and crashed into the cement floor. As soon as she hit the floor I knew it was bad and started screaming for help. Lifeguards called for an ambulance. 

I could tell right away she had a dislocated shoulder. When they got it straightened out, she started yelling about her knee... it was a compound fracture and looked horrid. She has since had to have surgery for the knee and is now moved to rehab. She lives alone, and this will affect her independence going forward.

I'm not telling this tale to shock, but to remind us that denying our limitations and not using our aids can really hurt us short and long term. It only takes one misstep to threatened our overall health and independence -- whether we refuse to use our cane and fall, eat something we know will trigger a problem, push beyond our physical endurance and create an injury, etc.

I hate that my body makes me so vulnerable and creates so many limitations, but I know that not honestly respecting them will only hurt me. Sometimes that hurt is temporary, but it can also permanently change our lives. 
 I implore you to hear my message and I send you all a gentle hug.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Our Accessible Barrier-Free Bathroom Remodel is Done!

Sorry that it's been a very long time since my last blog post! I had to stop when we began our handicapped bathroom remodel, and when we were done there was just so much going on in my life that I had to let my blog slide. I didn't mean for it to be so long, and I'm hoping to post now and then. Since the bathroom remodel has been such an amazing thing for me, I'm going to share what we did. 

The bulk of 2015 for us was consumed with one major focus: a complete remodel of our master bathroom to make it accessible and barrier-free. We knew eventually I would need a completely open shower, and after a few near falls stepping over the bathtub, it was clearly time. 

We spent months planning out every inch of the room and evaluating products for its function.  It was difficult for me to wrap my brain around an 2-D architectural schematic, so my husband taught himself how to use a CAD drafting program. He was able to scan the contractor's drawings into the computer so the bathroom could be accurately viewed from every angle and show spatial relationships. Although we had not planned to do that in the beginning, taking that step with CAD helped us avoid problems we had not anticipated and was an incredibly important step in making the design meet our expectations.  

This was our old bathroom - narrow and dark!

With help from our contractor, we plotted out the ultimate barrier-free design. Since our original bathroom was so skinny and small, we had to move an entire wall and poach two feet of space from our guest room to make enough room for the wheelchair to maneuver easily and the design also required removing a second wall. At last the old bathroom was gutted, jack-hammered down to the dirt, plumbing moved, and everything built back up from scratch. 

Our finished accessible barrier-free bathroom!

After nearly 10 weeks of construction, it was finished! The exciting part is that our bathroom turned out even better than we hoped! It is not only a beautiful space, it has complete accessibility. Here are some of the amazing changes we made: 

~There is a normal height sink to use when standing, and a lower sink to use from a sitting position. 

~Opposite the lower sink is a vanity area where I can do make-up and hair, and it is open underneath so I can use a stool or wheelchair. 

~The shower is completely open with no step, lip, or barrier of any kind -- not even a curtain! 

~The floor is slightly sloped so that no water runs out into the room. 

~Because the shower is so open, I was worried about getting cold when showering so we installed an overhead heater that can warm up the space in just 5 minutes. It's one of the best parts of the remodel! 

~There's a corner bench in the shower, so I can sit down if I need to, and close to it is a light-weight hand-held shower head on a long hose so I can comfortably use it. 

~We chose plumbing fixtures for low hand-strength. 

~Since we wanted to make the shower easy to use, we installed thermostatic control so the water temperature is controlled at the entrance; the water is just the temperature I want before I step into the stream.

~We also installed square grab bars on all walls of the shower and toilet area. I think the square bars do not let a wet hand slip off easily, and therefore, I believe they are safer. 

   ~My husband built me a special light-up vanity mirror. I can pull it         closer to me so I can see better, since I am so very near-sighted.

A panorama photo of the pocket door, double sinks, and vanity.

All these things I listed are just part of what makes the room so function, accessible, and beautiful. The old bathroom was dark, lacked storage, was too narrow for a wheelchair, the tall bathtub was a fall-risk for me, plus the room was ugly. Our newly remodeled bathroom is open, barrier-free, bright, pretty, and a joy to use!

If you decide to build an accessible barrier-free bathroom, there is so much you can do before the actual construction starts so that you really know what you are getting. There are so many products to choose from which can make your space amazingly functional, whether someone is able-bodied or has physical limitations. And don't think that accessible and functional means the bathroom will look utilitarian or blah; it can still be a gorgeous space!

If you have an accessible bathroom, please share a photo in the comments -- I'd love to see what yours looks like!

My cat, Jaspurr, sitting on the shower bench.
He loves to catch the drips!