The Sad Truth About Injuries and Quality of Life

    Imagine breezing through life in perfect condition, active, and loving life.  Then imagine waking up one day to an injury that affects not only your leisure activities, but the normal activities of daily living.

     As Baby Boomers we like to think we’re invincible, healthy, and vibrant.  We don’t like to think that our physical capabilities might change one day.  Those issues happen to someone else – not us!  But I have to confess, it has happened to me.

     A few weeks ago I injured my thumb.  I’m not sure if it’s a strain or a tear.  All I  know is that it hurts, and is affecting the way I do things.  Suddenly, basic activities like styling my hair, cooking, and washing dishes are no longer done with ease.

     When the injury was new, and the pain at its peak, it was even painful to pick up a pen to write a note or sign a check.  Holding a coffee mug or a full glass of water was agonizing.  That was when it hit me.  Could this be what it’s like to have severe arthritis?  Having trouble managing even the simplest of tasks?  And then I visualized the future.  What would life be like as my strength weakens with age?

     Let’s take a look at some issues that arise and possible ways to solve them.

1.  Knobs – Gripping a round knob is painful.

          Solution:  Replace door knobs and spigots with levers.  Replace cabinet knobs with pulls.

2.  Heavy cookware – We all like quality pots and pans, but I discovered that, even using two hands didn’t ease the pain or simplify the task of moving a skillet to the sink.

          Solution:  “Test” cookware at the store before purchasing.  Do a little research ahead of time to learn about the weight, quality and efficiency before heading out to buy.

3.  Laundry – It’s painful to gather up the load of wash and carry it to the machine.  It also hurts to “stuff” it into the washing machine.  And I have a front loader.

          Solution:  Front loaders have always been my favorite for energy and water efficiency.  But as I load clothes into my machine, I realize that taking my time and adding only a few pieces at a time would be a gentler approach.

4.  Lifting over your head – You have less control and more fear of dropping something on your head.

          Solution:  Use a step stool.  In a closet install lower shelves.  For your kitchen consider using deep drawers for dishes and glasses;  wall cabinets that sit on the counter.  Think about keeping your frequently used items on a lower shelf.

     As I list these few daily tasks that have been impacted by my injury, I think of all the other ways our lives would change with surgery, accidents, and aging in general.  Everything takes longer – bathing, dressing, cleaning up the kitchen.  We have to ask for help.  We don’t like that.  We become just a little more dependent on others.  Imagine,if we make small changes to our homes now, while we’re healthy, how our independence would make us feel later.  We all want to grow old gracefully (with style) in our own homes.  Be proactive…not reactive!

     I would love to have you share your comments, suggestions, and experiences on injuries and aging.  We can all learn from each other.

A (true) Boomer Fairy Tale

Boomer Fairy Tale 1

Well, it finally happened!  The need for me to put into practice what I’ve been helping my clients to do for the last few years.  Unfortunately, it’s too late.  Are you wondering what I’m talking about?  Let me tell you my story………..

Once upon a time a young, healthy Boomer couple purchased a three-story townhouse.  They loved their spacious new home.  But knowing they wouldn’t live in it forever, they chose not to modify it.  After all, they were relatively active.  The stairs were no problem.  They were good exercise!

Then one day the husband could no longer tolerate the pain in his knee.  Walking had become unbearable, which meant no sight seeing on vacations.  Once he decided to have his knee replaced, the questions began.  Where would he sleep and bathe and live during his rehab?  “Of course,” they said,”the lower level is perfect!  It has a bedroom, a bathroom, a family room, and the ever important TV and recliner.”

Boomer Fairy Tale 2

But when he returned home from the hospital reality set in for everyone.  The walker he required could only fit sideways through the bathroom door.  The bath tub had a sliding glass door, no grab bar, and no hand-held shower.  The floors were high gloss ceramic tile, and the toilet was too low for the knee that couldn’t bend.

This made the wife worry that he would fall.  His world shrank, and he became dependent on others to bring him everything he needed.  While the wife was being “nurse”she began noticing other areas of the house that should be changed to make life easier for her husband.  Wider doorways into every room, roll out trays in all the cabinets, smooth flooring to move the walker easily.  So many changes needed for one unexpected surgery.  If they had only thought ahead when they bought the house, or made the changes when they moved in, they wouldn’t be facing these challenges today.  Oh how they wished they had been proactive!

Boomer Fairy Tale 3

The moral to the story:  Life is full of changes, and our environment affects our life.  Think of areas in your home that could be changed to make life easier for someone else.  Universal design doesn’t only apply to the elderly or physically challenged.  When you lower a vanity cabinet so your small daughter can wash her own hands, brush her own teeth, and learn independence, that’s universal design at work.  And when you add more lights to your kitchen because your eyes aren’t as sharp as they once were, that’s universal design.

Basically, Universal Design is changing lives, one room at a time, and allowing us all to age gracefully in this place we call home.