The Therapeutic Value of Home Management

Maria Finally Understands Crafts

I will let you in on a little secret–as an OT student, I never “got” crafts as therapy.  I was always really excited for pain management, seating, IADL scheduling, pets, any other activity of daily living, assistive devices–but crafts? They always struck me as boring, and not very applicable to real people’s daily lives.

I am not too proud to admit that I was wrong.

In less than a week, my husband and I will again drive almost 400 miles, so that I can return for my last didactic semester of graduate school.  As always happens to me before returning from a break, vacation, or any other chance to lay down my normal routine, I am filled with a sense of anxiety–did I make the most of my break?  Will I regret not getting more done?

One of the benefits of my education is that I have become (at least somewhat of) an expert in analyzing the nuts and bolts of human activity.  Every day in the classroom is a detailed assessment of the occupations that make up our daily life.  What do these occupations mean to us?  How do they organize our time?  How do they make us feel?  How do they contribute to our health and our well-being?

In many ways, my summer was very illustrative of the patient experience, because I was a patient.  I had to have a minor procedure done on very short notice, and although everything went fine, I did spend quite a bit of time in bed afterwards as I healed back up to 100%.  At first, coming off of a hard summer semester of grad school, followed by a week of chasing kids around as a camp counselor, I was grateful for the rest, but my mental recovery soon outpaced my physical recovery, and just like that, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a very long time–certainly, since before grad school started.

Yes, people, I was bored. And not just a little bored.  Mind-numbingly, crushingly, achingly, frustratingly bored.

During the first weeks of my recovery, I couldn’t drive, and my husband still had to work, so I was left mostly alone.  My friends and family were of course, working.  We live out in the country (far enough that doing anything requires a trip in a car!) I couldn’t stand for very long periods of time or walk very far, and there is no public transportation in our area.

As many new patients often do, I spent my time watching television or on the internet.  In short order, I began to feel very icky, and even less motivated to get anything done.  I also grew cranky, a phenomenon that my husband may or may not have noticed.  (*cough cough*).

My husband and I very recently purchased our home.  It is an amazing 117 years old, and we are constantly finding little features to appreciate.  One small hallway has a series of built in shelves and cabinets.  They, and the wall, were all painted a very dark grey, giving it a definite “this probably leads to a dungeon” appearance.

Two months ago, at the very beginning of my vacation, I had accidentally nicked one of the cabinet doors while painting the surrounding walls a fresh spring green, and a ribbon of grey paint came off, revealing white paint underneath.  That began my epic quest to refinish these cabinets–a quest I lost interest in as soon as I’d had my procedure.  After all, I was short, and they were screwed on up there.  They were heavy.  My workstation was upstairs, and stairs were hard.  I felt like poo and was “being lazy”, because I deserved it, right?  In short, I was the perennial patient, bored, frustrated, and unwilling to participate fully in my own recovery.

Luckily for me, I have an amazing husband that has heard me talk about nothing but the therapeutic value of occupation for over a year.  I woke up one morning to find all of the doors had been taken down and placed in a neat stack in the dining room, which was now completely cleared out, except for a little work-table, gloves, tarps, paintbrushes, and a fresh new bottle of citri-strip.  In short, my husband had given me set-up assistance, removing the barriers I’d previously had to tackling this particular chore!  (Yes, he’s a good listener!)

At first, I still fought being industrious.  I stayed on the couch for an hour or two, but the call of having something productive to do and occupy my time was loud, and facebook was getting pretty boring.  So, that first day, I managed to strip five drawers, revealing the most amazing, burled hardwood underneath.  That was all I needed; I was hooked.

My week went by in a blur.  Every day, I had to do more, because the task required more.  I couldn’t not scrape the paint once I’d laid the stripper down, because it would eventually damage the wood.  I had to clean up after working, because there were stripper-paint flakes everywhere.  I had to shower, because I was covered in crud.  I had to make some decent dinners and lunches, because I was now working up a sweat everyday!  I had to get changed and leave the house (as soon as I could drive), because I need more stripper, more sandpaper, a sander, hinges, sealant!

My mood was infinitely better, and when my husband came home one day to see beautiful hardwood, the grain shining through a triple layer of stain and poly, I was really and truly proud.  We have no idea how old the cabinets are, but they were custom built into the oldest part of the house.  What things might they have seen?  How many people have touched open and closed their doors?

I had completely forgotten how amazing it feels to make or do something with your own two hands.  Being absorbed in the work, giving it my best effort, being aware of both the process and the results–it was the therapy I needed this summer!

Safely Installing a Permanent Ramp

If you wish you to install a ramp, you have the option of either buying one, or building one.  The choice you make may depend upon your budget and your needs; a ramp designed to merely cross a few steps is much easier to purchase and install, while one designed to span ten feet for use with a heavy power wheelchair must be much more sturdy.

If you wish to buy the ramp, you may want to consult a buying guide, such as this one by Lowes.  An eight foot aluminum wheelchair ramp from lowes is approximately $468.00 or $479.00 from Amazon.

Building a permanent ramp is a very involved and exact affair, but if it something you wish to try by yourself, Lowes has an excellent set of step by step instructions on planning, measuring, and building a ramp.

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Contractors in Kalamazoo County

Any time you will have major renovations to your home--especially those renovations that are designed to making your home a safer living environment for a senior with potential health problems--it is important to make sure that installations are performed properly, and with quality materials.  As such, it is recommended to use a licensed, bonded contractor.

Additionally, for major home renovations, it may be a good idea to contact a Certified Aging in Place specialist. Dehaan RemodelingBlok Builders, and Pennings, have CAP certifications.

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Dehaan Remodeling

2805 West Main, Kalamazoo, MI 49006

(269) 343-3757

Dehaan Remodeling

Blok Builders

5942 W N Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49009

(269) 375-8268

Pennings and Sons

5829 W Kl Ave, Kalamazoo, MI, 49009

269.207.6702 (Accessible Living, Direct Line)

Pennings and Sons

Stairlifts and Stairglides

Stairlifts and Stairglides

Stairlifts or Stairglides are machines that allow for a person to ascend or descend stairs while sitting in a seat.  They are ideal for individuals who have weakness, fatigue, or other impairments that would normally make it impossible or unsafe to live in a multistory home.  As such, they may be an essential part in a person's ability to age in place in their home.

The biggest independent installer of stairlifts in the Kalamazoo area is Cain's mobility.  According to their website, stairlifts start at approximately $1299 dollars for electrical or $1399 for battery backup models.  Individuals considering a stairlift are advised to visit their website, as they outline potential funding methods for lifts, like VA programs, medicaid waivers, etc.

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An Overview of Medical Alert Systems

Medical Alert Systems Overview

At its heart, a medical alert system is a way for a senior to communicate with the outside world in an medical emergency.  It is generally worn somewhere on the body, and has at least one preprogrammed number that can easily be dialed.  All three systems can come with fall detection of some kind.

There are three basic types of medical alert system, depending upon the technology by which the system performs that communication.  Most medical alert systems fall into one of three types--landline, cellular based, or smartphone based.  Each system has pluses and minuses.

  • Landline systems require a base station, and therefore, they're really only able to used in or near the home.  The bonus of a landline system is that landlines tend to be very stable.
  • Cellular based systems allow for greater mobility, but the user must generally pay a fee to keep the system "live".
  • Smartphone systems are usually app based, and as such, they require you to have your phone on your person, which doesn't work well if someone falls in the bathroom or out of bed!

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AARP Home-Fit-Guide

AARP Home Fit Guide

The AARP Home-Fit Guide is designed to help seniors learn about basic principles of home safety, as well as help seniors assess homes for safety and connect them with resources as needed.

  • Benefits: Free for use.  Provides a great starting point for seniors to learn about ways to reduce the likelihood of falls in the home.  
  • Drawbacks: Assesses environmental factors, but does not assess performance in the home.  A trained occupational therapist would be necessary for a full falls risk assessment.
  • Link: (PDF) Download booklet for the Home Fit Guide. (AARP, 2014 Edition)
  • Reference: AARP. (2014). The AARP Home Fit Guide: Information and tips for a comfortable, safe, and livable home.  Washington, DC: AARP Education and Outreach.