By definition,, A person with a condition that is markedly restricted in their ability to function either
- Mentally, or
is considered handicapped. The disability or amount of ability one has determines how we treat the handicap. But our question is “What are the needs of a handicapped person?”
In this first of THREE-part article, I will specifically address severely Physically Handicapped individuals.
Part 2 will be on Mentally Handicapped and part 3 will be on the Socially Handicapped.
Another word for our subject is “Disabled”.
There are so many aspects to this subject that I will try to touch on only the main issues here. Being a handicapped person myself, and having to rely solely upon a caregiver, I believe I understand this better than someone merely reading about it.
In order to meet the needs of a severely handicapped person we need to improve their surroundings to meet their needs. This requires tailoring and changing surroundings so that the handicapped can function as much as they are capable of doing.
The Main Concerns
- The Caregiver
- Access into and within the living space
- Bathroom space
- Kitchen maneuverability
As we look at the 5 items mentioned above, I will address them individually with ideas I have found helpful, plus other suggestions as well. Perhaps if you have a solution you would like to share please comment at the end of this article so that others may benefit from your experience.
Usually a handicapped individual needs someone to care for them. This is called a “Caregiver.” They have to put the handicap’s needs above their own. People sometimes hire someone for this caregiver position, but often a family member will perform this service.
To be clear, you must understand that just because a person uses a wheelchair in public doesn’t mean they can’t necessarily walk.
Many handicaps can stand for a few minutes. Enough to take care of bathroom needs, transfer from chair to car and some even use a walker at home, as I do, which helps keep their physical body more active and prolongs their life.
The Second Concern Is Accessibility
How are you going to get the patient in and out of the house?
Have you ever tried or even thought about how to walk up stairs with a walker? Most steps are not deep enough on the foot step for the walker to be supported with all four legs. Therefore, your stability is challenged severely.
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When a handicap crisis occurs, probably the first thing that happens is a ramp has to be built so the handicapped can more easily walk into the house, or to wheel the patient in and out of the house if needed. Along with that comes a handrail on each side of the ramp.
Sometimes the patient can still walk with a walker, and the ramp is still a wonderful way to go.
Our daughter bought a portable ramp so I could get in her home. I am wheeled in so the handrails are unnecessary.
At home. we put our ramp in the garage so it is covered and there is no need to clean ice or snow off from the walkway in the winter and it does not impact getting into the car. I can walk with my walker to and from the car in comfort. Of course, we gave up being able to park 2 cars in the garage.
There are certain standards that ramps need to meet. Be sure you hire a competent person to construct the ramp for you.
The angle of the ramp should typically be 14% or less or a 13 1/2 degree incline. This is very important so as not to make pushing a chair, or walking up it too difficult. This is called Handicapped Accessible (HA) or ADA
Of course, the size of doorways are of equal concern with ramps. They have to be wide enough for the wheelchair to enter through, in the event that the handicapped person cannot walk with a walker.
If you have a second-floor living space, getting up or down is often of prime concern. Stair-lifts are a good thing to make accessing that second floor where otherwise, you might have to remain on the main floor.
This lift is cut to your stairs-dimensions so you won’t have the trouble we ran into when we installed a used chair lift. Upon purchasing the lift, we failed to check the length of the stairs. They are all the same length aren’t they?
Consequently, our lift is shy about 2 stairs of reaching the basement and I have never been able to find an extension for it to be able to use it myself. A disadvantage of buying used!
Others have enjoyed having it for lowering or raising heavy boxes, or riding when they are tired, but it was an unusually high priced item to use for that alone.
You should be able to start sitting on the main floor and then ride all the way up or down to floor-level again. It is also a good idea to install a Grab bar at both the top and bottom, to aid the handicapped in standing up again at both ends unassisted.
The main idea is to make living comfortable for the patient so he/she can be as independent as possible.
Today, most homes are built with 36 inch wide external doors, but the inside doors from room to room are a different story. You may have to do some reconstruction work inside the house if your patient is wheelchair-bound.
Preparing for coming home from Rehab
As I was thinking about coming home, after 10 weeks in rehab, after breaking my ankle, (see my story HERE), I had to figure out how I was going to do each and every task before I came home. I thought of every scenario I could think of that I would be placed in and how I would deal with the challenges.
In Rehab I had CNA’s and nurses to help me but when I got home things would be entirely up to me and my husband.
Before attempting to go home for keeps, the nurses at rehab suggested that I do an overnight trial. In other words, to come home for a sleepover to see what things I had not considered. That was an excellent idea. Some of the things I wondered about were:
- I wasn’t sure if I could sleep in a flatbed (the hospital bed at rehab would raise my head or feet)
- Could I get out of bed on my own?
- How could I move around in the bed without handles on each side of the bed?
- How could I keep from falling out of bed?
- Would I be able to move about within the house adequately?
Once home, it didn’t take long to realize that none of those worries was a problem. I enjoyed the flatbed and was able to stretch out and finally sleep again.
As far as the handles on each side of the bed, I put my walker beside the bed and used it as a handle as I would get out of bed. It also acted as a reminder of the edge of the bed and kept me from falling out of bed.
The last question was solved by bringing my electric wheelchair inside and riding on it throughout the house until I could walk myself.
Problems all solved.
Now I just wanted to stay home. That was not going to happen however, because rehab informed me that Medicare probably wouldn’t pay if I didn’t get an official release from the doctor to come home to stay.
Probably the biggest concern inside the house is using the bathroom. A handicapped patient has to have
grab bars beside the toilet and in the shower or tub. These will help prevent falling accidents from happening. When a patient loses balance they will grab out, and that grab bar will often be the difference between falling or not.
As to the placement of grab bars, that depends on the individual bathroom. Personally, I prefer a horizontal bar as well as a vertical one by the toilet, and the same in the shower. NOTE: Be sure the installer uses a stud finder so the bar is not just affixed to the wallboard.
In the shower or tub, you need at least one horizontal bar near where the shower stool sits. Another vertical bar is helpful in getting safely out of the tub or shower. You may find other areas where you want to place grab bars in your home.
A shower stool is ideal for sitting in the shower. Some people try to get by with a folding chair, but they are not adjustable. In rehab, they had a seat built into the shower. It was up high enough, so it was not hard to get up and off of it.
If you have an occupational home physical therapist, they may have one you can buy and they may install it for you too. When I came home, I had an occupational therapist who helped me with showering until I could manage on my own and they installed two of them for me.
Use the recommended handicap grab bar in the tub or shower. The cost will be around $20-$30 each.
Of course, a shower wand is a necessity for showering if the patient is sitting to shower.
You have probably seen the advertisements for walk-in tubs. If your patient prefers to luxuriate in a bath, then you may want to consider this for your patient.
Most handicaps need a hi-rise toilet or toilet seat to make getting off the “throne” easier. There is nothing harder for a disabled person than to try to get off of a short, low, squatty toilet. Again, this is a selective thing. If your patient has no trouble getting off the throne, then don’t worry about it.
Most physically handicapped people do not spend a lot of time on their feet. We walk or ride where we are going and then a chair is the first thing we look for. Personally, I have a rolling swivel chair in each room that I go to except where my recliner is. The chair needs to be comfortable.
In the kitchen, the handicapped needs to be able to access everything from the chair level. This sometimes demands a little creativity. But for the most part, there are several items made available to make disabled life easier.
Some of these to consider are:
- Upper cupboard pull-down shelves
- Cabinet pull-out shelves
- Refrigerator pull-out shelves
- Turntables that bring items to the front
- Kitchen tool turntables
- Knife block for sharp knives
- Pull-out Breadboards create a near table-top level surface to work from in the kitchen
- Kitchen tools
- Can openers
- Long-handled tongs
- Kitchen shears or scissors
Some handicaps have trouble reaching to pick something up off of the floor. In that case, a 32 inch grabber tool is very helpful. They come with 1 or 2 grabber ends. This is the one I use and prefer it because you can pick up almost anything with it., except for teeny tiny stuff.
Some heavy people have trouble reaching around to wipe themselves after using the bathroom.
There are special long-handled tools for that too, in which you wrap toilet paper around the padded end two or three times and reach around and voila` the task is done. Note: This can get messy in trying to get the TP off of the end, but some find it helpful. The cost was around $10 (in 2017)
On the other hand, this Bottom Buddy costs a bit more but would do a much better job and keep the mess in the toilet. ;o)
TIP: When getting dressed, a handicapped person may not be able to reach down to the floor. I use a long-handled “reach tool” for that.
Actually, it is a bamboo back-scratcher with a little curve at the bottom. That is the easiest way to reach down and pull my britches up to where I can reach them.
On the same page at Amazon, there are five back scratchers for about the same price, $1.79 ea but they look like the handle would be too thin for me to hold on to.
For putting on shoes, there are shoe horns that are long-handled. There is a Sock Aid, which you put the sock over the end and slip your foot into the sock. You have two ropes on either side which allows you to pull the sock-aid up until your foot is into the toe of the sock, then finish pulling until your foot slips into the sock and the sock slips off of the Sock-aid. You save a few bucks by purchasing 6 handy tools here or you can purchase them individually.
The only thing this 6 piece set forgot was a tool to take off the socks with when it’s time to remove them. That is a simple tool that has a rubberized covered hook that slips easily in at the top of the cuff and gently slips the sock off your foot. When I saw that I knew they had thought of everything. However, I haven’t found a picture of one yet.
In the kitchen, I have 14” long-handled stainless steel salad tongs that I use for reaching many things. They are heavy-duty, so I can lift heavier things. The handle has a comfortable hold for an adult hand. They can be used for BBQing too and are dishwasher safe.
You or your patient will have to get creative in accomplishing some tasks.
Door handles can be much easier for the handicapped if thy are the lever type rather than the round handle type.
I have struggled and struggled to open my front door and have wished for this type of front door handle. Of course, this would be a much stronger and decorative handle just because it is the “front door”
In our last house, we enjoyed these handles on all our doors and I highly recommend them
A vehicle to transport a handicapped individual in has got to have several things considered.
- Can the patient stand and transfer into the vehicle?
- What kind of wheelchair do you have-
- Electric battery-operated chair
- How high is the vehicle
- Is there a step up to get into the vehicle
- Do you need a lift to lift the chair into the vehicle?
There are many vehicles that are equipped for transporting an electric wheelchair. The reality is, people die, and their electric wheelchair is no longer needed by the survivors, but the vehicle is still equipped with the wheelchair inside. The family often sells the vehicle with everything inside for the price of the vehicle itself.
Consequently, you can often pick-up a vehicle with a derrick operated crane or lift which includes the wheelchair for a much-reduced price.
We picked up a good 2001 Ford Winstar with a derrick and wheelchair for only $3,900 several years ago. We had to go to Southern Utah and drive it home, but it was an excellent purchase and has served us well.
The original Jazzy chair that we had lost a motor to one of its wheels, so we found another used Jazzy for $150 and simply put the old chair unit (which still looked very good) over the newly purchased ones-motors and batteries and we were set to go again.
There are some new electric wheelchairs that are collapsable and lightweight (about 45 lb) which are just reaching the market. They are so lightweight that you can fold the chair up, and lift it into your car or van. What a remarkable idea when compared to the 250 lb scooters & wheelchairs often used today.
Being physically impaired doesn’t mean you are relegated to do nothing the rest of your life. There are many things handicaps can do such as
- Writing life history
- Build online business
- Social Media
- Read books
- Dozens of other things
Being dependent on others for assistance is depressing at best for a disabled person having to cope with the handicap him/herself. If you are a caregiver, keep that in mind as you assist your patient.
Anything you can do to make the handicap’s life easier will, in turn, make the life of the caregiver easier too. Remember, as the caregiver, you are providing a service, however toilsome it may seem, if your patient is happy, your life will seen less demanding and your life will be happier in turn.
I hope this article has been helpful for you. Please leave your comments and like and share this article.
DISCLAIMER: I remind you that I am not a medical professional. I am not saying that you will have the same results as I. Nothing I have said should be misconstrued to mean I give any medical advice. Should you have unresolved pain or other problems you should always contact your doctor for professional care.