We were recently invited to a BBQ and for most people you look up the date, see if it’s free, collect the beer and head off to hang out with friends. For us, it’s a little more difficult. We have to make sure the house is accessible for Mr Wheel Chic Home, otherwise we would sadly have to turn down the offer.
The primary issue is not necessarily getting in and out of the house, as there’s ways and means around that (usually brute force on my part or support from others to help him in – as we did for the BBQ I mentioned) but if there’s a downstairs loo or not. Getting Mr WCH up a set of stairs is a long and tricky issue, particularly if there’s no handrails in the house. It’s usually up on the knees and down on the bottom, with me to help him to get to his feet at the top and bottom. So a downstairs toilet is really preferable.
We have a couple of sets of friends whose house is a little tricky for him now, and it’s all around the lack of handrails and no downstairs toilet. Clearly there’s not much that can be done to fix the toilet situation (we just deal with it somehow by making slow accompanied climbs up the stairs) – however, there are some things that people can do to make their homes more accessible for disabled or elderly friends or relatives, particularly if they are frequent visitors or guests to your home:
Look at other access points into your home
Mr WCH’s mother is moving soon, and her new home has a front door and small hallway that might be a little tricky with the wheelchair, however there’s a path to the side of the house that leads to the garden and flat entry into the kitchen via patio doors – this might be the way he gets into the house if using the chair and not the crutches. There’s sometimes other ways and means, we’re pretty used to finding alternatives these days!
Move furniture to make a clear path
If there’s furniture that leaves only a narrow path to the sofa then move it a little to the side if you can, to make clear space for the wheelchair or crutches to get through. It might only need moving a little out of the way, but this will make all the difference. Also have a side table close to the sofa or armchair (Mr WCH would have difficulty in moving forward too far to get to a coffee table due to his balance issues – and that’s before the G&T!)
Fix rugs so they don’t move
If you remember from my post about rugs, these can be tricky. If you have rugs on wooden floors, you probably already have something to keep the rug in place, but if you don’t, it might be worth investing in some of the rug gripper mats to stop anyone tripping up.
Make sure there’s enough space around the bed
If you have guests staying overnight then making sure there’s enough space round the bed is important as there needs to be room for the wheelchair, or space to store crutches, sticks or frames. If this means the bed is pushed against the wall to make room, then you might want to consider this temporarily and move it out again after your guests have left.
Invest in temporary grab rails
If you regularly have guests staying that have mobility issues, you might want to think about buying some temporary suction grab rails. You can buy these from Argos in pairs and are about £15. They can be fixed to clean, dry tiles and would be very useful in a WC next to the loo, or in the bathroom, over the bath or in the shower. They’re not the most stylish but for temporary use they are perfectly acceptable.
Do make sure you follow all the instructions and thoroughly test it before your disabled guest does. They can be removed easily by lifting the lever to release the vacuum and are small enough to be stored away until the next visit.
Invest in a bath board or shower seat
When we visit friends we now take one of Mr WCH’s bath boards with us. I’ve written about them here. We carry one with us because if friends have a bath with a shower, he can’t climb into the bath and needs to sit down to swing his legs over into the tub. Also he needs to sit when showering (not absolutely necessary but it’s safer!). These boards are not expensive, about £20-£30 depending on size and can be fixed in a minute or two, and a few seconds to remove. They can be stored easily under a bed or in a cupboard when not in use.
If you have a shower cubicle, then perhaps you might consider a shower seat. These can be found on Amazon for example and are around the £20-30 mark. The legs fold up easily for storage when not needed.
You will know that I’m someone who wants to have lovely grab rails (as in the our bathroom photo above) – but for temporary measure the ugly stuff will do very well – and it means your home isn’t covered in permanent grab rails if you don’t need or want them once your visitors have gone home.
Make sure you have a bath or shower mat
Even if you don’t use one all the time yourself, picking up a cheap shower mat for when your wobbly legged guests come is really important and will be really appreciated. It’s a small easy thing to sort out.
Think about parking
If you have on-street parking it might be helpful to grab a space yourself that’s convenient to the house and then move the car when your guests come so they can get the easier space. If you have a driveway then perhaps allow your guest to take the spot closest to the house, or the one that’s easier for them to get in and out of.
Have a drink ready for arrival!
Most important of all – have a lovely cold G&T or hot cuppa on arrival – as you would normally have for your guests, then sit back and enjoy your time together!
These small things will help your guest be less anxious about staying and worrying about falling in your home or breaking things. It’s important for a disabled or elderly guest not to feel awkward or like a burden, but arranging these little things will alleviate some worries.
What other ideas do you have for helping your less able guests?