Throughout my career, I have been an opponent of heavy-handed, onerous regulations in senior living. I fought the codifying of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, as that civil law was never intended to fall into the world of codes and regulations. I have resisted the attempts to achieve quality through more regulations, especially in health care. I have worked diligently with other architects, researchers and influencers to achieve equal accommodations and alternative solutions to prescriptive regulations that institutionalize the home environments for older adults.
Why do I share all of my history for opposing institutional regulations? This narrative sets the context within which I entered by recovery period from total hip replacement at the end of June. Prior to my surgery, my loving and caring in-laws brought over walkers, crutches, canes and even those “institutional” toilet risers. In a prideful way, I was convinced that I would not be using those “ageism” devices.
As a follow up to the anterior approach to my hip replacement, the doctors and physical therapists had me up and walking the evening of surgery. Holy Cow! Did that walker come in handy. Some of the parting words that my surgeon gave my wife were, “the worst thing for Mitch would be for him to fall.” Duly noted! For the next week, the walker became my companion, but I was not going to name it!
Upon returning home, nature began calling. If you remember my rejection of the toilet riser, my first “sit down” experience was eye opening. I thought I was sitting on one of those tiny toilets one would find in a child daycare environment. Again…Holy Cow! Very quickly, one of those institutional risers was installed on our residential toilet. Humbling…but this device did eliminate the family assistance in this process and gave me a sense of independence. When I was in the skilled nursing world, we used to fight the installation of those toilet risers. They were undignified. Two people assisting one on and off the toilet doesn’t contribute a whole lot to personal dignity, either. I do have a new appreciation for these assistive devices.
Through my two-week recovery process, I can clearly identify everywhere that a grab bar would have benefited my ambulation. The reality is, during my first week, excessive grab bars would have been beneficial. As I work through my second week of rehab, I am needing those assistive devices less and less. Based on this recent experience, I would love to see someone develop temporary, and safe, grab bars in all of those high-fall-risk, transitional areas within a home environment. There when you need them, gone when you don’t!
This has been a humbling journey as I recover from my hip replacement surgery. The marvels of modern medicine are amazing and are having a positive impact on my return to normal. For most of the residents we serve, each day may be a new normal for them. As I continue to develop and design environments for older adults, I am confident I will lobby for a more empathetic approach to dignity, ambulation and independence.