Crabby Old Lady and the Ghoul
INTERESTING STUFF – 10 October 2020

Age Friendly Adaptations, Adjustments and Workarounds

It's not always that we can't do it anymore (although that can become true), but that we can't do it the way we have always done it before now - “it” being a usually increasing number of things that become more difficult.

Earlier this week I was talking with my friend Jan Adams when this came up in conversation. Jan, who lives in San Francisco, has been blogging at Happening Here for as long as I have been doing that at TGB although Jan focuses on the much larger scale of human political and common good.

”I've been yammering here,” she writes on her home page, “about activism, politics, history, racism and other occasional horrors and pleasures since 2005. I intend to continue as long as the opportunity exists.

“In this time, that means activism and chronicling resistance. Perhaps it always has, one way and another.”

We were both a lot younger when we began our blogs 15 years ago. We had not run into many of the limitations that have creeped into our lives now. Jan is much more athletic than I've ever been so she has more joint and muscle pains than I. Nowadays, however, with COPD and cancer, I seem to be catching up in number if not in kind.

We decided to call our topic “adaptations” to old age. Jan reminded me in an email that I've been saying forever that old age is so much richer (maybe even wiser) than increasing infirmity. But that doesn't mean we can ignore the inevitable.

So here are some adaptations, adjustments and workarounds we have adopted. See what you think and what you can add to them.

LADDERS
Done. Finished. Gone. As Jan explained:

”Don't stand on a ladder to change a light bulb without a supportive friend present. :-) I did this the other day and fell; no damage this time, but I will not repeat the stupidity.”

I was a little ahead of Jan on the topic of ladders. A few months ago, I placed my foot on the bottom rung to change a light bulb and instantly thought, “Last time you did this is the last time you ever will have done this.” And so I saved myself a fall.

SHOPPING AND CLEANING
As I've published reports of my disease progression in these pages, more than a few of you have yelled over the internet, “get a shopping service” and “get a cleaning service”.

You were all correct, of course, and as of a few weeks ago, I've finally succumbed. What a difference. The only complaint I have so far is that the food shoppers do not seem to understand that if there is a wrinkle in the tomato skin, it is not fresh. But it's not inedible so I let it go.

STOPPED MAKING THE BED
I have never liked walking into my room with an unmade bed but now, it takes three sit-down rests just to tidy up the covers and pillows. So I don't anymore. And I have found that it doesn't bother me at all.

POTS IN THE SINK (OR ON THE COUNTER)
With COPD, I can lose my breath entirely just bending over for two seconds to pick up something I've dropped. It's worse after plowing around in a lower cupboard for the right cooking pan – five minutes of heaving to get my breath back to normal.

A friend in New York suggested I just leave the two or three pans I use most often in the sink after washing or on the counter. It works perfectly.

BATHTUB MAT
I have always hated those plastic bathtub mats but more than ever I need one to be sure I won't fall in the shower. The problem is that they get icky slimy on the bottom and they are really hard to clean and there is that pesky COPD bending/breathing problem.

So one day in a fit, I threw out the mat and decided to worry about it later. Well, later turned up the next morning and the closest thing to help was a hand towel. It works.

I stood on that in the tub, it didn't slip and it took only ONE second to bend over to pick it up, ring it out and dump it in the washing machine. Where has this idea been hiding my whole life.

TRASH, MAILBOX AND THE CAR
Sometimes, walking slowly, I can get to the mailbox and nearby trash bins without breathing too hard. That is, unless the trash I'm carrying weighs more than about five pounds.

And, sometimes, even lightweight trash is hard to carry without losing my breath. So I've given up my carport which is twice as far from my apartment as the parking lot and I leave my car there at the end of the walkway.

Now I take the trash to my car, drive the 300 or 400 or 500 feet (I've never learned how to estimate that kind of distance) to the bins and mailboxes. At first, I felt kind of stupid doing this but not anymore.

And now it is your turn. In the astonishing number and kinds of infirmities that can afflict elders, solutions must vary widely but I'm guessing there are plenty we learn from and share with one another.

Give us your best in the comments below.

Comments

When I got back to NY from NC after Jacques (my husband) died, I saw an old friend of his, a playwright from Berlin who ran a chess shop in Greenwich Village. I asked him how he was and he said he’d had to stay in Berlin longer than usual because “I broke my back.”

How did you do that?

“I fell off a ladder.”

I thought, George, what WERE you doing on a ladder? You’re 85 years old ... and my next thought, which came to me with certainty, was, “That will be me.”

If I don’t start changing my ways now, was implied. It was like a message from my future self. I was 65 at the time.

Have I changed my ways?

At 59, I’m not quite there yet; but I have noticed, everytime I’m out, that I’m no longer the fastest person on the sidewalk. I used to be but in the last couple years... anyway, instead of looking behind me every several steps to see if I’m forcing people behind to slow down, I just treat it like driving & stay on the far right of the sidewalk. Stop grumbling & walk around, people.

My brother gave us a Dollar Store “grabber” partly as a joke. We use that darn thing all the time!

Putting pants on! I no longer do the second leg without one hand on a piece of furniture or a countertop.

I will be 80 at the end of this month. I quit climbing on ladders about 8 years ago. The last time I found myself on one, it was at the NC Governor's Mansion, where we were decorating trees for Christmas. I was the second oldest person in the room.....so I got off the ladder and said "someone else will have to do this from now on." I think that was a smart decision.

I cannot get into the bathtub and soak any longer. I tried it 7 years ago when we lived in a townhouse, and I could not get out of the slippery tub. If there had not been a large towel nearby, I'd never have made it. I do like your idea about a towel in the floor of the shower; we do that for my non-ambulatory husband.

Bending over brings on dizziness and shortness of breath for me too....so I minimize the need for it. My children help a lot and we would be lost without them!

"life hacks(excerpted from my new book "Hope of the Crow: Tales of Occupying Aging" which might apply to all, but are guaranteed useful to people with disabilities or illnesses:"

FROM RONNI:
THE REMAINDER OF THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN REMOVED. FOR MORE THAN 15 YEARS, NO HAS BEEN ONEALLOWED TO PROMOTE ANY PRODUCT OR SERVICE AT TIME GOES BY.

THIS BLOG IS AN ADVERTISING-FREE ZONE ON THE INTERNET AND BEYOND THAT, I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY ANYONE BELIEVES THEY DESERVE FREE ADVERTISING ON ANYONE'S WEB SITE.

My god, I'm having a hard time with people taking advantage this week.

Also a person with COPD and cancer and aged, I sit down to put on pants.
I have moved the things I repeatedly use in my kitchen to the upper cabinets. Being a very organized person, it makes no sense the mix of items in the upper cabinets, but I turn a blind eye to it.
My better, heavier pans are no longer in rotation.
I now hang everything - tshirts, sweats, night gowns - so I don’t have to bend over to retrieve from lower dress drawers.

I am downsizing to a smaller apartment, so am getting rid of things. I had a stereo cabinet and speakers that I hauled away. I was amazed how much heavier they seemed since the last time I moved them--which was years ago. Am glad I had a handcart! But, I am 77 and
have gotten heavier in those years, as well!

I sit down to cut vegetables or wash dishes, using a light-weight tall kitchen stool. Except for inside the entrance doors and under the bathroom sink, no throw rugs; the rugs my mother made are gradually being distributed to younger family members.

Every morning, after reading the paper, I read cards I prepared for myself, one thought per card. They inspire me and remind me of how to keep my thinking in the right place. "Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive!" - Hafiz. A few of the other cards say "I think healthful, self-affirming and confident thoughts about myself." "I put my heart, mind and soul into making the most of the rest of my life." "I scan my body from bottom to top and thank each part for supporting my life."

Walking poles. It is amazing how they facilitate walking. My hips don't hurt when I use them and if used properly they strengthen arms. They give an athletic impression and work far better than a cane, IMO. What I need to carry is in a fanny pack or back pack.

Buy a car that has big windows, is high up (so you can see the road and get into and out of the car easily), a backup camera and other safety features. Because of cancer, I have vision in only one eye so this is tremendously helpful. A Subaru Forester does this for me. I regret it uses fossil fuel but I seldom drive.

To carry carry your trash out get one of those upright grocery wheelie carts you can push. Keep it in a closet near the door. When I was young, we lived on the 3rd floor in an elevator building I used one of those carts for all sorts of things, groceries, carrying laundry to and from the laundry room and carry assorted junk I was always hauling back and forth to school (I was teaching at the time). I could make one trip and haul everything!

The "adaptations" you describe are the exact reasons why I am a resident of an assisted living facility. It's not that it would be impossible for me to do all of the things you used to do. It's just that effort and possibility of injury is not worth it.
Just about everything is done for me. Maintenance, housekeeping and meals (if I want them). And, like you, I'm using a shopping service.
Yes, it's not cheap. But for me, now, it's worth every dollar.

We (husband and I) are in our 70s and often use a grabber. My mom is 93 and pretty ummobile and she uses a grabber daily for things that fall on the floor . We joked that someone should sell a walker with a grabber device attachment (maybe not such a joke). Also, to carry things, mom has put them on the seat of her walker (now has a new walker with a basket). As I have bought assistive devices for mom, I have discovered that there is a whole world of these devices. There is another sort of device for opening hard to open jars.


Been using the towel in the shower for awhile now. I use a hand towel...perfect size. Works like a charm.
I use to say, as long as I can wheel to a microwave and the toilet, I could stay home. Plus I could get meals on wheels if I ever really needed to or restaurant delivery. It’s the toilet thing that would be the hardest to deal with.
So far so good.

OK, I'm 91. (You young kids in your 70's, listen up!).

Last night I used not one, but TWO dryers in the community laundry room. It was 9 PM, but I was too tired to retrieve my sheets from one and towels from the other, so I went to bed. (The retirement home where I live on the 3rd floor, has a posting about not using machines and something about the hours... but there are no adjacent rooms, so I 'bend' the rules a bit. But I was up earlier than usual this morning. It was important, I felt, to splash water on my face and slip on a robe to go retrieve my things.

I use an electric scooter around the building. It is wonderful, but I have to carefully stack things on my lap and in the scooter basket.

Much to my amazement, when I got to the laundry one of the 4 washers was already in use, at 7 AM! And, before I could make my exit, here came another resident... smiling brightly (?) and fully dressed... even wearing makeup!!!

UGH... how can people be so cheerful before 9 AM?

Now I am back, having my first cup of coffee, and folding all that stuff. And, if I choose to be grumpy before 10 AM, I will try to keep it to myself, but I hope all you early-minded people will understand that not everyone is a "morning person".

I should sign myself as alias "GOW", but I am really Margo. And I appreciate all you lovely people posting away with our friend "Crabby"... -Grumpy me!

Have a good day!

The shopping service I use allows me to add short notes to items and to chat with the shopper. So I always say, bananas - firm, green is ok; tomatoes - firm; avocados- firm, hard is fine. Leaves no doubt for them, and I can wait a day or two if need be.

No problem since I started doing that. I also say hello to the shopper at the beginning so they know I’m there.

To Carol in Denver - thanks for the reminder about a walking pole! I face planted after bending forward in the back yard recently.

To Katherine Schneider- your comment feels a little icky like a giant plug for your book. Your title is there, your full name is at the bottom and a chapter’s worth of “hacks” are listed. Didn’t read them. Resent what it feels like. If I’m wrong about your intent, I’m sorry. Still feels to me like you’re selling however helpful it feels to you.

Has no one thought of a plastic shower chair ? A person only needs a small hand towel
(or maybe two) to step into the tub or shower. A shower head on a long hose is helpful, too.
Please forgive me if I missed something.

I've been using an oversize washcloth to step in and out of the bathtub for years (I detest those slimy plastic bathmats, too). At 91 and 83, my spouse and I never go near ladders anymore, although I still use a 3-step stool on occasion. Thanks, everyone, for the suggestions. I don't need all of them yet, but depending on how long I stick around, it's likely that I will.

Life these days is often long on frustration and demands a lot of patience. . .

For those hard to open jars just put on your rubber dish washing gloves.

I bring George my cane everywhere with me. Handy to lean on. I was on a trip with Daughter and Grandgirl recently and there was much hiking on board walk type trails to see the Viking Settlements and I saw them huddle together before they set off (long walks are beyond me now). I opted to wait in the car. They came over to me and said "would you feel funny if we got you a wheelchair?". I was surprised I was so accepting of it.

It brought me back to the days when I ran in races with Grandgirl in her running stroller. And it was such a complete circle that Daughter took a picture of us, on the trail.

Adapting with cheer and acceptance should be a mantra for all of us. And staying safe. And not exhausted or frustrated.

XO
WWW

Good work arounds! I have the same feelings about yucky bath tub mats. But they can be put in clothes washer with detergent &/or bleach plus some towels for padding and come out much better. I hope you can get help with laundry as well.

I've developed a crooked back in my old age and the absolutely hardest thing I do is cut my toenails, the ones I can reach. The first thing I'm going to do when it is safe, will be get a pedicure. Next comes vacuuming. I vacuum a 30+/- sf area, sit down then repeat until the job is done.

Dear Ronnie ~ I live right in your condo complex! I can come over and carry your trash for you. Leave out your mailbox key and I will bring your mail on my way back! Jesse can replace lightbulbs, put fresh batteries in smoke detectors, open bottles and cans and move things for you. I even do laundry. PLEASE CALL ME! 503-341-8326

I tag this chapter of my life as "accommodation me". 😊 I can ditto many of the tips. I'm solo, widow and family hours away. So for many years I have already put things in place for comfort and peace of mind. Amazon Prime my new best friend. Part of my budget, going back to my 30's was my "fun" money. Today thatis still earning $ and the fun aspect is covering, $, for extras now. Grateful and blessed.

I looked up your book, Katherine, and I can see you have done some wonderful things for older people with disabilities and also including children with disabilities and children’s books. Thank you for being such a kind and caring person.
I will check out some of your books.

From Ronni:

I have removed most of Katherine's advertising promotion for her book - above. No one is ever allowed to advertise or promote a product or service on this blog, It is an advertising-free zone on the internet.

I enjoyed all the tips for staying (mostly) safe. I am soon to be 81 and have been using a plastic bath mat for years after I slipped in the bathtub and banged my face near the wall, unhurt (but learned a lesson). It does not get slimy b/c I take it up after bath, or hubby does when he uses the tub, and we hang it on the shower rod or I take it outside the next day to dry on the patio. In our travels I have had to resort to using a towel in the shower for safety. I take a bath every other day b/c of dry skin however I do "wash up" daily.

I have always been active, and thank God, still manage to be active in spite of arthritis, and hip replacement 16 months ago. But I do not have any underlying medical conditions, except for osteoporosis, so I am very careful about walking and yoga which both help with balance. I do have a kid's little chair in the yard which I should use to pull weeds but most of the time I just bend down using "golfer's pose" as the ortho doc taught me after the hip replacement.

Glad you can avail yourself of all and any help you need, Ronni. At our age, we don't need to suffer any more than we have to. And I hope we both live to see the tyrant deposed.
I read recently what someone wrote, "I might live 20 minutes, or 20 years".

I’ve used some of these ideas. Please do stay off ladders as when I worked I encountered too many people with cognitive problems affecting judgment, other issues causing them to have to go into care facilities as no longer safe after falling from ladders. I gave up ladders for myself one day when i realized i wasn't feeling as confident going to the top step and figured my body was telling me something.

Sometimes I simply take a spit bath if ill, weak, and safe shower use feels to be uncertain. The grabber really comes in handy throughout the house. A swingline can opener I got my mother years ago now easily helps me with some jar lids. Bags to carry items of all kinds can come in handy sometimes going from room to room or to and from laundry room. Pickups, deliveries, internet ordering all ease my challenges for independent living in place in my home i initiated when began staying at home in March. Microwave, fresh and frozen dinners, fresh prepared soups a boon when standing or fatigue becomes an issue. Had lengthy period of illness taxing my adaptations but back to as good as I’m going to get.

Finally decided need help with cleaning long after I got behind and couldn't catch up, then Covid-19 came to our country and haven't wanted to let someone come into home. This is ongoing issue. Have had to accept kindness of neighbors to move various bins to and from curb though except for greenery don't put them out weekly now. More to resolve here but still in control of basics and I don't fret the rest including no longer making my bed daily either.

Does take time for many tasks, including stripping bed of sheets for laundry though no longer weekly, changing AC/furnace filter very 3 mos, changing batteries smoke/carbon monoxide detector yrly, all managed so far. Despite all, so much better living in my home than in facilities with which I’m intimately familiar, especially during these days of virus in town.

I used to dislike the tub mats that inevitably became moldy and slimy eventually. While taking care of my mother-in-law years ago I discovered that the adhesive decorations designed to put permanently on the floors of tubs or showers work wonderfully well. I bought blue fish and had enough in the pack for two bathtubs. I've had them in our tub now for almost ten years and they've never gotten moldy or slimy and they stay solidly in place and keep me from slipping or sliding getting in or out and while standing in the shower. So much better than mats.

I've had a grabber for years, and recently got a doozy of a jar opener. Something I had never thought of but really appreciate now that I have it is a little laser pointer/flashlight thing that I got online and was very inexpensive. It has red and white light, and I only use the white. And it can be charged with a USB connector that came with it so no batteries to buy or replace.

Sounds as though you've got someone right there offering help to save you from many tasks that would otherwise require ladders or stepstools, so I hope that works out for you. As Mr. Rogers always said -- look for the people who are helpers; they're always around.

I wish I had someone to change the batteries in my smoke detectors, but with the pandemic I am not having anyone else in the house, so I will have to do it myself before they start beeping at 3:00 a.m. However, I found on Amazon a stepladder with handrails on both sides and around the top and a little removable bag for tools (or batteries). I feel much safer on it than on my old stepladder. I will carry my cell phone when I change the batteries. I use reachers regularly. I have grab bars just outside of and also inside the tub/shower. So far I can still step in and out, if I hold on to the grab bars. Carol in Denver, I just got a Subaru Forester at the beginning of the year (clear up to almost 1400 miles now, thanks to the pandemic...), and I find it comfortable to get in and out of, too, with good visibility. I have mixed feelings about the fossil fuel, also, but at least it turns itself off at a signal, like a Prius.

I don't think anyone has mentioned stairs. I have several friends who have been injured falling down stairs so I REALLY try to always have a free hand near the railing - both going up and going down- just in case.

So much helpful info - thanks everyone!

Ladders only help me for a few steps. My wife will not allow further for me. The last time I tried to run was last summer. I forgot to set the emergency brake or leave the transmission in second forward. The truck began to coast down the hill. I ran, and of course, fell. The heavy '63 Ford coasted backwards and hit a stump. The stump lost, but stopped the truck. My knee was bloodied and I was embarrassed in front of my contractor. I learned that I can't jump
into a moving truck like the movies or as I did when I was 21 and the same thing happened.
Unless someone's life is at risk, the truck will survive just fine. B

I've had grab bars in my bathtub/shower since my children were old enough to shower by themselves. I always enter the shower and turn inside it grabing the rail in case i might slip or get dizzy. All my stairs have railings that my husband put on (we have 4 floors) and my children and grand children all had to learn to go up and down the stairs holding to the railing. Firmly! no one has ever fallen down the stairs, thank whomever!
I still go up ladders and stools in the garden and in the house. I am very cautious because i have no one to help me. I'm 74, I hope I'll be independent for a few more years, but I read all your advice and learn from it. I really liked the idea of having a grabber:-)
Last but not least: I've had a robot vaccum cleaner since last year, and I'm delighted. It is a small round thing that goes around your house and can be programmed . Mine is very simple, I just turn it on, wait 15 minutes for each room, and empty the dust container. I do not have rugs. It is not expensive.
thank you all !

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