“The Disabled at Home,” Ensign, June 1976, 73
Activities of daily living are usually so routine to nondisabled persons that they require no conscious thought as to how they are carried out. But when someone becomes disabled through arthritis, stroke, or similar chronic illness, he must be assisted in performing these tasks and taught how to do them within the limitations of his condition.
Everything that is done for any patient puts him another step closer to becoming more weak and helpless. Therefore, each person must learn to develop all his remaining capabilities to their limits. He may be aided in this rehabilitation and in the performance of his daily tasks by some modification of his schedule and his surroundings.
First, decide which activities are really necessary and which can be eliminated. Rehabilitation must proceed gradually and must focus initially on the essential tasks. Improvement may come only very gradually and may take resolve and determination on the part of the patient and understanding and cooperation from the family.
Second, modify the home environment so that the disabled person can move about more easily and without hazard.
1. Floors should not be slippery (forget about waxing them for a while).
2. Remove “throw rugs” that might cause falls.
3. Be sure that anything that might be tripped over is removed. The children can help by keeping their toys out of hallways and other places where the disabled person will be walking.
4. Steps and long corridors should be equipped with handrails.
5. Place a rubber suction mat on the floor of the bathtub to prevent slipping.
6. A low chair or stool (with rubber leg tips) in the tub may make bathing and getting in and out of the bathtub easier.
7. An elevated toilet seat can help if getting on and off the toilet is difficult.
8. Low beds and chairs are often difficult for the disabled person to get up from; a simple way to make them higher is to put the legs on wooden blocks, making certain, of course, that the bed or chair is secure and will not fall over.
9. When the disabled person is ready to resume household tasks, a cart or small table with smooth-running casters is handy for transporting items around the house so that they do not have to be carried.
All of these suggestions are simple modifications that can aid a family member in his physical rehabilitation so that he can manage many of his daily living activities. The more he is able to do for himself, the more independent he will become and the more his own feelings of self-worth will increase. Suzanne Dandoy, M.D., M.P.H., Director, Community Health, Arizona State Health Department