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Dad's House
By Sharon R. McMurray

(Page 1 of 2)

Our first reaction was “He can’t live alone.”  How could he manage without her?  She was his companion in the house they bought the year after they married nearly sixty years ago. A typical homemaker from the 50s era, she cooked for him, washed the laundry, managed the finances, later drove him where he needed to go, and did a hundred other things. 

We assumed Dad couldn’t live alone primarily because the stroke he suffered nearly 15 years ago resulted in major right side weakness.  During the ensuing years, he began to depend upon a leg brace and cane to walk and he gradually lost most of the use of his right hand.  He reluctantly gave up driving two years ago.  And we knew he would be lonely.

So we began visiting local senior citizen and assisted living complexes, thinking they would provide not only the basic necessities like his meals and clean laundry, but more importantly, companionship and social interaction as well.  Our plan was to narrow the choices to three, give him the opportunity to visit all three and let him decide where to live.

The places we visited were bright and clean, some livelier than others, with lots of seniors living in them. They were filled mostly with women, because women tend to live longer than men. It became clear that, despite his physical handicap, Dad was far too well for an assisted living facility. However, one of the problems with many of the senior apartment complexes (as well as assisted living facilities) was their sheer size – the walk to the dining room would exhaust him. And, he would be moving in with complete strangers.

Slowly, it began to dawn on us that maybe Dad could stay in his own home. 

Over time, we discovered he had a network of friends in his neighborhood who were visiting him regularly, walking with him, and bringing him things like a plant for the front porch, a pumpkin in the fall, a meal or a dessert.

Looking over his home, we realized it was a manageable size at about 1,200 square feet, and Dad knew every inch of it.  We just needed to make it as safe and convenient as possible for him, so he could live independently.

The first measure of comfort for everyone was the alarm Dad agreed to wear. He can press the button if he needs assistance, and the monitoring company calls one of his children and sends EMS immediately. 

The second, and most important change, was the bathroom renovation.  Because of his right side weakness, Dad can’t maneuver his leg to get into the tub to shower, so he would go down stairs to the basement where there was a walk-in shower. That was a terrible accident waiting to happen. 

We hired a contractor who was certified by the National Association of Home Builders as an aging-in-place specialist (CAPS) to rebuild the first-floor bathroom.   He installed a walk-in shower with grab bars and a hand-held shower; new lighting; and made the doorway, vanity and toilet wheelchair accessible, if that need ever comes up in the future.


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