Currently more of us are staying at home due to this awful pandemic. Since many accidents occur in the home, I thought it was time to tackle the subject. One doesn’t have to be disabled to have an accident at home but those of us who are, are more at risk.
We live in a three storied Victorian era Italianate style home. Needless to say, we have many stairs to climb. When we moved here twenty-two years ago, many people asked me why we would move to a home with so many stairs since I have problems ambulating? The answer is a simple one. We just love the house. Its history and charm both captivated and appealed to us both. Since it’s 130 years old, something is always going wrong or needing paint but we still love it. Each time I come home, I feel it welcoming me with its crowded, cluttered, wall papered warmth. Sentimentality is hard to come by and when you do, I believe in hanging onto it.
I admit there are times I have doubts when going up or coming down the stairs. I have many bad joints due to two rheumatological diseases. My husband also has had both knees replaced while we’ve lived here and managed the stairs quite well. When I asked him what he was going to do about the stairs he responded, “Well, if I have to get up to the bedroom I’ll go up and down on my butt.” The guy’s a stubborn warrior, so what can I say. I don’t recall he ever had to do that bit.
As for me I just keep remembering and being inspired by all of our grandparents through the centuries who dealt with stairs from childhood into old age. If they managed, so can we. As for me, I take the stairs slowly and deliberately, always leaving one hand free for the banister.
When I’m having a particularly bad day, as many of us do, I try to remember to pop a cordless phone into my pocket. I also find myself frequently quietly repeating that credo for all troubled knee patients, “The good go to heaven, the bad go to hell.” Which simply stated means you put your bad foot down first when going down and your good foot or leg down first when ascending.
At one time I had one orthopedic doctor with no sense of humor who I said that to and he looked startled. I think he thought I was a religious zealot trying to convert him. He asked me to repeat it so I explained it, his face fell with relief. Wonder what deep soul secret he’s hiding?
We did consider those chair lifts for the stairs but in our case they wouldn’t work. Our stairs are too weird. Speaking of chairs, I do love and recommend a good, sturdy shower chair.
I also am quite an advocate for the non–slip socks in the house due to slippery floors and the dangers they present for those of us who aren’t that steady on our feet anymore. I even shower in a pair of them to keep from slipping. They work great and yes; your feet still get their share of soap and water.
Rugs are a major hazard and must have a rubber backing on them or one of the non-slip grip pads beneath. One has to watch those area rugs of all sizes.
There are many metaphorical stairs we climb and descend when we live with chronic pain and illness. We must be more careful with many of these changes and challenges than with the literal stairway. I have often said to myself, “Oh no, I can’t go through this…not another type of stairway of sorts. Not another challenge. Nope, can’t do it.” That is when I need the most help. I pray, I get outside and enjoy my flowers and the colors of the sky or the sparkling Columbia River and simply and quietly wait for the answers to come. I know courage and strength will come but first there is this feeling of doubt, despair and rebelliousness. I have to search and wait for that always present renewal of the spirit.
Another “stairway” can be new medications to adjust to and then, of course, some dire warning comes out in an ad on TV i.e. “You can burst into flames if you swallow this one.” Scheduling of our daily drugs is so important; I use those weekly containers and load them up once a month. It’s irritating once a month but a blessing every morning. Incidentally, don’t watch those ads about medications. Some lawyer somewhere is chasing an ambulance, if you know what I mean. It’s always about protecting some drug company and if we know all the side effects of any of them, we’d never take another drug, prescription or over the counter. Just remember the OTC drugs and herbs all do have side effects so do your reading. Thankfully the internet is a good source for info about medications. usually. Trust your source.
Be careful where you lay down a pill or a handful of them. Our pets can get them, small children or some idiot like me. There was the time I kept my meds in a small glass dish where I also kept my earrings. Yep, swallowed one. Did you know it takes 3-4 days for a gold earring to pass? Yes, I washed it well and still wear it. I’ve also swallowed one of the dog’s vitamins and found it did no harm and no I didn’t chase cars after that experience.
That leads me into the next “stair” many of us face, and that’s cleaning of ourselves, our yards, our homes and our laundry. All those roads lead uphill. It’s all harder to do now than it used to be. We live in a general atmosphere of cleanliness. That means I give dirt, dog hair and tiny insects the right to be here until we are having company. I attack what I can with my Swiffer products or Robot vacuum and I am also blessed with a dear husband who isn’t afraid to help with all of it. He folds towels better than I do.
My eyesight is poor thanks to a drug I took for many years and can be a blessing when you can’t see into those dusty, crumby corners in the kitchen. My credo is, if it stinks squirt it, if it moves smack it, if it’s sticky, spray it or call in the dog for help. Now when it comes to the car, that’s where my husband shines. Me? I don’t care about the car.
The changes that confront as disease encroaches, old age approaches while there are no life coaches can confuse us as to which stairs matter and which do not. It’s still a good idea to take all tasks and stair thoughtfully one step at a time and never panic. We might have to be less rigid in our standards of cleanliness. One can use a towel twice and the world doesn’t stop spinning. Yes, cleanliness can also help the attitude but one often has to choose; pain or chores.
Flares are another flight of stairs those of who live with chronic illness have to face. Whether you have a flicker or a complete burnout, flares are usually unexpected, of dubious origin and totally unwelcome. As to the causes of these days that bring about more fatigue, often more pain and grumpier attitudes; we each have our own answers. For me it is usually overdoing it the previous day or two, too much sun or forgetting to take a pain medication I could have used. Stress is another known contributor and each of us handle stress in our lives very differently.
Grief is one of the heavier forms of stress and has no answers as each of us handle grief in all its many shapes differently. The normal passage of time, trusting our beliefs and warm memories have often helped me. Grief comes to us in many forms. Loss of a loved one and loss of one’s former way of life due to health are only a few of them.
When accosted by flares that don’t go away, it may be our body’s notification that it needs help. Time to get out the doctor’s phone number and have things checked out, labs drawn or just a reassuring visit. I think each of us have doctors we delay seeing for one reason or another. Ones we like are more easily approached. Drastic changes in pain, fevers, bleeding in the stools, vomiting and excessive nausea are all good reasons to contact our doctors. Most of us who have been ill for many years know our own signs of trouble and have to beware of that old enemy called denial. Denial is not your friend or mine when it is about our health.
Caution and carefully thoughtful lives need to be a rule to follow as we age or become more ill. Accidents happen but we don’t need to make it easy for them to happen. I know you want to live like you used to. So do I. Change is difficult. I don’t like it. Never will but fighting it is the act of a fool and I truly want to live a more thought filled life. How about you?