I was recently commissioned by Premier Care in Bathing to share my thoughts on the topic of broaching the subject of making homes safe for older family members.
In case their name is unfamiliar to you, Premier Care in Bathing is one of the first ever companies to specialise in the installation of bathrooms specifically designed for customers with mobility needs. They are on a mission to encourage families to talk more openly about how to make our homes safe for older family members. It might not be the easiest of subjects to deal with but certainly one that needs to be addressed.
I perhaps suggest not opening with the line: ‘I hope you aren’t going to move in with me?’ with a poorly hidden look of horror upon your face. This, let me tell you, is not the way to approach the issue of a parent’s impending old age. The fact that the reply was a, ‘Hell! No!’ was simultaneously reassuring and quite the rejection in one.
So, having established that neither of us want to live with the other again, the next step is to discuss how to make independent living easier and possible as mobility inevitably decreases.
‘I already have my commode,’ mum reassure me. ‘It’s next to my bed so I don’t need to rush to the toilet in the middle of the night.’
Oh, Lordy. Save me from this conversation already.
‘Yes, but what else can we do? You know, to make sure you don’t have to live with me and I don’t have to live with you. Because, you know, once til I left home was bad enough and neither of us wants to do that again….’
‘Oh, we would kill each other,’ she nodded. That is probably one of the few things we have ever agreed on.
Well, that and not wanting to live together again.
‘It takes me ages to get up the stairs and I get tired. I get out of breath.’
‘You need to exercise and keep active though.’
‘I do exercise. I go to Tesco every day. That’s exercise. It’s the stairs. They are too much for me now.’
I am already thinking how much the kids would love a stairlift. Actually, so would I.
‘And I already got myself a higher bed. That makes it easier to get in and out. Because it’s higher.’
Okay. Great. A higher bed. So far, so good.
‘I put a new toilet in the downstairs cupboard where the washing machine used to be.’
Mum does a lot of thinking about her toilet, it seems.
‘And I have handrails on the bath. I don’t want to slip.’
Another one off the list of things to mention then.
‘And I’ve cleared out the loft so you won’t have to do it when I die.’
Damn it, woman. You really have thought of everything already.
Plus I hate clearing stuff. Or any kind of housework, actually.
My thoughts on broaching the subject? Let’s face it, the reality that our parents are getting older and will need more care and support is something many of us will have to face. Having to have this conversation was a double-edged sword for me; part of me feeling it was necessary, another feeling sad that I didn’t even have the opportunity to have this conversation with my Dad.
I was hesitant to approach it, I have to say, but the reality is that mobility decreases with age and we will all need to adapt and change our living conditions and day to day life to deal with it. Fortunately, my mother was well ahead of me in this. It seems all you really need to do is to ensure your parent does not want to live with you ever again and they’ll have taken care of everything before you can even utter the words ‘walk-in bath.’