Note: this is the first in a series of blogs Kendra Orcutt will write about Aging in Place for AARP Oklahoma.
She calls me “the changer” with a groan and a smile. I have been her occupational therapist over the last year. We have been through a lot together. I have rearranged her room untold numbers of times, we have designed and implemented custom equipment, we have removed walls, changed habits, heck, we even restructured her left ankle! Okay, well, technically, her orthopedic surgeon did the work but we initiated it! But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me give you some background first.
Angie has a cavernous malformation of a major blood vessel. It is located in her brain stem. There isn’t a lot of room for error in a brain stem. She has had four surgeries to stop the bleeding, each time fighting her way back to functioning at her highest level of independence. Did I mention she is only 39, a single parent with two teenage boys?! Thank goodness she is physically in great shape, has crazy determination and a wicked sense of humor! And by wicked, I mean she scares me for fun! Luckily, her parents are made of the same stuff (humor, determination) and take amazing care of her. Between the four of us, we have come up with some pretty cool solutions to her challenges.
It all started on a summer day last year, I remember it well. As her mother walked me in through the equipment graveyard of their garage, she said “don’t even mention a power wheelchair!” She had been through a lot of therapists by this time (Angie had her first bleed about eight years ago). The first visit I met the family and Angie, I assessed the situation. I noticed the shower chair had not been adjusted and mentioned it might be easier to transfer her if it was raised to the same height as her scooter. I said the same thing about the bed side commode over the toilet. When I came back for the second visit, her mom said, “okay, what you said works…she trusts you, so we will try whatever you want.” And that’s when they released “The changer!”
Editor’s Note: We all want to live in a home that fits our needs and lifestyle. Unfortunately, most of us don’t discuss or think about certain aspects of our homes until a crisis occurs and it becomes obvious we are living in a place that no longer matches our needs and abilities. With a few modifications of her house, Angie is now living a more comfortable and safer life. Learn how to conduct a home safety check and assess the livability of your home by using the AARP Home Fit Guide: http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/livable-communities/info-07-2011/aarp-home-fit-guide-aging-in-place.html
(Kendra Orcutt, OTR, is an occupational therapist whose professional career has specialized in providing geriatric services. She has played critical roles in organizing the delivery of therapy services in a series of different environments ranging from major hospitals, to nursing homes, therapy organizations and finally in home care settings. Ms. Orcutt will be a panelist July 31st on an Aging in Place Panel co-sponsored by AARP Oklahoma in Norman. To register for this free event, call HEALTHLINK at: 440-8802.)