Dad sat reading volume “F” of the 1990 World Book Encyclopedia—“I haven’t read ‘F’ in some time”—and later at the dinner table expounded to Mom and me about Fahrenheit and Faulkner and Freedom. I think volume “L” might be his favorite. Whereas last week he had to ask Mom to bring this and that book or plate or newspaper to him—because he could not hold both the walker handles and the object he wanted—his new caddy allows him the independence of transporting things himself. While I searched the Deseret Industries thrift store for exercise dumbbells, which I did not find, the walker fairly stuck out its handles and introduced itself. Fifteen dollars later, I walked into the living room and declared to Dad, “This is not a walker.” He seemed fond of his floral-pattern walker, and I worried he might not welcome an interloper. I explained, “This is a food caddy and a book caddy and an anything-else caddy.” Dusty from sitting neglected in someone’s garage, I cleaned every inch of the caddy. Next day, Dad transported his books and his lunch plates without relying on Mom or me. He liked the like-new not-a-walker. In a related story, Dad announced to Mom and me in church that his wheelchair cushion was freezing his bottom—we keep the wheelchair and the memory foam cushion in the faithful Suburban, and the night before had dipped to 19 degrees Fahrenheit. I grinned and encouraged him to find consolation in not feeling too hot, for a change.
(Pictured above: Dad’s new thrift store not-a-walker caddy.)
Dad’s stylish pink floral old faithful walker.
I sat down with Mom and Dad recently, and asked Dad if we could discuss a plan to preserve his mobility for as long as possible. Far from defensive, he seemed grateful for the discussion: he and Mom know that him losing his mobility will dramatically affect quality of life for them both. After our discussion, I typed and printed our Mobility Strategy, in big blaring pitch, and stuck it to the refrigerator with a magnet. A day in the hospital, the Christmas and New Year holidays, and family celebrations interrupted some elements of the new routine, like going to the gym. Other elements we started immediately. I do not badger Dad about drinking water, for example, but every time I pass his chair, I hand him a bottle of cold water. My message is clear. And, to be fair, I hold my own water bottle even as I hand him his. (Water intake can reduce edema.) Here is our Mobility Strategy. I will let you know how it goes.
- Stationary Bike. Ride the bike 6 days a week, for 30 minutes each ride.
- Gym. Go to the gym 2 days a week, weather permitting.
- Leg Compressors. Use the pumping leg compressors when reading at night.
- Walker. Use the blue walker between family room, kitchen, and dining room, as needed.
- Cane. Keep the “walking stick” handy for short treks in the house or to the car.
- Compression Socks. Order. Wear.
- Elevate. When sitting, keep legs elevated.
- WATER. Keep several water bottles cold in the fridge. Sip all day.
(Image by Willfried Wende from Pixabay)
My siblings and I had begun to notice how ascending the stairs had grown more difficult for Mom and Dad. They huffed and wheezed and groaned. A wear pattern emerged on the wall where hands had sought some added traction and stability. My sister Sarah arranged for a company to install a railing on the wall side of the stairs, at equal height with the wood banister. Now it is much easier for them to push and pull their way up, using all four limbs, and to lean forward as they descend, easing the arthritis pains in their knees. I will not lie: I use the railing, too.