We moved June 1, 2005. To this day I don’t know how I survived that month except for sheer grit. Work pressure was at its worst. I would either get up at dawn and work in my office until lunch, go over to the other house and paint or wallpaper and come back for dinner and then work in the office until midnight, or later, OR work in the office all day and spend the night catching up at the other house.

For me, in other renovation projects over the years, the first week was the worst for muscle stiffness and soreness, but this time the agony just kept growing from day to day. The only thing that kept me going the last week was strapping a magnet flex pad to my back. My brother, a dear friend and our kids added their help to the movers on moving day.

Wally endured a nightmare of “freezing” as he tried to walk between stacks of cartons piled like narrow walls, first in the old house and then in the new house. I directed everyone to get furniture in place as quickly as possible, but it’s impossible to move and unpack boxes in one day. We did manage to get the kitchen and living room settled first and moved most of the boxes blocking passage to the bedroom to the den.

The main bedroom was 14-feet long, and it allowed twin beds with three feet between. Again I made a major mistake in the beds I selected. I thought Ultramatic beds would be the best answer. At first they seemed to be, but as time progressed, Wally could not get out of his bed easily, even if grasping a pole we installed. He preferred sleeping in his lift chair in the living room because he felt he had more control. Though the Ultramatic’s raised position seemed to help my breathing through the night, the continual pressure on my lower back began creating problems. Neither of us slept soundly. I now realize I should have bought Wally a hospital bed and eventually replaced his Ultramatic with a rental hospital bed with a special comfort mattress to prevent bed sores.

The adaptations to the main bathroom made a huge difference. Just a simple thing like a raised American Standard toilet helped my stiff knees and the extra bars and supports meant Wally didn’t have to ask for assistance to get up on his own. Now, when we have to use a regular toilet, it’s always a shock to sink down to the lower seat. The standalone cupboards were only one-foot wide. Light switches were also lowered. The raised sink allowed knees underneath, and the shower could be converted into a drive-in by removing the short step. The shower design was more in keeping with an open Eurpean style. We used a glass-block enclosure and didn’t need a shower curtain. The shower walls were reinforced so not even an earthquake could budge the grab bars from their supports.

We had yet to install the smaller 4-foot by 10-foot bathroom. Originally, we planned for a half-bathroom, but one of my freelance clients, who published an HVAC magazine, proposed I write a showcase article about bathroom renovations for the handicapped. The publisher of Toronto-based Contracting Canada magazine wanted to feature advertisers who wished to donate product. To my utter amazement (and clearly the publisher’s salesmanship), Safety Bath, Nuheat, Moen, Toto Toilets/Washlets and Ponte Giulio (Italian manufacturers of grab bars) as well as Panasonic Whisper Fans were eager to contribute.

For this project, a walk-in tub was the best solution, and the dimensions of Safety Bath’s ‘Serenity’ model were perfect—30 inches high, 36 inches from front to back and 34 inches wide. Other comparisons also made the ‘Serenity’ tub ideally suited for this installation as it holds same amount of water as a regular bathtub (larger ones may need a larger water heater because of greater capacity); fills faster and drains faster than larger walk-in tubs; has a wider door that swings outward for easier entry—others are designed with a narrow door that opens inward, and this could prevent you from quickly removing someone in an emergency; has a low two-inch step in to tub; works as a soaker tub with 4-jet hydro-therapy action, 12-jet warm air massage and an optional heated seat; weighs 120 pounds and is Canadian-made from durable, easy-to-care-for fiberglass versus heavier steel used in some imports; accommodates and is primarily designed for the limited mobility of people using walkers—wheelchair users require a lift device; and finally comes complete with pop-up drain valve, MOEN pressure-balanced, scald-guard taps and MOEN hand-held shower. It’s ideal because hydro-therapy has been shown as beneficial in helping people with circulatory problems, arthritis and sore muscles.

The raised Toto toilet for handicapped users and electric Toto ‘washlet’ seat cover automatically cleans the private parts that may be difficult to reach. The Ponte Giulio grab bars come in colors you can co-ordinate with any bathroom décor, but the most significant difference is that they are covered with an anti-bacterial coating and have a special flange system to provide secure installation into any wall surface. One style of their grab bars raises to the wall when not in use and lowers when needed.

My resulting articles were posted on the Disabled World and Industry Canada web sites in addition to the feature that appeared in the 2006 Contracting Canada winter magazine issue. With these renovations, we were prepared to keep Wally at home until his final days, but our circumstances drastically changed in the winter of 2008.


About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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