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Design Within Reach – Mobility in the Home

Spinal Cord Injury Advocate
03/29/19  11:19 AM PST
Mobility in the Home

Hello! I’m Katelyn Baker, wife to Aaron, and as I have previously written about, I am a “connoisseur of all things home decor.” When I moved in to Aaron’s home, I soon found out that FUNCTION led the design and placement of all things in the house. However, as a regular subscriber to Architectural Digest, I knew that I needed to put my spin on the home. I am often asked by other spouses how our house is set up, and the two most common questions are: How do you make accessibility feel less industrial? And: How do you incorporate items from Target or Home Goods? In this article, I will explain how I have married (pun intended) function and decor within reach for my husband and me.

I will give you a tour of our home by starting with the beginning of the day – in our bedroom. Since we spend about a third of the day in our bed, it is very important that it is perfect at all times. Before I moved in with Aaron, I was used to the perfect bed – made before you left for the day with throw pillows and a decorative blanket draped at the bottom of the bed. Well, not anymore! First, it was crucial for the frame to have a head and foot board. The foot board is important so Aaron does not have to wear pressure boots at night which avoids potential “foot drop.” Instead, I wedge two pillows at the foot board to form an L, and Aaron dorsiflexes his foot upwards while sleeping. He also has — no joke — five pillows, a neck roll, and neck pillow he uses every night. As aesthetically unpleasing as that was for me in the beginning, it is the perfect way for Aaron to make a cocoon around his head and neck for support. Aaron is fused from C4 to C6 and the titanium plate can sometimes get caught on the above or below vertebrae which causes pain. On our bed, we do not use a top sheet, as it can get tangled when Aaron needs to get up in the middle of the night to use his urinal. Instead, we use the fitted sheet, comforter (with washable cover) and additional blankets during the colder seasons. Next to our bed are side tables which are two-tiered with a drawer to store additional supplies and make things convenient to grab. This helps when I’m in a rush in the morning for work. I can leave coffee, breakfast, medication, and any other necessities within reach for Aaron.

*Items in this area were purchased at Wayfair; Target; Bed, Bath & Beyond; and Home Goods.

Between the bedroom and the bathroom, we have a small hallway that has a closet which holds only Aaron’s clothes. I placed a fabric bench in the hallway, which adds style to the area, but the fabric is a soft surface for Aaron to take his time getting dressed without the worry of pressure points. On the bench, we have a basket filled with his toiletries: deodorant, hair brush, hair products, lint roller, etc.

*I purchased both the bench and basket at Home Goods.

The bathroom has the tendency to look industrial – straight from the hospital design catalog! In our bathroom, we do not have the sprawling two person shower with multiple shower heads, but instead have a single stall pre-fabricated shower with a bench. This smaller situation allows for Aaron to feel secure with a grab rail. As for the shower bench, I searched high and low for something that was functional yet looked nice!  As many of you may be aware, they are typically ugly, flimsy and plastic. After doing some research, I found a great teak wood version at Bed, Bath and Beyond. So far, it has lasted over six years without any warping, lose bolts or damage. We also have a Squatty-Potty under the toilet for Aaron’s bowel program (courtesy of a Yankee Swap gift exchange with our Shield family!). It allows for a more natural release, and also helps avoids foot drop. The electrical stimulation machine, which he uses while going to the bathroom, sits next to the toilet. In the master bathroom, we also made an “At Home Medical Kit” for easy access. There are certain days where Aaron is sick, and I am not able to stay home from work. This kit makes it easy to pull out before I leave, and know everything he needs is right there. It’s a kit you are always glad you have when you least expect it.

*Amazon and Bed, Bath and Beyond are my go-to bathroom supply places.

Once Aaron makes his way from the master bedroom and bathroom area, he has 14 stairs to get down on his butt. His shoes flank the right side of the staircase, which drives me insane, so we have compromised with a large basket at the bottom of the stairs. We leave his go-to pairs in the basket — these include as slippers for around the house, hiking boots for ankle stability, and athletic shoes for days at C.O.R.E. We also have two sets of railings on either side of the staircase. This helps for scooting up or down!

*Home Goods again for the win when it comes to decorative baskets.

Our staircase leads to the living room, dining room and kitchen which is all a fairly open floor plan. In the living room, we have a designated “zone” for Aaron to relax. It is really nice for him to have his own space that isn’t his wheelchair or our bed. Since the couch can be hard at times to get off of to use the bathroom or switch positions, we have a recliner chair. Have I mentioned that I hate recliner chairs? This would be a big NO if I was picking out furniture, but once I realized the practicality of this chair, it was a no-brainer! We took the time to find the right chair, and ended up purchasing a leather recliner with brass nail heads. It brought together my love for design and his need for functionality. We placed the chair near an electrical outlet so that Aaron could work from his computer and have a lamp nearby. I placed another basket which holds a book, neck pillow, ear phones, and anything else he needs. Additionally, there is a small table next to his chair which keeps items within arm reach (instead of too low or high) and a great place for me to leave snacks when I have to run out! Another one-stop-spot to make things easier and, quite frankly, maximizes time for both of us. He does not need to ask me where things are, and he has access to them! Sometimes, we eat dinner in front of the TV – don’t act like you don’t from time to time! So I found a great lap tray for Aaron to store on the side of his chair. It has padding on the bottom to avoid any pressure points or hot spots, and a flat surface with handle to make it easy to grab. This tray can also been used as a desk for his laptop.

*Items in this area were purchased at Wayfair, Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Home Goods.

The dining room is mostly used for guests only, and the kitchen is totally my domain! However, Aaron will occasionally rummage around the refrigerator and pantry, so I try to keep his “go-to” items at eye level and within reach. Our coffee pot is on the counter with the cups, coffee grounds, and flavorings above. I try and group things together so there isn’t much that Aaron has to manipulate when he wants to make himself something. But if I’m being honest, I’d rather do it so we can avoid a mess or broken dishes! He’s been known to be shooed away when trying to assist with drying dishes. Although our kitchen has not been modified for complete accessibility, I can tell you that a great way to modify your kitchen (without a full renovation) is constructing a center island to your height specifications and placing the most used items in storage underneath. I have even seen smaller sinks and electrical in a kitchen island. You can read more about kitchen hacks in Aaron’s article about adapted cooking.

*Items in this area were purchased at Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Home Goods.

The kitchen backdoor leads into the garage which we both (kind-of) share, but in our own designated areas. Aaron parks his van in front of the garage door, and uses the garage as his main entrance in to the house, as it is an easier access point than the front door. In the garage, we use hooks and metal shelving to organize all the accessories. Aaron has different wheelchairs, scooters, wheels, etc… and we keep everything organized by item. For example, the electric red scooter comes with a power charger and basket which we keep together in another basket on the shelf. This helps us know which charger belongs to which piece of equipment!

*We purchased our shelving from Home Depot and the baskets from The Container Store.

Aaron and I believe in the Zone Method for our home: the entire home does not have to be accessible, like the guest bedroom, guest bathroom or my office. However, when it comes to what Aaron needs, it is all within reach — and stylish!

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