Two years ago my husband’s aorta dissected. I drove him to the nearest hospital and the team launched into action. My husband was bleeding to death and the team gave him blood transfusions as quickly as possible, but they were not enough. He had two emergency operations and neither stopped the bleeding. Facing two choices, bleed to death or life-threatening surgery, my husband chose surgery.
He made this choice because wanted to spend more time with me and see our twin grandchildren graduate from college.
During the 13-hour operation my husband suffered a spinal stroke that paralyzed his legs. He was hospitalized for eight months and, thanks to intensive therapy, learned to stand, stand and pivot, and take a dozen or so steps with a walker. Yet his mobility is limited and he spends most of his time in a wheelchair. We bought a used wheelchair van and, much as we like it, found that parking is a problem.
Ordinary tasks, such as putting on a coat, take three times longer than they used to. Before we go anywhere, I have to make detailed plans, and allow plenty of lead time. Many lessons have come from caregiving experience and these tips may help you help your loved one.
* Call ahead. One movie theater claimed to have wheelchair seating, but when we arrived, we discovered it ws in the aisle. We were so close to the screen we developed kinks in our necks from looking upward. Conversely, another movie theater has wonderful wheelchair seating, a normal row with empty spaces for wheelchairs.
* Conduct a site visit. I go to the location and check the doors. Museums, offices, and buildings often have two doors with space between them (an airlock), and the space between the doors is tight. The wheels on my husband’s electric wheelchair and ne needs space to maneuver. He can’t maneuver in an airlock, and it takes two people to hold the two doors open.
* Scout out van parking. Your hometown may have wheelchair van parking, but the spaces could be limited. Drive around and check the number of spaces. If ground parking is limited, call parking ramps and gather information. Where are the van spots? How many are there? When does the ramp close?
* Report problems. My husband was referred to a local health club, so he could use a special bike. Going to the club takes time and effort. Twice, when we arrived, cars were parked in the only wheelchair van space. Although both cars had permits on the mirrors, they were parked in front of a sign that read, “Lift Vans Only.” I reported this to management and the health club is looking into it.
* Be vocal and be polite. When I called health club management, I used a calm voice and shared vital information. The manager didn’t know there was only one van space. What’s more, he didn’t know a side-loading van needs eight feet in order to lower the tamp. I asked if it would be possible to have another space for bans. He promised to consult with management and get back to me as soon as possible.
When a loved one is in a wheelchair, family caregivers do all they can to make a loved one’s life pleasurable, easier, and satisfying. Thank you for your loving care.