Donna came home from her three-week stint in rehab (she broke her ankle in two places and needed surgery to repair it). I wheeled Donna through the lobby, into the elevator, and down the hall to our apartment. I opened the front door and got stuck with the wheelchair in the foyer.
When we bought our apartment, I insisted on being in a “roll-in” building with an elevator. For over twenty years I assumed our apartment was vaguely accessible.
Wheelchairs, at least the basic ones provided by Medicare, need a lot more space for navigating than I imagined. I thought I had cleared a path through the apartment, but it was too narrow. I had to move the hutch (full of Donna’s mother’s good china) just to get her into the apartment. To get into the living room, I had to shift the dining table, the coffee table, and the couch. To get into the bedroom, I had to move the bed, the dresser, and her reading chair.
I knew that neither the wheelchair nor the walker would fit through the bathroom door, which is 24″ wide. Even the knee scooter is a tight fit. She can use the scooter to get to the shower, but it is awkward for the toilet. I wouldn’t want to do that maneuver if I was in a hurry to pee. The commode will be in the bedroom until she is more mobile.
We have help. Medicare pays for a visiting nurse (twice a week), a home health aide (five times a week for four hours a day), and a visiting physical therapist (twice a week).
The first person who came to visit was Pema, the visiting nurse and case manager. She is from Nepal. I opened the door and introduced myself as Donna’s partner. She was friendly and talked with both of us about the services that the agency provides. She seemed completely non-judgemental.
The second person who came to visit was Fatou, the home health aide. She is from Senegal, and wears a hijab. I introduced myself as Donna’s partner. After Fatou got settled in, I ran some errands and went to the gym. Donna thinks the aide is there to help her, but I think she is there to give me a break. While I was out, Fatou referred to me as “he”. Donna was flummoxed and did not explain our relationship. It remains unexplained. Continue reading