Almost two years after my husband’s diagnosis of Lewy Body Disease, which is a combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s in its symptoms, John and I both felt good about staying in our house even though we lived over two hundred miles from our children and grandchildren. We decided to work with the good features of our home that already made it senior friendly.
An obstacle for us was the primary entry at the side of our home.
There were two steps that were uneven and the storm door felt ultra heavy as it swung quickly back in place. When you came and went through that door you felt off balance. I knew that if we upgraded this entrance attractively while taking care of John’s need for a smooth steady walk into the house, we could have a good investment all around.
Taking this on as a creative challenge turned a taxing renovation experience into a more positive one. It made me feel more in control of what was happening. I thought of the money used to change our house as funds we would have given to a nursing home earlier than necessary, if we did not invest it now. I also viewed it as a way to beautify our home to make it more marketable in case we needed to sell and move closer to family.
After months of thinking about what to do to improve the situation, I was speaking with a contractor about putting up a small wooden deck type of porch with a matching wood ramp-style exit to the driveway.
The contractor suggested a cement ramp with a semicircle-shaped porch combination that could be stamped to give it all a slate look, and I immediately knew that was the answer. It would be safe, easy to use, and attractive with flowers added on each side. Fill dirt could be added to both sides to make it appear to be on ground level for most of the distance of the ramp.
I ended up drawing the picture of what I wanted and expanding on the original concept. My design enlarged the porch area to make moving in and out of the house while holding items or using a wheelchair more comfortable and safe. We can roll our suitcases easily in and out of the house rather than struggling with them up or down those awful steps. I stack groceries on a restaurant style rolling cart when unloading them from the car and then glide them easily into the house.
This side entry today is prettier than my front entrance and a delight to use as we pack the car to go see grandkids or bring in the groceries.
A problem was turned into a plus. It was money well spent. The cost was around $1500, only a portion of one month’s nursing home bill in our community. I would much rather invest our money in home improvement than in nursing home care. Another friend in another state recently had a similar cement 30 foot long ramp installed for just under $1900.
The other problem with the heavy glass storm door that would whack us and throw us off balance was resolved very simply by removing both the closing cylinders so that now the door swings free, stands open until we close it, and feels very light weight.
This project is an example of turning lemons that life may give you into lemonade. Almost every time we walk in or out of our pretty entry way, we smile at the transformation. It is one of our little treasures we get to enjoy on a daily basis.
*This is an excerpt from Treasures in the Darkness that has been slightly modified and updated for this article.
Pat Snyder is caregiver to her husband, John, and author of Treasures in the Darkness: Extending the Early Stage of Lewy Body Dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. Pat's mission is to help her husband and promote awareness of Lewy Body Dementia, which affects up to 40% of people with Parkinson's.