Aging in Place, guest post

Guest Post: A Teardrop That Gave Me Wisdom

This Guest Post is brought to you by Todd Stull, President of Alone Eagle Remodeling LLC.

Alone Eagle Remodeling is a specialty Bathroom Remodeling Contractor in the Harrisburg, PA area.

Early in my remodeling career I spent quite a few years working for a company as a bathroom remodeler/installer. There was one specific job that has always stuck in my mind which was actually both a shocking and emotional experience. It was one of those experiences where I never forgot their names or even the address but have not mentioned this day to anyone until now.

Recently I was driving through Lancaster, PA passing that home while on my way back from an appointment and I started to think about these folks. A few concepts crystalized in my mind. Some things came together that I was not even aware of 15 years ago so I wanted to share this in hopes that we can all learn from what others go through in real life. All that said, let me rewind the clock and tell you what happened.

My assignment for this project was to replace a tub/wall surround, install a new shower faucet and mount a handful of grab bars (4 if I remember correctly). When I showed up to get started on the job an older man opened the door to let me in. We chatted for a few minutes and went over the scope of work before I started my task. As I walked into the living room his wife was sitting in a mechanical recliner (similar to a hospital bed) and she gave me a big smile. I said “Hi” to her but she strained to talk to me. I could tell that she had most likely had a stroke leaving her speechless and with little mobility. In a way, it appeared that she knew I was there to help her… she smiled again and I kept on my way to bring tools in and get started.

As I made multiple trips loading my tools and supplies into the home, she caught my eye again while I was passing through the living room to the second floor. She reached her hand out to me and was trying to talk again. I walked closer because I thought maybe that her speech was broken or she could only whisper. All of the sudden her husband jumped in and said-

“Don’t mind my wife, the invalid. She won’t bother you or get in your way”

I stepped back (at this point you can only imagine what a young, stubborn, short-tempered kid was thinking…) not knowing what to say. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Since I had a job to do and didn’t want to misrepresent the company. I replied, “It’s no problem sir, she is fine right there and nothing is ever a bother to me… I’ll get to work now.”

I was upset and annoyed; however, I didn’t want that to affect my work so I moved on and tried to stay focused on the job. Most of the day was a blur but the husband spoke to me a few times throughout the day. He apologized for the outburst and proceeded to tell me how stressful things had been for him. He could not afford a tub to shower conversion and chose to do what was necessary, because the shower walls were in bad shape and he was in hopes that the grab bars would help while taking care of his wife.

I hope that bringing this story to the forefront can be somewhat of a catalyst for all of us to both learn from and act upon. Fifteen years ago we simply did not have the resources and education that is available today. The Aging in Place paradigm is at our fingertips with a world of information. Alesha’s blog has become such a great platform to study all the different aspects and many of the writers that contribute are bringing so many different points of view and options to the plate.

Planning Early is the best way to become aware of different situations that we may face as we age. We can only communicate and recognize that as we grow older, facing health conditions and mobility issues are greater. I don’t think we can plan to not be stressed out by situations like the one I shared. In the story above, I’m sure that in his head, he was losing his partner of many years and didn’t know how to cope with that.

Budgeting Now is important. Whether you have a retirement account or are trying to save money in other ways, make it a point to set money aside for necessary (or currently unknown) improvements. Work on changing small things along the way. You may find that engaging in a tub to shower conversion or walk-in bathtub installation a couple of years early may be a good choice while you’re still working towards retirement.

When I left that day, she was still in her chair and gave another smile. He shook my hand and thanked me with a tear in his eye. I couldn’t tell you if this couple is still with us today, but I hope that what I was able to do for them was some kind of improvement to better their situation.

Be good to each other and be good to yourself.


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