While awaiting the imminent arrival of 32 guests for my husband's annual office progressive dinner party at our home, I slipped on just one step going down to my sunken living room. I suffered the incredible pain and embarrassment of fracturing three leg/ankle/foot bones at such a celebratory time, as well as being carted off by ambulance. Since then, I have had some time to think about the role I often play as hostess to the physically impaired, not to mention the role I am about to play as a disabled guest at the home of my loved ones.
I think that this is a time of year when all of us want to be involved in festivities, but some of us are hesitant to entertain the disabled for fear of falls, faux pas, and complications. My husband, Jeff, is an internist/geriatrician with considerable experience dealing with the frail elderly and disabled. Even so, our recent home remodel seems, in hindsight, to fall short of handicapped access in many respects. Our friends have considered these barriers even less than we have. Therefore, I offer a few tips for those who entertain the injured, the frail, and the disabled.
- Please take the holidays as an opportunity to review the safety and comfort of your home for yourselves and your guests. There are national health and disability organizations and government sponsored websites that address themselves to these issues.
- Please invite us to your safe home. Isolation at this time of year can be debillitating in and of itself.
- Ask us what safety and comfort measures we think we might need to feel comfortable at your home. We may have much of the mobility and bathroom apparatus available to bring with us when we come. If not, might you rent one or two essential items just for the occasion (a toileting support bench is at the top of the list, I should think).
- Please give us an opportunity to bring a caregiver along with us. That gives you, the host, a relief from having to focus on us to the detriment of other guests.
- Offer us a dress rehearsal visit prior to the main event. That way, we can make an assessment together as to how to "make this festivity visit work." It may also be a reality check that says that we will have to live with remaining in the most accessible, safe portion of your home.
- Please provide us a personal loot bag of personal comfort items discretely. Personal, anti-bacterial wipes are great, anti-bacterial gel such as Purell for our hands is a delightful luxury, extra paper napkins, a tissue packet, and perhaps a small bottle of spring water when we get thirsty or need to take medications.
- When in doubt, use the Golden Rule as your guide. If you were confined to crutches, wheelchair or cane, or used body prosthetics, how would you wish to be planned for by your host? Above all, let us communicate our issues and concerns honestly together. We are not mind-readers and we really do not want to be a bother...we want to be, and can be, a fabulous addition to the festivities.
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