Lenore Hirsch

Lenore Hirsch

I would never have predicted that thoughts of a bathtub full of warm water and lavender bubbles could call forth the same anguish I associate with doing the splits or a backbend. That is, my body just can’t do this!

After thumb surgery, I couldn’t take a bath for a month. I just didn’t have enough strength in my right hand to lower myself into the tub. So it was showers only for a while.

Now I can get into the tub, but some days it is still a test for my knees and arms to see if I can push/lift/pull myself out. I wonder if I should balance my cellphone on the rim of the tub and leave the front door unlocked, just in case. “Help! I’m in the tub and I can’t get out.” I’ll never want to see that fireman again! The feeling would, I’m sure, be mutual. I daydream about a spa-like bathtub that is easy to get in and out of.

I remember what I went through to get grab bars into my parents’ bathroom. Mom and Dad refused to discuss it or go to the store with me. So after a few useless arguments, I just bought the bars myself and hired someone to install them. Not that I could afford any of that at the time.

Do you want to do this to your kids? If you know you’re having trouble with balance or slippery surfaces, it’s time. I’m thinking of putting a new railing by my front steps in preparation for the knee replacement that is on the horizon.

Actually, I’m so prone to tripping over my own feet, maybe I should have railings all over the house.

You may be thinking, “Forget the bathtub, what about the sofa?” It’s true that much modern furniture is too soft and low slung for us grannies to manage without help.

Lawn chairs are even worse—those close-to-the-ground chairs meant for the beach or a concert where if you bring a taller chair the folks behind you will complain?

I say scrutinize the furniture in any new venue very carefully before sitting down. I like a nice, solid wooden chair with minimal padding that allows my feet to rest on the floor and my knees to bend with a 90-degree angle. Armrests provide a good push-off, if needed. If your knees are higher than your butt, you’re in trouble.

Of course, you can always ask some muscular guy or gal to help you up, but that reminds me too much of a fisherman trying to haul in a very big fish. If he misjudges his strength or your bulk, you might just both end up on the ground.

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A physical therapist told me the best exercise for strengthening the legs for going from sitting to standing is very simply to get up from a chair 20 times in a row without using your hands. Try that a few times a day, but preferably not in public, where someone might think you really have a problem with indecision.

Even soft, low chairs are better to get up from than the floor itself. So unless you’ve been a yoga practitioner for years, give it some thought before you sign up for exercise classes that include floor work.

Every time I’m on the floor lying down and working out, the same things happen. I get nauseous, stomach contents start moving the wrong way, and the teacher approaches to show me how to adapt the exercise. Just the kind of special attention I don’t want. Whatever you do, don’t tell the instructor you’re nauseous, unless you want to risk her calling the paramedics.

Don’t get discouraged, just keep laughing. I limit my floor exercises to the gym floor where I can stake out a space, take my time, and get up off the floor however I need to. Usually that is some kind of reverse downward dog. Just imagining what I look like with my butt in the air as I slowly push myself up one leg at a time is enough to make me smile.

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