Locked in an Open Room
May 4, 2010 8:50 AM   Subscribe

How can a wheelchair-bound lady get through doors with heavy springs?

A friend's mother has recently started living at an old folks' home, and is having one particular issue which sounds like it should have a simple solution. She is either in a wheelchair [most of the time] or using a walker [rarely] and she is free to go where she chooses in this large complex.

The problem is that the doors are self-closing and push themselves shut harder than she can push them open. She can operate the latch, and she can push the door enough to *see* outside, but when she tries to push a bit farther she gets rolled right back into her room.

The nurses and assistants won't come to open every single door for her so she is reluctant to even call them to open her bathroom door [which is the same].

The best idea that her son has come up with is a sort of a doorstop onna stick that she can jam under the door to make incremental progress. I think that would be useful with a walker, but that devoting one hand to it would make her unable to push in the wheelchair. My suggestions have been less useful: a heavy remote controlled car to drive into the door or loosening the springs on her own door and bathroom door [which wouldn't help her get past her own hallway].
There are a lot of doorways to get through in this place, and the only one that is easy to get through is the main exit.

Is this something anyone here has successfully dealt with? It seems so simple, but is really frustrating for her to be essentially locked in her room all day.
posted by Acari to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The easiest solution is to disconnect the spring device, and to attach a cord to the handle so that she can open and close the door with the cord. Other solutions include: decreasing the pressure, adding an automatic door opener.

I think the doorstop-ona-stick sounds like it might be dangerous/cause injury to her.

Homes for seniors are notoriously awful on things like this, you may need to find an ADA lawyer or an advocate for seniors to assist. But I agree with you, the current situation is unacceptable.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:08 AM on May 4, 2010

Hi. This is my job.

First, don't say "wheelchair bound lady", she ain't 'bound to nothing, she's a person in a wheelchair.

Second, legally, as a respite home, this place should have automatic closures on its doors. While interior doors are limited to 5lbs of push/pull force required for open, out-door doors have no such requirement, however "accessible" entrances (and all fire escapes) MUST be fully accessible to all people.

You should look up your local center for independent living and request their assistance with requesting a modification for the door.

Really, all doors on a care facility should be accessible, but they're not necessarily required to be. If the exit is designated a fire exit, it must be. And, if it's not an accessible door, it MUST legally point the user to a route that is accessible.

Feel free to memail me w/ more specific information to get a better answer.
posted by TomMelee at 9:09 AM on May 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

She shouldn't have to do anything, it is the old folks' home's responsibility to make reasonable adjustment. I'm not sure exactly what disability legislation applies where you are but it is a completely no brainer that a building which caters solely for the elderly and infirm should have doors that can be operated by the eldery and infirm. Has she asked them to change this?
posted by ninebelow at 9:10 AM on May 4, 2010

And, cheers for my being able to read. It's her room door, not the facility door.

In that case, the maximum legal pressure required to push/pull is 5lbs in either direction. Especially because this faciliity is probably promoting itself as accessible, she can go through about a jillion different routes to request the modification, the last resort being a lawyer and a complaint.

Again, memail me or contact your local Center for Independent Living, or the DBTAC
posted by TomMelee at 9:12 AM on May 4, 2010

Looks like what she needs is a swing door operator (wikipedia). We got several of these installed in my Grandmother's apartment, and the cost isn't minuscule, but I think it was worth it for her enhanced freedom.

You might try to work it out with the nursing home to pay for part of the door openers for the apartment with the agreement that when you move out of the facility, you'll leave them behind for them. That might work, might not.
posted by arnicae at 9:13 AM on May 4, 2010

She can operate the latch, and she can push the door enough to *see* outside, but when she tries to push a bit farther she gets rolled right back into her room.

On a practical note in the meantime, a door wedge on a stick and repeated applications of the wheelchair brake should allow a (admittedly slow) means for her to get around in the meantime:

Approach door, apply brakes, push door and shove wedge under. Move chair forward and re-apply brake and repeat until door is fully open. Wheel self through and remove wedge and stick in handy 'wedge-o-store' slot on chair (a loop over the chair handle where she can reach it?).
posted by Brockles at 9:19 AM on May 4, 2010

Thanks for the quick responses!
I forgot to mention that this is in Edmonton, Alberta.

Yes, she has asked to have the doors adjusted, but has not received a satisfactory response. I am not related to her and I don't want to speak on her behalf. Is there likely some sort of inspecting agency that I could call and say "please check the door push pressure at facility X"?

[I said 'wheelchair bound' to provide the impression that she can't just put some shoulder into the operation, not to be insensitive [I know, I know. Intent isn't necessary for feelings to be hurt. Sorry.]]
posted by Acari at 9:23 AM on May 4, 2010

In the US, the current standard is 5 lbs of pressure (probably more complicated, Tom Melee can tell you the details re which doors and other requirements), but some people think that is still not accessible, and that automatic door openers are the only true access (but more expensive). I don't know the Canadian standards. For Edmonton you could contact this agency for a referral. Don't be surprised if this takes a big fight. (Sigh.) Are you local or is someone local to advocate?
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:32 AM on May 4, 2010

I can give you gobs of info re: American ADA/ABA/ADAAG/ADABAAG/UFAS/ANSI rules, but I know absolutely nothing about Canada nor do I know where to refer you or how your rules work. Sorry mate!

And the "person first language" thing is another issue of hot contention here. I'm a fan. Wasn't at first. However, when you or he or whomever speaks to an advocacy group, and you start of your introduction like "Hi, I'm Acari and my best friend's mother uses a wheelchair, and she's currently living at $Home and she's having a real issue opening her room door, I was wondering..." will get you a lot further a lot faster than "Hi I'm Acari and my I'm calling because my best friend's mom is wheelchair bound and lives in a old folks home..."

The underlying concept behind "person first" is the idea that your disability does not define you as a person, unless you chose it to. The person uses the mobility device, the mobility device does not chain you.

posted by TomMelee at 9:39 AM on May 4, 2010

Explain to the nursing home that access to bathroom, hallways, room door, etc., is non-negotiable, and her access is guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act some Canadian law, I'm sure. What an appalling situation; it should not be tolerated. The assistants must come and assist her every time she wants a door opened, until the doors are correctly adjusted. This will remind the place to get them fixed. I'm so sorry she's being treated this way; it's a stupid, wretched situation. If it wasn't so far away, I'd come picket. Please give her a hug from an anonymous stranger on the Internet.
posted by theora55 at 11:17 AM on May 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Self-closing doors are easy to adjust. There will be some screws, often under a sliding cover, that control the door how much pressure the door needs to latch (not a problem here) and the spped/pressure with which it shuts. its the latter or possibly the spring tension that will need adjusting,. You can usually do it with a screwdriver and a chair/stepladder. Have a look here or here.
posted by tallus at 1:51 PM on May 4, 2010

This is the door out of her room? This ought to be a no-brainer and 100% the responsibility of the facility. She (or her family) should point out to the operators that if there's a fire, she's going to die in her room, and furthermore she'll die somewhere else in the facility if there aren't accessible exit routes.

Seriously, this is nuts. If the facility balks the next call should be to the fire inspector. (And the next should be to find new housing. Forget about recreation, she's not physically safe there.)
posted by range at 2:27 PM on May 4, 2010

Agreed with range (and others) that this is a ridiculous (horrific, disgusting, dignity-sapping...yes, this makes me really angry on your friend's mom's behalf) situation. I tried to do some research, and I found the Long-Term Care Accommodation Standards and some information about accessibility, but nothing directly relevant to your friend's mother's situation, I don't think. I am not an expert on the law in AB, but addressing this seems like it may require a stink being made. :(
posted by purlgurly at 5:35 PM on May 4, 2010

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