how to get out of the house?
October 3, 2021 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Pauline, my 98 year old friend, has lost her walking ability; she's well but frail. She's been stuck in her small mobile home for months and is desperate to get outside (into her wheelchair) but there are half a dozen steps for a three foot height drop. How can she get out?

Pauline doesn't have money to throw at the problem. Ideas we're mulling:
Having a ramp built, but she doesn't have the arm strength to use it unaided
Two strong people could carry her down the steps (she's 140 lbs), and back up some time later; she'd be willing to pay each time but how would she find such people?
Installing a wheelchair lift is probably too costly for her.

Any ideas?
posted by anadem to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
Is an electric wheelchair at all possible? There are some pretty inexpensive ones out there now available for a couple thousand dollars. This would presumably improve mobility once she's outside as well. Then if she can get a ramp built, she could get up and down it.

Otherwise, a wheelchair lift is expensive, but a stair lift is less expensive (the kind that you sit on), which would work if she can keep her wheelchair outside or have someone move it up and down the stairs for her.

Either of those options would be multiple thousands of dollars. Is this intended as a solution that she can use independently or is someone available to help?
posted by ssg at 8:25 AM on October 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have no idea where Pauline is located, but do they have something like Access-a-ride in her area? If they do, run by the city or county, they will come help her get out of the home and give her a ride somewhere and back.
posted by AugustWest at 8:38 AM on October 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

As a long term solution, if you could get a ramp built she could pay for an aide for less than the carry solution. Contact local boy scout chapters to see if anyone needs an Eagle Scout project. Also, some churches have community groups that do projects like this, or could point you to another community resource.
posted by rakaidan at 8:40 AM on October 3, 2021 [15 favorites]

This seems like a good use of GoFundMe if you can't find a local group who will take this on as a pro-bono project.
posted by soelo at 8:44 AM on October 3, 2021 [8 favorites]

Check in with the local Independent Living Center for options, especially if she may qualify for fixed income support. They tend to know local resources best. Some even work with local college departments to solve interesting problems like this one (though it’s not a fast solution).
posted by childofTethys at 8:49 AM on October 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

1. There are aluminum folding wheelchair ramps that may be more affordable than building a ramp. 3’ is too much of a rise for the short ones.

2. In my area, there’s a charitable organization of retired Boeing engineers called the Blue Bills that builds ADA compliant ramps for only the cost of materials. Look in your area for similar.

3. Hiring any kind of professional to carry her up and down the stairs is going to quickly exceed the cost of a ramp.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:20 AM on October 3, 2021 [8 favorites]

If Pauline is in the US, Medicaid programs often pay for this and other accessibility upgrades (such as handles for her tub or shower). In this case, it's a safety issue because she can't leave her house in the case of fire etc., so be sure to mention that aspect. If she is using Medicaid, she'll have a card with a member support telephone number on the back, and a rep can help direct you accordingly.

Medicare plans may do this as well, but I'm not as familiar with their offerings. A local disability services or independence center like childofTethys suggests would be able to tell you for sure, so I'd start there.
posted by mochapickle at 9:26 AM on October 3, 2021 [10 favorites]

PM me if the location in your profile is accurate & I'll pass your question on to a local disability justice group I used to be affiliated with to see what their suggestions are. (I suspect there are already a few different resources/options in place to help people like your friend, but I'm not sure what they are outside of my tiny local sphere.)
posted by knucklebones at 9:37 AM on October 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

If Pauline is in the US, Medicaid programs often pay for this

And by this, I mean a ramp! Coffee, yes.
posted by mochapickle at 9:51 AM on October 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Realistically at age 98 she is probably the strongest today she will ever be, so a ramp isn’t realistic unless she has help every time, as it takes extra strength to safely control the speed of the wheelchair’s descent and to push it back uphill.
And living alone in a place she cannot exit is a safety risk.
Gently - is it time for assisted living in a fully accessible facility?
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:56 AM on October 3, 2021 [8 favorites]

You need a foot of length per inch of rise for a ramp, which translates into around 36 *feet* in this case. Stair lift may be an option depending on climate. But really, it’s going to be quite costly to make this an accessible situation. A deck built at the height of the door so she’s able to roll out into the air would work for getting her out of the house, but would make no difference if she needed to visit the doctor or leave in case of an emergency.
posted by Bottlecap at 11:10 AM on October 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

To be completely honest, she needs either accessible living AT ground level, or assisted living facility. At that age and physical condition, she's not safe living alone. If she had an accident anywhere in the house she may not be found for days. And any injury she suffered can be fatal. A ramp doesn't address this problem at all.
posted by kschang at 12:17 PM on October 3, 2021 [10 favorites]

Wayfair sells aluminum wheelchair ramps rated for 800 lbs, for a couple hundred dollars. They have varying lengths. I'm not sure if any could handle three feet of drop though.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:44 PM on October 3, 2021

The fire department/first aid squad carried me up four flights of stairs about 30 years ago when I was (temporarily) unable to walk upstairs to my apartment due to a medical situation. My memory is fuzzy on the details, it certainly wasn't called in as an emergency, but they did do it. Your local fire department may be filled with strong able bodied people who are inclined to do things for others in their community, and for a donation, they may do it happily a few times, but probably not forever. It might be a good stopgap until you figure out something else.
posted by molasses at 2:48 PM on October 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Look for contact information for your local Area Council on Aging, they should be able to put you in touch with resources to help her. The currecnt situation sounds very unsafe, bexause she couldn't get out of the house in an emergency.
posted by mccxxiii at 6:22 PM on October 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

During the Pandemic, a couple of facebook groups started up in my town and state. People have posted such needs and gotten useful advice and concrete help. Call your state's Bureau of Vocational Rehab, find out what, if any assistance is available to keep disabled people in their homes. Area Agency on Aging, absolutely. Maybe Habitat for Humanity; they do building projects. The United Way usually knows what services are available.

She would almost certainly benefit from additional services, but she gets to decide the services she wants, the goals she has for herself. If she's in a trailer park, can a group be organized to do daily shopping, check-in, etc.?
posted by theora55 at 7:03 PM on October 3, 2021

It seems like a vertical platform lift is what she needs. This page has some options for paying for it that might be helpful; it also mentions looking for used or renting.

It also estimates the cost of a permanent ramp as 150-250 per foot. So 20 feet of ramp = $5,000. You may be able to find a lift for that price.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:48 PM on October 4, 2021

She’s trapped in a mobile home and is physically unable to get out and has been for months? And has no money? Even an electric lift isn’t entirely safe in the event of a power outage. Building a ramp is a huge, expensive undertaking and she probably doesn’t have the strength to get herself up or down it in the wheelchair anyway. This situation is a disaster waiting to happen. There is no solution here besides fixing the living situation. Minimum she needs a ground level home but realistically needs assisted living if she really is “frail”.

In the short term your only other bet is to have someone(s) carry her up and down the steps. That would give her some relief for now, but this really is not sustainable unfortunately.
posted by Amy93 at 8:10 PM on October 4, 2021

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