How to find furniture for a newly disabled elderly person?
July 3, 2022 3:24 PM   Subscribe

My father in law, formerly reasonably active and mobile for an 87 year old, has fairly suddenly developed health issues that will likely leave him disabled to at least some degree, if not completely bed and wheelchair bound. His home is absolutely not ready for his changing needs, starting with basic furniture. My wife and I are trying to rapidly figure out what we need to know to help him acquire what he needs, but we have little experience with researching things like motorized beds and comfy chairs for someone in these circumstances. We need advice.

Just to be clear we're also looking into getting in home care so there'll be a nurse or someone to help him as needed. We've got that angle covered and we have some experience with that side of things.

The first two pieces of furniture we need to look for are a suitable bed and a comfy chair. It's effectively almost impossible for him to get up out of his bed or his favorite old massage chair without help. The chair in particular is utterly unsuitable now because the bulky foot rest prevents his feet from reaching the floor, which forces him to pull his body forward from the armrests with his hands only. This takes everything he's got and causes him severe pain. Our mother in law is not strong enough to help him at all.

Because of this we are looking for motorized beds and comfy chairs that assist people with getting upright and on their feet so they can switch to a walker or transfer to a wheel chair as needed. And that are comfortable enough if someone has to spend prolonged time in them.

We're not sure how to research this stuff. We don't know if we should aim for medical grade equipment like hospital beds etc. Or if there are more reasonably priced options out there that are not crap. We see all kinds of choices on Amazon and elsewhere but we're not sure how to evaluate them.

So, slightly more specifically speaking, we're looking for recommendations related to motorized beds and comfy chairs in a number of ways: where to find trustworthy reviews of such items, brands to look for and brands to avoid, things to pay attention to that we may not be aware of being new to all this.
posted by Hairy Lobster to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Make sure to loop his doctor in on this planning. Things like hospital beds can be covered by Medicare if the doctor prescribes them.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 3:30 PM on July 3 [5 favorites]

Getting an occupational therapist consultation at his house can help to navigate this- if he was recently discharged from a hospital that may be very easy to set up along with home physical therapy. Call his doctors office if there wasn’t a recent hospital stay, otherwise patient services at the hospital should be able to connect you. If you’re in the US Medicare will help
With the consultation costs.
posted by leslies at 3:34 PM on July 3 [6 favorites]

I strongly recommend requesting an order for a hospital bed which is covered by Medicare. You may still choose to buy one but this will get you through that transition if you do.
posted by latkes at 3:51 PM on July 3 [5 favorites]

If the issues go beyond furniture needs, ie. to home accessibility, bathroom, etc. have a look at WheelPads. The designers/builders are friends of mine; the concept has worked for many newly people newly mobility-challenged. It's basically an accessible suite that can be attached to an existing house, quite customizable. Website has many details.
posted by beagle at 4:49 PM on July 3 [6 favorites]

The best reclining chair will be a motorized lift chair which will enable the head to be lowered below the level of the heart if needed and will assist him to get to standing or into a better position to get into the wheelchair. This is a good one:

They are often available on craigslist or whatever your local source is for used items. They are sometimes barely used so worth having a look. They come in different sizes so be sure it's the right size for him.

Seconding the hospital bed via Medicare. For a little extra per month you can ask for a slightly better bed - a "full-electric bed" that can be lowered or raised without having to use a crank at the end of the bed (that is called a semi-electric hospital bed). You yourself have to request this upgrade. You might even have to ask twice.

Also, unless he has significant bedsores the bed will not come with a particularly good mattress. If you have the means, a low air loss mattress is much better than a gel mattress or what's known as an alternating pressure pad. This is what you want: amazon link
posted by sl1ce at 4:54 PM on July 3 [7 favorites]

Based on our experience
- we were able to find a lightly used recliner which included a power feature that would tip the chair forward to aid in getting up and as well as a motorized recline. As mobility become more limited, this was a very helpful feature.
- when we looked into hospital beds, Medicare did not cover a full electric bed (where you just a push a button to control the head, foot and total height of the bed). My memory is that the patient cost share on a Medicare bed was almost as much as the cost of just buying the full electric with our own money.
- we eventually bought an alternating pressure air mattress that sits on top of the mattress itself and it makes a big difference in prevent bed sores if the patient is spending much of their time in bed.
- definitely get a hospital table with adjustable height and wheels that will swing over the bed so your dad can sit in bed and easily eat a meal or work on a project but also rolls out of the way easily as needed.
posted by metahawk at 6:07 PM on July 3 [3 favorites]

Ask your dad's doctor and health insurance company about having an "occupational therapist" come to your home to do an evaluation and make recommendations. They are the experts in figuring out what assistance people need to do their daily self care and household tasks, and most insurance companies will pay for the home visit because their own research told them that it prevents much more costly injuries.

You can rent motorized hospital beds. My husband and I rented one for him after his open heart surgery. I bet you can rent lift chairs too. Renting would be a good way to figure out how helpful/comfortable a particular piece of furniture is before committing to buying it.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:08 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]

Call Adult Protective Services. I'm sure it varies a lot by location but in my county, the same line you use to report elder abuse can also connect you to an information line where workers know a lot of resources. But also, for sure, as above, loop his doctor in. There may even be social workers who support his doctor whose job it is to help set this stuff up.
posted by less-of-course at 11:15 PM on July 3

Search for "power lift chair" or just "lift chair", which are recliners that will basically raise him so he's mostly vertical so getting to his feet should be no problem. Medicare will even pay for part of it, if his doctor prescribes them as medically necessary. Basically, the "power lift" portion is covered, but not the massage function and comfy parts.

If he can shuffle around okay, then one needs to basically go over the place and eliminate any tripping hazards. No rugs, no cables or such lying around. You also need grab bars installed in the bath around the toilet (and consider a riser for the toiler bowl so he doesn't have to sit far down)

The local hospital may have a geriatric specialist who can consult on what equipment may be needed. Switching to a higher bed, or installing risers under the bed may be a short-term solution before the power bed is approved.

There are a lot of mobility and living aids available, everything from sock and shoe pullers to back scratchers or even butt-wiping wand (if one can't reach behind oneself on toilet) but I think the most important thing is psychological counseling, as adjusting to this kind of living must be a shock, esp. at his age, and he was doing so well before this event. Please don't neglect the moral support one needs to adjust to this new phase of life.
posted by kschang at 12:04 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]

I found the Spinlife website to be useful, they make it possible to do very good comparisons between different models etc and have a lot of reviews. We got a Golden Maxicomfort PR-535 recliner lift chair and have been happy with it.

I would also look at how he's getting onto/off the toilet and bathing. You can raise the toilet seat by various means, or get a frame with armrests that can be placed over the toilet (this raises it and gives him something to help push up with)(here's one example), and/or install grab bars that help with getting down to and up from the toilet. Similar options for bathing - consider getting a stable bath/shower bench, get grab bars installed, add a handheld shower attachment so he can sit while showering.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:03 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]

Also - you can try googling "aging in place"+ your area to see if there are companies that will help with grab bars and that sort of thing. If you can get a home-visit OT prescribed as suggested above, they probably have some idea of who the local companies are.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:06 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]

Most counties have an office of aging that will connect you with local resources. Some of them will include a loan closet to try different items out because if they aren’t ultimately helpful or the person doesn’t use them, they just go back to the loan closet. The two big items mentioned bed & chair are well covered. The office on aging can help guide a range of conversations to help sort out next steps.
posted by childofTethys at 8:23 AM on July 4 [2 favorites]

Presuming you live in the US, I'd also suggest you learn about Centers for Independent Living. They are everywhere and are a fantastic resource for people with disabilities of all types who want to continue to live in their communities.
posted by jasper411 at 7:09 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]

The adjustable bed I got is available from Amazon for about $700. It’s lovely and push button. It doesn’t have a massage function, but for more you can just buy a bed that does massage! Used massage chairs sell quite well where I live, you may be able to finance a bed to replace it by selling it.
posted by Bottlecap at 11:18 PM on July 4

N-thing 'do you have or can you find an occupational therapist.' They are the people who specialise in this stuff, and can assess what's going to be most helpful for your dad. They can also sometimes help you get adaptive kit a bit more cheaply, and show you how to use it properly. This stuff is really hard to figure out by yourself, and a good occy therapist is a godsend.
posted by BlueNorther at 4:20 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry for taking a while to respond back here... it's been a busy week with all this stuff happening.
Thank you all so much for the helpful advice. We have talked to the appropriate people at the hospital as recommended and that got things going indeed. My wife's dad is back at home as of yesterday and feeling quite comfortable in his motorized bed. It's pretty decent actually, though we're starting to look into getting at least upgraded mattress as recommended further up. We've got a pneumatic lift to get him in and out until if/when he can do so on his own again. Starting to look for plumbers in Los Angeles who've got experience with modifying bathrooms for accessibility and looking for a decent hospital bed table for him as well.

Thanks again so much everybody! Finding yourself in situations like this where so many things are happening at once can be overwhelming. But I knew AskMeFi would come through and help us find starting points and enable us to prioritze!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:09 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]

« Older Add some activism to my barbecue   |   My hands need a hand… Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments