Holiday Hostess With The Mostess: How To Accommodate Visitors with Disabilities
Whether your great aunt’s recent injury has landed her in a wheelchair or your wonderful developmentally delayed nephew will be visiting for the first time, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind so that everyone feels a little bit more at home.
- Remove all throw rugs and low-lying clutter that could result in falls.
- Create a floor plan that allows for maneuverability from serving areas to seating areas, any lounging areas and restrooms. This may mean temporarily removing end tables or other pieces of furniture. *Rule of thumb: Wheelchairs are usually 24-27 inches wide – Walk with one arm extended throughout aisles to ensure enough space.
- Have hand sanitizer available, most bathroom counters also do not allow for easy wheelchair access.
- Extended stays? Pick up a shower seat and install a removable shower head for easy bathing.
- A ramp rental is particularly useful. The suitcase ramp is the most versatile of products and can serve as a threshold over indoor or outdoor steps. 101 Mobility also offers stair lift rentals and vertical platform lift rentals.
Alzheimer’s or Dementia
- Engage them! Answer their questions in a positive way; don’t make your relative feel bad for not remembering.
- Names and recent events may not be easily recalled or remembered at all. You may need to tell your relative about your wedding which she or he attended last year as if it is the first time they are hearing about it.
- Speak with your relative’s caregiver to learn what their emotional triggers or stressors may be. If you see them getting upset, try to distract them with an activity.
- Lock your doors and block off staircases. Put up a sign to direct people to your bathroom, everyone will be thankful for that!
- Try to have a bedroom or quiet space prepared, people with dementia may get restless and decide to take a nap.
- Resist the temptation to offer unsolicited advice to the child’s parents.
- Do not undermine the child by addressing the parent with questions like, “Is Sarah excited for dinner?” Instead ask Sarah.
- Understand that parents need to stick to their child’s routines as closely as possible; prepare a place suitable for quiet times.
- When introducing yourself, shake hands or hug just like you would anyone else but be sure to say your name as you do so.
- If you are also introducing someone else, mention what direction they are in, “This is Aunt Lisa to my left”.
- If dashing out of a conversation to grab a pie out of the oven, remember to say so!
- When showing your guest around, allow them to grab your elbow for assistance if needed and provide verbal forewarnings of any inclines or steps that the guest may incur.
- When showing a blind guest to the table, placing their hand on the chair and allowing them to take it from there is often enough.
- If there is food on the table for serving, explain the location of the food by clock measurements, “Rolls at your 12 o’ clock.”
- You absolutely do not have to speak louder unless you know the person is also hearing impaired.
Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- There is no need to yell or make dramatic movements with your mouth while speaking.
- Keep eye contact with a hearing impaired guest as you are speaking to him or her, NOT the translator.
- Keep a text-ready cell phone or note pad and pen handy for when a translator isn’t around.
- Learn a few things in American Sign Language, like “Welcome”, “Eat”, “Enjoy”, “Happy Thanksgiving”.
- Make name cards explaining what each dish is and key ingredients.