Organizing for Mobility Changes

Vickie Dellaquila - July 11, 2016 10:52 AM

I’ve seen it many times: Mom loses her balance, falls, and breaks her hip. After many weeks in rehab, she is ready to come home but now needs a walker to get around.

This is, of course, an overwhelming situation for all involved given all of the implications it has for her life and your family’s. If she is not already living in an accessible environment, you may be starting to have conversations about moving and downsizing. You may also be considering renovating her existing space so that she can age in place. In the meantime, you’ll need to help her reorganize her living spaces to make life a little bit easier for all of you. Here are a few places to start:

o    Look out for tripping hazards: Mom loves her throw rugs, but now is the time for them to go.  These small rugs often get in the way of walkers and wheelchairs and are some of the first things we encourage our seniors to let go of. Now is also a good time to eliminate anything that may be piling up on the floor, including papers and newspapers. Coffee tables can also be tripping hazards if they are blocking mom’s preferred seat.

o    Make wider pathways: Mom will need more space to get by with her new walker (likely about 36” or more).  Evaluate her furniture arrangements and see if anything needs to go to make more room for her to get around.

o    Set up a “command center”: Perhaps Mom has a favorite chair, recliner, or lift chair where she will be spending most of her time throughout the day.  Help her set it up so that many of her basic needs are within an arm’s reach. You may want to help her make a space for her television remotes, reading materials, her telephone, calendar, tissues, mail, wastebasket, and maybe even her medications. Television trays are also handy for meals. It is more difficult for her to get up and down, so putting these items close by will make life easier for the both of you.

o    Take a spin through the kitchen: If Mom is still able to do some light cooking, you may want to spend some time reorganizing the kitchen cabinets. It is harder for her to bend down and reach up high, so you’ll want to try to select her most frequently used items and place them within arm’s reach (between hip and shoulder height, whenever possible). It may be time to convince mom to let go of her heavy casserole dishes or cast iron pans, and use lighter weight cooking equipment (ie: plastic mixing bowls instead of glass) that she can easily pick up.  If you’re planning for long term, there are even glide out shelving products that can be installed that are designed to improve cabinet access in the kitchen. ShelfGenie is one company I have used for clients with mobility issues that will retrofit glide outs to existing cabinets.

o    Make space in the bathroom: Mom may need extra help using the restroom now. You may even be having grab bars or a shower stall installed to give her back some independence. It is important to start that you at least make sure that she has room to maneuver her walker in the bathroom. That may mean letting go of some freestanding carts or shelving that might get in her way. You may also want to, again, make sure everything she needs in her medicine cabinet or under the sink are within arm’s reach.

If you need help evaluating mom’s space, you may want to consider reaching out to a Senior Move Manager or NASMM@Home Specialist to help you look for hazards and make changes to enhance Mom’s quality of life.  NASMM@Home specialists are equipped to help you evaluate the safety of mom’s home and reorganize accordingly.

Vickie Dellaquila is western Pennsylvania’s only Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization and owner of Organization Rules® Inc. Organization Rules provides compassionate organizing services for every stage of your life®. She is the author of Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Seniors Downsize, Organize, and Move. Please visit

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