Practical and classy home improv for an aging parent

Joan Fieldstone

April 4, 2014

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Interior Design

I'm visiting my almost 88-year-old dad on the other side of the country this week. He was hospitalized with a very bad intestinal infection a couple of weeks before my trip. I'm so pleased that he was able to come home the day I arrived and has improved steadily since I've been here. I'm also tremendously grateful that my sister, brother, and sister-in-law who all live nearby went to great lengths to disinfect the entire house and have all of the flooring professionally steam-cleaned before he returned.

They pretty much stay on top of his needs and keep him organized. They also arranged for a crew of caregivers to begin looking after him so that when I leave he has someone coming in daily to help him meet his basic needs. There really has not been much for me to do other than keep track of the comings and goings of the healthcare personnel, enjoy time with Dad, and do my writing.

Since I needed a blog topic, I decided it was a good time to work some "home improv" magic on Dad's living space. He and my mother "downsized" to a 2300-square-foot home about 10 years ago -- pretty good living space for two, and a palace for one after my mom passed. She had filled it with beautiful furniture and accumulated knickknacks from their world travels together. They both liked to keep their home immaculate, and my dad still has someone who comes to clean each week, so we are not talking about a guy who likes that "lived in" feeling of squalor.

When I got here, I noticed the area where he has been spending most of his days consisted of an ad hoc arrangement of stack tables. His oxygen tubing was getting caught under his mobility chair, the phone fell on the floor at least once a day, and the tables themselves were rickety. It was not only an eyesore, but IMHO a bit demoralizing for him. I figured since his motorized chair was high enough to fit under a desk, why not give him one in place of the old-man tray tables?

before workspace

Once I mentioned this suggestion to my sister, she was right on board to get the desk. We ordered it Sunday night from Target online for under $100, so it was a manageable expense. It arrived on Tuesday afternoon -- nearly instant gratification! (I've had the same experience with furniture I've ordered from both Target and Wayfair in my home state. Online shopping for home décor is definitely the way to go unless you live in a big city with lots of other choices.)

With a little help from his morning caregiver, I had the desk put together the next morning and moved the haphazard collection of little tables out to the garage. Then I rearranged the things he needed to have close at hand. By eliminating all those little tables, I was able to move a stand with four angled baskets close enough so he could reach all the handy items that were in it.

New workspace

It's not exactly an executive desk, but it suits his needs perfectly and looks great in the space. Best of all, I feel like Dad can command the space with dignity.


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